A Christmas to remember

The holiday season is always stressful and usually full of outrageous family moments. Some of Mountain Island Weekly’s staff documented their more hilarious Christmas moments for readers’ enjoyment.

Andrew Batten
The Batten family never had any rodents in its Christmas tree like the Griswolds, but one year we did have one with a sister inside.
Each year my father has his annual battle with Christmas trees that won’t stand straight. Crouched under the tree, he’ll twist and turn the knobs on our old creaky tree stand until my mother is satisfied that the angel that will perch on top won’t later come crashing down.
But there was one particular tree that, no matter how much my father fumbled with it, refused to stand. After an hour of messing with it, he finally resigned to prop the tree against the wall until his blood pressure dropped to a more healthy level.
This fact had not been relayed to my now 18-year-old-sister Grace, who couldn’t have been more than 5 at the time.
My sister, like any kid, was awestruck by the lights and ornaments but felt she could perfect their arrangement. So she snuck into our living room to move those ornaments from one branch to another.
Crash! Scream!
My mother and I raced to the living room to find a toppled tree and lights and decorations strewn about. But there was no little sister to be found.
“Gracie?” my mother called out.
“I’m under here,” we faintly heard.
We lifted the tree to find my sister flat on her back covered in pine needles. Thankfully the only thing broken, was about a half-dozen ornaments. But even though she hadn’t shed a tear after being crushed by our Christmas tree, the broken ornaments were too much to bear. She sobbed uncontrollably until I bribed her with a few dollar bills and promises that Santa would surely bring her some new ornaments.
My father wouldn’t let the Christmas tree get away with such an affront to our family. He secured it in its stand with fishing line threaded through two nails in the ceiling.
And there it stood, straight as an arrow, for the remainder of the holiday, until being fed through the wood chipper – while Grace watched, smiling.

Christina Ritchie Rogers
The first Christmas after a divorce is the most stressful for the parents. At a time when most families make an extra effort to gather together, the recently divorced try to figure out exactly how they are going to perfectly replicate the family Christmas, one member light.
For my mother, Sara, it was the first year she had to put up the Christmas tree by herself. And no, she was not about to cop out and get a plastic tree – it was going to be a fragrant, bark-and-needles, chopped-down-by-an-Eagle-Scout, real tree, just like my sisters and I had decorated each Christmas since birth.
The trip to pick out the tree started like any other outing when a parent is outnumbered three-to-one: The first call of “SHOTGUN!” followed by the requisite fight over the fairness of the call, followed by a play-by-play analysis, instant slow-mo replay, and the ultimate naming of exactly who is entitled to the front passenger seat under my mother’s threat of “we will not go anywhere if this is how you’re going to behave!” And then, of course, a mini-fight over who gets to sit in the second-best seat.
At this point, I should mention we lived in New Jersey, one of the most densely populated states in the country. So if travel without traffic in Jersey is rare, travel without holiday traffic is about as likely as Santa going on a diet.
With two of the four women hungry, one sleeping and one at the end of her rope, we pulled into the driveway of the farm stand. All things considered, we selected a tree with relative ease, and a nice man helped attach it to the roof of the car.
We arrived back at home thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so hard,” and pulled into the garage, ready to get to decorating. Let me repeat: We pulled into the garage. Well, we pulled halfway into the garage, stopping when we heard the scraping, grinding demise of our tree and of my mother’s last straw.

Lynn Marshall
About eight years ago on very cold Christmas morning, my three children, then all in elementary school, had gotten up early to open presents and were running around in excitement. My husband and I were in the kitchen preparing to make breakfast.
He opened the door going from the kitchen to the garage, and in runs a little brown mouse. It was really cold outside, so I guess it had been waiting by the door for his chance to come in and find some warmth.
The mouse was so excited to be inside that it started running around in circles, while I jumped onto a chair and started screaming. I guess my screams startled it, because it then made a mad dash for the pantry. We shut the pantry door to contain the crazy mouse while we tried to plan our next step.
We decided to put our cat, Princess, into the pantry to take care of the mouse, so we gingerly tossed the cat into the pantry, shut the door and waited.
Let me just say, while I did quit screaming, I didn’t get off the chair. When we opened the door, we found Princess just sitting there, without a mouse, waiting to be released. We realized we were going to have to take care of it ourselves. I told my husband to begin removing items from the floor of the pantry while I stood on the chair wielding a broom.
Eventually, the little mouse was uncovered, we stunned it with a broom, swept it into a basket and released it outside. We will never forget our little Christmas visitor, our very own “Christmas Mouse.”

Dempsey Mills
A few years ago, my wife’s parents bought our children a go-cart for Christmas. To build suspense, we had them stay indoors and gave them clues as to what they could expect outside. This bought their grandpa some time to get the engine running, as it was pretty hard to start on cold days.
Several minutes later, they heard the motor rev and asked why their grandpa was mowing grass on Christmas Day. When we told them the sound was coming from their present, excitement reached a fever pitch and we let them outside.
Upon seeing the little red vehicle for the first time, my daughter Marissa, who was 10 years old at the time, jumped up and down yelling, “No way! Cool!”
My son, 6-year-old Devin, shared equally in her enthusiasm as he danced and said, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
They then ran up to it as Marissa said, “I’m driving!”
But Devin stopped abruptly during the height of their frenzy at her words and asked, “What is it?”
My wife and I always chuckle when we recall that Christmas. ,

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