Craziest Homeowner Holiday Disaster Stories II
From silly to downright scary, TOH readers chime in for the second year with their craziest Yuletide tales
Have you ever pictured a perfect holiday reminiscent of Miracle on 34th Street and ended up with a scene closer to Nightmare on Elm Street? It's happened to us all. No matter how much you prepare, practice, and plan, the holidays are notorious for unwelcome surprises, big and small. The upside? Those unforgettable mishaps make for pretty good stories. Sit back, relax and grab a mug of eggnog as TOH readers recount their craziest Yuletide tales.
We had a small flood just five days before Christmas. My husband had hooked up the new dishwasher, and I had turned it on before going to bed. At 4 a.m., I got up and stepped out of bed into water! The dishwasher had flooded almost the whole house, sparing only our daughters' bedrooms and half of the master. (Amazingly, it went around the Christmas tree and all the presents.) We spent one night in a hotel, ripped out the carpet, and had Christmas on concrete. Eventually, the new carpet and wood flooring made the nightmare worth it!
My least favorite part of decorating the tree is always those tangled lights! When my daughter was 10, I spent hours trying to get the lights just right on our Christmas tree. As midnight approached, I got more and more tired and frustrated. Finally, I stepped back and admired the beauty of my evenly-spaced, perfectly-placed Christmas lights. Noticing a long branch sticking out on one side, I reached in with a pair of clippers and carefully clipped the branch—and the wire for the lights!
Mary Gail Howland
The worst holiday disaster that comes to my mind was the year I had to put up two Christmas trees—twice. My mother has been a widow for years, so I have always offered to put up her tree for her. One year, neither tree wanted to stay up, and I had to do both twice. Is it any wonder that I don't enjoy decorating the tree anymore?
Every year, my family buys a Christmas tree from a local tree farm. A few years ago, we inadvertently bought a tree with a crooked trunk, and we didn't notice until the tree was in our home, completely decorated. One day, we came home and found the tree on its side—ornaments and water everywhere. We stood it back up, but it toppled over again and again for the rest of the holiday season. Needless to say, we now look carefully at the trunk before we buy a tree!
After having a lovely holiday meal, we left for the evening, leaving our dog and new puppy alone in the house. We came home to find a turkey rib cage in the center of our bed, two very greasy dogs and a trail of trash.
We were getting ready to hose a large Christmas Eve get-together when we were suddenly faced with an overflowing cesspool. My then-husband thought he could snake it out himself and wound up cutting his hand. I had to take him to the emergency room for a tetanus shot. The lesson we learned? It doesn't matter how much it costs, there are times when you just pay the professional and shut up!
My dog, Butters, took a box of chocolate off the counter, ate it. Took a box of Hershey's baking cocoa off the counter and ate that, too. I got home and took the dog to the vet ER. Seven hundred dollars to get the chocolate out and administer fluids—All. Night. Long. It wasn't fun for him either.
A couple of months later, we found Butters slurping a stolen mocha frappuccino...can anyone suggest a 12-step program for canine chocoholics?
One Christmas morning, I was beginning to prepare our big feast with my in-laws. We quickly discovered the kitchen sink was clogged. My mother-in-law and I brilliantly thought we could remove the clog ourselves if we snaked a wire hanger down the drain. Well, we poked a hole in the pipe, and water began leaking out all over! It was then time to call the plumber!
Jeannette Brinser Hill
One Christmas about 30 years ago, it was about -15° Fahrenheit without the windchill factor. We figured it was a perfect day to throw a big Yule log in the fireplace and spend the day with the family around a rip-roaring fire in the living room—think Norman Rockwell. Did I mention that the thermostat was also in the living room? Come mid-evening, we started letting the fire go out, and by the end of the night, the house was freezing! The baseboard radiators on the other side of the house (along with the supply and return piping in the garage below) had frozen solid.
My dad decided to make a Chanukah menorah out of wood—very dry old wood. He then put finish on it, and even though it wasn't "quite dry" yet, he lit it. What's the worst that could happen, right? Well, the menorah burst into flames, which ignited the paper Chanukah table cloth, which lit the placemats on fire.
As my dad tried to slap out the flames with a dishtowel, his hairspray lit on fire. While my other family members were throwing water on our now very dramatic "night of lights," I took the cake and slapped it on my dad's head to put that out.
Then there was a huge cracking noise, which turned out to be our glass dining room table breaking from the heat. Now it seems totally unreal and hilarious, but that was a bit scary at the time!
Every year, my neighborhood holds a holiday house lighting competition. The night before the judging, I noticed one bulb was out on my eaves. I got out the ladder, set it up and proceeded to climb. Did I mention we were in the middle of an ice storm? The ladder slid down the wall like laundry over a washboard—with me still hanging on at the top. My 13-year-old came out to see what the noise was and found me lying in the snow with blood all over my face.
I spent the evening in the hospital with a deviated septum and stitches on the side of my nose. I never did get that light fixed and am now not allowed on ladders. My family still teases me about my Christmas light display as my husband and son put up the lights every year.
Karyl S. Tallant-Leathem
One Christmas, we were out shoveling snow. We came back in to find that our dog had opened a package—a two-pound box of cherry chocolates. She didn't have too much Christmas spirit after that.
A friend of mine bought a Christmas tree, sawed off the bottom and put it on the stand. Unfortunately, the tree was too tall for the living room. So, he sawed off the bottom and put the tree on the stand twice more, but it was still too tall. He got so miffed that he ended up cutting the top of the tree off to make it fit. The kids shut up after that.
Scott David Fletcher
Our dog is very good about leaving the Christmas tree alone—usually. However, one night he ate an ornament! The ornament was a dried starfish that had been painted to look like Santa. Technically this is (was) the only ornament on our tree made from a dead animal, and sure enough, our dog sniffed it out and ate it. Unfortunately, my wife and I had bought the starfish ornament on our honeymoon in Hawaii. She was pretty upset, but I think it's a good excuse to go back to Hawaii to get another one.
When I was a young kid, my great aunt stored her giant coffee percolator in her oven when she wasn't using it. We went to her house for a holiday dinner, and can you guess what happened? Someone turned on the oven to bake the pie and set the percolator on fire. Thank goodness the fire department came and saved the day!
Last October, we bought our first 40-inch flatscreen TV and were loving it. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we cut down the prettiest Christmas tree we could find, brought it home and decorated it wonderfully. A few days later, at 4 o'clock in the morning—on my husband's birthday, no less—we awoke to a huge crash. The tree had fallen, taking with it numerous ornaments and the TV, which was on a stand next to it. We not-so-fondly refer to last year's tree as our $700 Christmas tree!
One year, my dad was carving the Thanksgiving turkey on the kitchen counter with an electric knife. He hit a bone, torqued the knife and nearly severed a finger. The turkey became a bio hazard, and our starving family packed in the car and sped to the ER. Hours later, all appendages intact, we returned home to a very stuffed dog who had enjoyed a feast from the beautifully laid out table of food that had been hastily abandoned. All's well that ends well!
We spent Christmas at my parents' house one year. My mother had decorated her living room all in white—carpet, furniture, even the holiday trimmings. It was a picture-perfect scene—until Christmas morning when dad decided to build a fire while we gathered to open gifts. All of a sudden, the house started filling with smoke! Dad had forgotten to open the flue. In a panic, he grabbed the red-hot chain to yank the flue open, and burned his hand. The family packed into the car and sped to the ER.
We spent Christmas afternoon in coats with all the doors open and box fans running to air out the house. For the record, Dad never complained about the professional cleaning bill.
My dear Gram was a woman who always happily and quickly cleaned up the gift wrap that had been strewn about Christmas morning and deposited it in the incinerator in the basement. One year, Gram gave me my favorite gift—the Barbie Dream House. It wasn't until we had assembled all the furniture and the box was in ashes (thank you, incinerator) that we realized the pieces to assemble the house itself were packed as a lining to the box. She and I were both devastated!
However, the next Christmas, I wakened to a Barbie-scaled dollhouse, 6-by-4-by-2-feet, that she'd had built herself, along with handmade bedspreads, drapes, carpet and roof shingles. Gram passed away in 1985, but I have the doll house to this day!
Our holiday disaster happened last year. My mother-in-law had moved into an assisted living facility, so we had to get her Salt Lake City condo in shape to sell. That meant renovating during the week of Christmas.
With so much work to be done, we ended up working on Christmas Day—after sleeping on the living room floor surrounded by boxes and boxes of unassembled IKEA cabinetry. We hadn't gone grocery shopping, so our holiday meal was a bucket of chicken from KFC, the only place open for dinner on Christmas day. I think I may have cried.
So here we are a year later, in the process of building a house, and all we want for Christmas is a roof. However, this year we'll probably take a couple days off from building.
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