Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Here’s how yesterday started:
Ian and I woke up happy, looking forward to the day. We took this picture in front of our first Christmas tree (which we’ve dubbed the Christmas bush). We gave each other presents. I prepared some dinner rolls for the evening. We loaded up the car with gifts and defrosted berries and decamped for Mom and Dad’s house, where Colleen made crepes, which we topped with the berries, yogurt, and powdered sugar. We exchanged gifts (Colleen and Jordan gave me an enormous cookbook of just cookie recipes — I can hardly wait to get started). We gave away a lot of Mom and Dad’s money to charity (water-related charities benefited greatly this year). Then Dad and I went for a bike ride while Ian stayed home and made scalloped potatoes. Our families were coming over to our house for Christmas dinner, the first-ever Christmas we’ve hosted.
The entire tone of the day changed when I arrived home from my bike ride. Ian was in the kitchen making miserable noises and desperately working on the potatoes. Turns out, the source of Ian’s distress wasn’t so much the potatoes as the fact that he discovered why the flooring in our kitchen was starting to peel up around the edges: Water. In the subfloor. Not under the sink, but coming from the dishwasher. When you stepped on the floor, it squished like mud. This all came to light about an hour before our families were supposed to arrive. The house still needed all manner of prepping, and we couldn’t do anything about the dishwasher immediately aside from not running it, so we rushed around getting ready for dinner. We’ve never tried to entertain nine people before; this brought to light the fact that our silverware came in a set of eight, and we have no more than 4 of each set of matching napkins. Also we only have the one oven, which is a real limiting factor. Then people and food started arriving (the Fergusons showed up earlier so we could do Christmas present exchanging with them — Deborah is going to help me with our back yard, and Gary’s going to help me fix our leaky toilet, both fabulous gifts), and it felt like the next thing I knew, every surface in the kitchen had food on it.
Dinner went pretty darn well, considering we had to wash everything by hand. Even with nine people, we hardly made a dent in everything. Mom’s 18-lb turkey hardly looked touched; same for the spinach salad and its toppings. In fact, the only thing that did look touched was dessert: Happy Birthday, Jesus! Birthday Cake (actually chocolate cherry jubilee cake, which we only make on Christmas; before cutting it, we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus) with vanilla ice cream and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Everybody made good inroads on those.
Between dinner and dessert and for a bit after dessert we played Apples to Apples while we took turns doing dishes and Gary finished carving the turkey. Mom pulled me aside briefly and pointed to the toilet in our downstairs bathroom. The tank was sweating copiously, with water running down the sides and pooling on the floor. She’d put down a towel, but it was wet, wet, wet. The toilet itself wasn’t leaking; the water was just so cold and we had so much moisture in the air from all the cooking that it kept condensing and running down. We left the towel there for the time being, there being not a lot else to do.
Just when everybody was starting to feel the evening winding down, talk turned to our soggy floor, which had continued oozing alarmingly all evening. Gary produced a toolbox and with some finagling he and Dad extracted the dishwasher from its nook. First we noticed that water was quickly dripping from where the water intake hooked to the dishwasher. Turning off the water to the dishwasher solved that problem. We further extracted the dishwasher and that’s when we saw this:
Gary: “Rats. Literally.”
At this point — finding a rat nest with dead rats inside behind our leaking dishwasher while standing on the peeling-up, soggy kitchen floor, with Mom having also just pointed out the water underneath the toilet in our downstairs bathroom — I think I went a little crazy. Fortunately, Gary and Ian extracted the rats and their nest and threw them in the garbage. Everybody packed up their food and headed off. We dug out our box fan and started blowing air on the kitchen floor. Then we went to bed, exhausted. I can hardly believe it was really all just one day from getting up and giving Ian his gifts all the way to finding dead rats behind our leaky dishwasher. This will certainly be a Christmas that goes down in family lore. The Year of the Rat.