We all have them: our best "worst" stories. They're our way of dealing with embarrassment, heartbreak, awkward sexual encounters, bad jobs, or unfortunate haircuts-- not actual tragedies, but anecdotes that reveal the humor in a shitty situation, and get funnier and less painful the more we share them with others. Since I'm a big fan of "best worst" stories, I'll be telling some of mine as the weeks go on-- and encouraging you all to share yours, too, so we can laugh at and with each other. To kick the cringe-worthy collection off in appropriate seasonal style, here is my account of my Best Worst Christmas Ever.
I was sick, like I was on so many of my childhood Christmases. As a frail wisp of a girl with myriad allergies, injuries, and immune weaknesses, most of my holiday memories from ages 4 to 12 involve some combination of crying, vomiting, and The Nutcracker ballet special on PBS (even now, I can’t even look at a bottle of ginger ale or box of Saltine crackers without hearing The Nutcracker March and gagging). It was practically a Christmas tradition—while my sisters and my dad made the rounds at family parties, my mom stayed home to hold my hair back as I rested my face on the toilet seat and asked groggily, “Is Santa coming soon?” I had a special-edition puke bucket that I taped wrapping paper to. If anything, my unhealthy state gave me a pretty healthy attitude about the holidays, as I learned to accept disappointment and look on the bright side of things (I got an entire boxed set of American Girl books!).
This Christmas, though, was trying for even the sunniest kid. Rather than the standard stomach bug or head cold, I ended up with a nasty case of strep throat. That warm feeling I got when caroling outside the local deli with my Girl Scout troop? Not the holiday spirit, it turned out, but a 104-degree fever. I spent the entire week of Christmas writhing in agony on the couch while my sister gobbled sugar cookies and cooed over Secret Santa gifts from classmates. On Christmas Eve, my parents shut me up in my room so that Santa Claus could do his thing without interruption; when I woke up around midnight with the urge to yak, I worried so much about throwing Santa off his game that, instead of running to the bathroom, I threw up all over my flannel nightgown. Imagine that scene from The Exorcist, but set to a soundtrack of Bing Crosby Christmas classics, and you will have a perfect picture of what I looked like, tears and snot running down my face as I projectile-vommed all over myself and the carpet. I went on to barf a record-setting eight times over the course of that night.
On Christmas morning, the excitement of presents was enough to make me at least somewhat human enough to pose for photos, and indeed, one picture exists of that Christmas. In it, my sister and I are wearing brand-new matching velour turtlenecks, and I’m forcing a pained smile. I was allergic to my velour turtleneck, and suffered a freakish breakout of hives all over my torso after wearing it for an hour. While my sisters headed off to my uncle’s house for dinner, I lay face down on the couch with ice packs on my red, itchy flesh. This is definitely the worst Christmas ever, I thought as I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up a few hours later, my fever had reached its apex, and I was pretty out of it. My high fever and medication combo had rendered me delirious; my mom was nowhere to be found and you guys, the walls were melting. And that’s when I saw him: the man in the Christmas tree. Yes, I had convinced myself that there was a menacing dude hiding among the pine needles, tinsel, and baby angel ornaments. I didn’t know why he was there; I only knew that I was terrified. I heard him laugh maniacally, saw his fingers reaching out through the branches toward my Barbie Mustang, and it was then that I summoned my strength and rose off the couch, shrugging off my ice packs to run toward the tree (topless, I might add) and tackle the fiend. My mom, startled by a loud crash and the sound of ornaments shattering, sprinted to the living room to find me half-naked and fighting with the downed tree, feebly swinging my fists at what I soon realized was a hallucination. My mom pulled me off the invisible attacker, but not before I had knocked over everything in a 10-foot radius of the tree stand, frightened our cat so badly that she hid under the couch for the rest of the day, and threw up on myself again.
My mom did a good job of cleaning everything up before the rest of the family came home, and though I begged her not to tell anyone, she thought it was hilarious and told everyone. To this day, my sisters refer to The Man in The Christmas Tree like he’s Rudolph or Jesus or something; I like to think that my infirmity/insanity brought us all a little closer. At the very least, it gave us A Great Christmas Story that we can share with new boyfriends (or BUST readers). Suck on that, O. Henry.
Do you have a holiday horror story of your own? Maybe something involving a menorah and the local fire department, or an ice-skating date ruined by a frozen booger? Share your funniest, festive-est December doozy of a tale with me by emailing email@example.com. If we like your story, we'll publish it on the BUST.com blog!
[Christmas tree image: christmaswow.com]