The Most Terrible Christmas of All / by Rachel Nordgren

The Most Terrible Christmas of All Gather round, ye children. It's story time with Rachel, the part of our show where Rachel tells you an embarrassing and entertaining story from her past.

Today's episode: Christmas 2013, aka our First Christmas as Newlyweds.


We shall begin with two facts.

#1 - I have a small family #2 - Hans has a large family

The Most Terrible Christmas of All

Hans' extended family has gotten together every year for Christmas since the dawn of time. Mine has not. In fact, my extended family hardly ever gets together, since they are spread out all across the country.

Also? I'd never spent much time around small children.

This will be useful information later on.

Before we go any further, let me say this: I love Hans' family. They love me. There are parts of belonging to a large family that I truly enjoy. Being an aunt? I'm still learning but I really love it. But because my own family is so small, transitioning into such a huge family took some serious adjustment. This post is a humorous and slightly exaggerated look back at a really difficult season of my life.

No amount of warning prepares you for marriage, let alone your first Christmas as newlyweds. It's like sending a person up Mt. Everest and being like, "Oh hey. By the way. It's going to be super cold and you might want to pack an ice pick."

Hans and I rolled up on the 2013 holiday season with all the naïvety of new Target employees on Black Friday...all like, "This will be fun!" when we should have been steeling ourselves for battle.

Hans: My family does three Christmases. Me: Exciting!

Silly me, thinking that I had the capacity to be cheerful around 20+ people for 36 hours straight sustained by little more than sugar cookies and chex mix. There are some people who can perform such gypsy magic, but I'm not one of them.

(These are things you learn in retrospect.)

Christmas #1 - Christmas Eve - Immediate Family Of course, by "immediate" I mean all five brothers and their respective spouses/children. Which equals 17 people and more faces than I had ever seen around a Christmas tree. 6 of those aforementioned people are under the age of 8, which means that they do not give a flying flock of geese about being calm at Christmas because it's CHRISTMAS and WE'RE AROUND OUR COUSINS and OHMYGOSH THERE ARE PRESENTS and COOKIES and I HAVE THE ENERGY OF A BABY ORANGUTAN ON REDBULL.

You see, I had never experienced the sort of hyperactive mayhem that small children create when they feed off of each other's fiendish energy. That in and of itself is a force to be reckoned with, but when you add the magic sauce of Christmas on top of it? Something in the universe unhinges.

Christmas #2 - Christmas Morning - Extended Family Okay, this actually wasn't all that bad...there was only one other couple and one more small child added to the mix. However, the kids were still being like 19 different kinds of insane because there were MORE PRESENTS.

We ended up staying at my in-law's house all morning and most of the afternoon. the afternoon was fairly chill, with Hans playing games with his cousins and brothers, and me attempting to nap like the rest of the kids.

One small note.

Christmas, just in case you weren't aware, is not famed for health foods. Whilst I'm sure I could have rummaged around in Mama Nordgren's fridge for an apple, instead I munched on iced cookies and peanuts and cake all afternoon. After a breakfast of Swedish pancakes suffocated in powdered sugar. Because, you know, empty calories are totally good for our bodies.

Christmas #3 - Christmas Afternoon - Super Extended Family Around three, we hauled our buns over to Hans' aunt and uncle's house. 14 kids under the age of 8, with questionable levels of sugar and even more questionable amounts of sleep, confined to one modestly sized house that also happens to contain 15 adults and enough Christmas decorations to furnish a Hallmark.

Those kids were doing laps around the house, y'all. Breakneck speed, knocking things over, yelling, screaming, crying, shouting, mooooommmm-he-stole-my-ninja laps.

Hans' aunt really, really loves Christmas, which means she positively festoons her house for the season. All well and good, until you look for a seat and realize that you either have to boot a wiseman out of his place or take your own life into your hands and risk toppling a cabinet laden with nativities.

We stayed there until around 9 or 10 that night, after which we we made our way to...

Bonus Christmas! - Niece and nephew slumber party! My brother and sister in law had a really sweet about the married couples without kids have a slumber all the nieces and nephews? Give the parents a night off? They recruited Hans and I to help, so we got to their house just before all the kids (who were positively strung out at this point) were dropped off.

Honestly, I don't really remember much of this (other than getting stuck in a cardboard box that was part of a fort the kids were building) because that's about the time the food poisoning set in.

Yeah, you read that right.

Food poisoning.

Spoiler Alert: It gets worse.

Hans and I left the slumber party and picked up Banjo. We had taken him to the in-laws that morning, because they have dogs and a big backyard, and we didn't want him to be stuck inside alone all day. To our olfactory dismay, Banjo had tried to make friends with a skunk and failed spectacularly. He reeked.

We plugged our noses and drove home, where we (foolishly) decided to just pack everything up and leave for my parent's house, which is 2 hours away, because were spending the next few days with them. We were just going to push through, because they were excited to see us, and we weren't that tired, right?

Friend, can I impart some words of advice?

If you've had every ounce of logical thought pounded out of you by crazed tiny humans and your dog stinks to high heaven and there is something sinister doing business with your intestines, do not - and I repeat DO NOT - try and tackle a 2 hour drive in the middle of the night. You take yo'self a hot shower and lay yo' sweet self down in bed, and you banish those shenanigans from your brain and say Amen.

That's not, however, what we did.

We set off for my parents at 11:30pm, sealed in our car with a dog that smelled like roadkill. With the heat going, because of course it's freezing outside, and my stomach being straight up like, "Time to play Twister with your innards!"

Do you know what it's like to have a roaring headache, food poisoning, and be trapped in a hot vehicle for two hours with a skunked dog? It's atrocious.

We rolled into my parent's town at a whopping 1:30 in the morning, dead tired and frazzled. Until this point, I hadn't gotten sick. But two hours in a hotbox of stank was taking it's toll, so I began rolling down the window in preparation to be a bit...ahem, indisposed. Hans was freaking out, trying to figure out if he should pull over, when it happened.

The red light.

With a cop sitting right there.

I'm hanging halfway out the window when I see it, and start screaming "RED LIGHT RED LIGHT RED-AHHH THERE'S A COP THERE'S A COP THERE'S A COP!!!" The cop was turning, and Hans was distracted, and I watched in horror as we ran the red light and almost sideswiped the police car. Hans just groaned (I started laughing because honestly, what else can you do at that point?) and pulled over.

We arrived at my parent's house at 2am, Christmas presents in one hand and a $200 ticket in the other, trailed by a positively foul smelling dog. I ended up being sick three or four times that night and spent the entire next day flat on my back.

(Also? December 26th is my father's birthday, and he had these grand plans of grilling out steaks and going to see a movie together as a family. Instead, he spent his afternoon giving Banjo about six baths and his daughter couldn't stomach anything besides crackers and orange juice.)

And that, my friends, is the story of the most terrible Christmas of all.

This story has already turned into one of our favorites, because it's just so awful, and it was fun to share. Writing outside my normal sphere is sort of exciting! Hope this made you laugh!

Under Grace - Rachel