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Planning the Perfect Christmas

Planning the Perfect Christmas
R. Brian Campbell

“Hello.” John stepped inside, stamping his boots on the rubber mat as he closed the door. “I’m back. Carrie? Are you home, or am I talking to myself?”

“In here,” a voice called from the dining room.

John pulled off his boots, hung his coat on the hook, and walked toward the voice. Carrie met him at the doorway with a kiss. He returned it, then asked, “So what have you been up to?”

“Just making everything perfect for tonight,” she answered with a grin. She sidestepped with a flourish. “What do you think?”

“Immaculate,” he responded, as his eyes appraised her efforts. “In fact, as far as I can tell, there is only one thing wrong.”

Carrie’s bottom lip curled. “And what would that be?”

“This is my mother you are trying to impress, and trust me, my love, that is impossible.”

“You don’t think she’ll like what I’ve done?”

John faced her, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking her in the eye. “Honey. This has nothing to do with you. My mother could walk into a designer showroom, laid out by the world’s greatest designers with the intention of impressing the Royal Family, and she would still find something wrong with it. There is a good reason the family calls her Hyacinth.”


“You know. The Bucket lady. From the British sit-com? Oh dear! I’ll have to introduce you to the show, both for the humour and to help you to understand my mother. In the meantime trust me. My mother finds fault wherever she goes. It’s what she does. So just prepare your…” The doorbell rings. “Shit. She’s here. Ok. Just remember. Whatever she says. It’s not your fault.”

“But…she met me. We got along. She likes me.”

John smiled and shook his head. “Meeting her and having her inside our home are two different things entirely. Ok. Batten down the hatches.” He gritted his teeth, turned and opened the door. “Hi Mom. Merry Christmas. How wonderful to see you.”

“Hello, Johnny dear, and Merry Christmas to you,” John’s mother flowed into the room, giving him a quick peck on the cheek as she deposited her coat in his arms. She made straight for Carrie. “Oh Carrie my dear. How are you keeping?”

“Very well Mrs. Chambers.”

“Please call me Mother, my dear. Mrs. Chambers makes me sound old.”

“Mother it is then.  Please, come in.”

“Mom. Carrie has been working all day to make sure that everything is perfect for you.”

“She has?” Mrs. Chambers patted Carrie on the cheek. “Well, I’m sure you did your best.” She glanced around the elegant dining area. “How…adequate.” She sniffed the air. “I smell something cooking.  I’d better get in there and rescue you.”

“Mom!” John said, sternly. “Carrie has everything in order.”

“Yes, I’m sure she’s been muddling through the best she could. But now I’m here to help,”

“Mom!” You are our guest. It is not necessary for you to…help!”

“Of course it’s necessary dear.” She indicated a shopping bag in her hand. “I have all the important ingredients for supper right here.  Stovetop stuffing, whipping cream, gravy mix.  What would you do without me?”

“I-I’ve made my own stuffing and gravy. I have both real whipped cream and low fat Kool Whip.”

Mrs. Chambers patted Carrie’s cheek again. “I’m very sure you did all you could. But don’t worry.  I’ll take it from here.”

John and Carrie watched her breeze into the kitchen. Carrie was shaking. She didn’t know whether to cry, scream or what. John wrapped his arms around her.

The doorbell rang, but before they could respond the door burst open and two children, aged four and seven tumbled in, followed by a harried looking young woman. “Grandpa, Grandma Carrie,” they screamed in unison as they charged John and Carrie.

John lifted the older boy into the air, as the little girl wrapped herself around Carrie’s legs. “Merry Christmas, kids. Do you think I can talk to your mother for a bit?”  He unwound the kids from himself and Carrie. They sulked and struggled a bit, but eventually stepped aside and began removing their winter clothes.

“Merry Christmas, Megan,” Carrie said, giving her a hug.

“Merry Christmas Carrie,” Megan answered. She leaned forward and kissed John on the cheek. “What’s up Dad?”

John sighed. “It’s your grandma, Meg. Carrie has been working all day to make things perfect and…”

“’Nuff said Dad.” Megan turned to Carrie. “Welcome to the family, Carrie. I thought Dad would have warned you about Grandma. She did the same thing to my mom, to my Aunt Josie, and to me. I’m afraid that she has to be the star of the show and she tramples over everyone’s feelings in the process. Mom said that it was one of the things that broke down her marriage to Dad.  Aunt Josie won’t let her enter her house. But don’t worry. I have a solution.”

Megan turned to her children and knelt down in front of them. “Kids. Great Grandma is giving Grandma Carrie a rough time. Do you think you could distract her so Grandma Carrie can finish making Christmas dinner? We’ll owe you one.”

“No problem Mom,” the boy said. “We’re on it.” Then turned to his sister with a grin. “Let’s go, Jen.”

“Grandma!” They screamed, as they stormed towards the kitchen.

“That should take care of Grandma,” Megan said, as she straightened up. “The kids should keep her thoroughly occupied. Now Carrie, would you like any help in the kitchen, or just space?”

“A little help in the kitchen would be wonderful,” Carrie said with a smile. “Thank you.”

Megan followed her children. John smiled at Carrie. “Well, perfect isn’t going to happen, but I think we can have a pretty good Christmas after all.”