Great holiday disasters from my past... anyone?

It’s that time of year again and as we start putting our plans into motion for this year, we can’t help but think about the ones that came before. As it turns out, my most memorable holiday experiences were the disasters. Here are a few of the stars.

The guy I was supposed to date

On Thanksgiving, last year, a friend invited me to her house for a dinner. Knowing my friend as I do, I was looking forward to an evening of great food and great company. As we all got to the table, I couldn’t help but notice that seated across from me was a guy she had been trying to fix me up with for a year. Let’s call him Mr. S.

About a year before, she set up a date with this guy, and pushed for it and bombarded me with texts so there was no way I could say no. It was a double date: her with her husband and me with Mr. S. As soon as I sat down, she was giving me these looks across the table that you could have seen from outside. I wanted to get up and leave right away. Of course, I didn’t. But, while I appreciated her intentions, I was so uncomfortable throughout the whole thing that I hardly paid poor Mr. S any attention at all. Epic date fail.

Meanwhile, back in the present…

This time however, my dear friend was careful not to mention he was going to be at dinner, too. “So, Miss Joanna, asked Mr. S aloud, “what have you been to since the last time I saw you?” I laughed and answered, “Well, a lot of things. I remember when I met you, I had a U-Haul truck parked close to the restaurant as I was playing delivery man for my sister. She had just bought a new house in Philadelphia a couple of months before and she had invited a lot of friends to come and stay for Christmas. But she had forgotten that she needed new mattresses to fill her new bedrooms so her guests would have something to sleep on!

She had called me a couple of days before I was going from Washington, DC to Philly and asked me if on the way I could stop at IKEA and pick up four mattresses. So, after we met for dinner, I headed up to Philly with a very accommodating friend who agreed to help. On the way, my sister called again and asked me if we could stop and pick up some wine since we were on our way with the mattresses anyhow. I laughed while I was telling this story.

Total silence. None of the other guests thought it was funny. They all thought I was crazy for doing it and said I should have refused. I sat there thinking, “Do you know her? Do you know she cooked the most amazing dinner for 15 people and decorated her house in the best way possible for all to enjoy? Sure, she might have forgotten the mattresses and she welcomed each guest with a broom to clean their own room, as she had just arrived from traveling abroad for work and her house was still been renovated! But she decided to focus in what was more important to her, having friends over and cooking a meal.

Epic date fail #2 with Mr. S. Plus, it felt like////That popped the balloon of thanksgiving

Which brings me to the Thanksgiving Day I invited friends for dinner and forgot to cook the dinner…

Some years ago, I decided to play hostess for Thanksgiving. I had arranged the table nicely with a beautiful centerpiece candle and spent the afternoon writing thoughtful notes for my guests. I chose ceramic Peruvian angels and wrapped them into nicely hand-made boxes and dropped the notes in each box for my guests. I bought the wine and some cheese and put some nice music on. Everything was perfect.

When my friends arrived, one of them asked, “Ok, at what time are we going to eat?” Immediately, I remembered I had forgotten one critical element – the dinner! After I stopped laughing, I confessed that the dinner was still frozen. As my guests were looking shocked, I instantly came up with a new plan. (Lucky for me I can think on my feet.) I corralled one friend who was an amazing cook and flattered him into taking on the task. We all sat at my beautifully decorated table, drank wine and ate cheese, and told stories and kept him company while he prepared the meal. My friends all knew I really didn’t know how to cook (for the record, I now cook), but as they all could see, I put my heart into something else. Fortunately, this disaster turned out all right in the end.

How about the time I ran out of Christmas cards and just used thank you notes instead?

At another dinner, we started talking about traditions. So, I mentioned that one tradition I have, that I like, is helping my other sister move every few years. She has moved to New York, Lima, Kampala, Lyon, and is now in Paris. Whenever she moves, I always go where she lives and help her pack her stuff and move to her new place. We always laugh much and we enjoy it. It’s a tradition that the two of us share.

I ignored one guest’s snarky remark that she was just using me to carry her suitcases and moved on. “A tradition that my dad and I have is to go to Target right after the holidays and get Christmas cards for the next year. I send a card and a small ornament to my friends that have children and I get lots of great discounts. “This year,” I said, “I ran out of Christmas cards, so I am using some thank you notes I have and put some holiday stickers on them.” I got a lot of strange looks for that one.

Then there’s the infamous paté

So yes, here I am a dinner guest again. I thought, why not bring something delicious? Be a thoughtful guest. I decided to make paté. I spent all afternoon slaving away on it, and of course I ran late. But in the end, it didn’t turn out right. Well of course I wasn’t going to bring it, so I arrived an hour late, empty-handed. Fortunately, I had a great story to tell about meeting George Lucas, and I managed to get myself back in everyone’s good graces by the end of the meal.

My suggestion for this holiday season — let’s lower our expectations!

I think maybe if we have realistic expectations of the people we love and know well, no one would be disappointed. For instance, I’m habitually late. I try but I can’t help it. And people know that. So, instead of being disappointed when I’m late, creative friends now know to tell me to show up an hour early! Except this thanksgiving, sorry mom, I really thought thanksgiving was next week and I know you have decorated every corner in your house with a red bow.

It is not about lowering the standards, it is about appreciating what one has to offer and laugh about the little things that don’t go as plan. Those are the holidays that we remember.

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