Having an unusual Christmas

Michael Raffety

Dec. 31, 2009

This was our most unusual Christmas (2009). Because of the press of other obligations we didn’t put up a big tree. We had a 30-inch pre-lighted, pre-decorated tree. Very nice looking. But our plan was for the family to open presents at my 93-year-old mother’s apartment at the retirement center and then have Christmas lunch with her.

For Christmas dinner we were going to serve not only our two children, but our son’s fiance and her sister and two brothers. We were meeting the siblings for the first time. This was to be a turkey and leg of lamb dinner with cheese course, sushi, red potatoes fried in olive oil, French green beans, zucchini broiled with parmesan on top. I had gotten out my mother’s special dressing recipe and had the filberts all cracked for it.

Then one minor disaster derailed everything. The drain under the kitchen sink sprang a leak on Christmas Eve. The ring that clamped the sink to the drain was off and really icky. I couldn’t unscrew the pipe under it because of a little arm that connected to the dishwasher hose, so I was forced to saw it off.

I went to get replacement parts from the only place that was open. The system was a little different and I was given extra parts. To make them fit I had to shorten them up. Unfortunately I made them too short. I rushed back to the supply place and got there two minutes before the 5 o’clock closing time, ran to the plumbing section and got some new plastic pipes parts.

This time I got the length right. But when I turned the water on there was still leaking around the sink strainer and leaking from the joint at the dishwasher hose. Two things were wrong. The Y connection to the dishwasher pipe was too small. The second fault I discovered after a more careful reading of my how-to book was that I needed plumber’s putty around the sink strainer. By this time of the evening the sink was unusable until the plumbing store opened Saturday. My wife started dialing for restaurants that would be open Christmas Day.

The only restaurants open were at the Red Hawk Casino. After having dinner at my daughter’s place, we went over there to check out the Christmas menu at the buffet. It looked wonderful and there were only a few people in line on Christmas Eve. So that was our alternative plan.

Then on Christmas Day we get over there and the place is packed, absolutely jammed. Everybody must be spending their Christmas money at the casino. And the line to the buffet wasn’t a few people, but a whole lot. It didn’t just double back, but it tripled and quadrupled back. It looked like a two-hour wait. So we called an audible and ran a screen pass into the steakhouse, where we got a table for eight in about five minutes.

I sat across the table from the brother who was a Marine drill instructor. Actually he was on his second year and supervised other DI’s. He was a very well composed and interesting person. All in all it was an unusual but enjoyable Christmas. It was interesting.

Though the plumbing went kaplooey, Christmas Day marked a milestone for me. Jan. 1, 2009, I started spending weekend mornings before breakfast running around the high school track. It wasn’t a pre-thought plan, I just got up that day and decided to do it. I began the year with half a mile and by Christmas Day had gotten up to 3 miles. Not bad, considering I had a long break while they tore up the football field and track and kept it fenced off until the artificial turf and numbers and lines were installed. I don’t run in the rain and the snow also.

The artificial track has numbers for each of the eight lanes. That is real helpful because I space out and lose count of the number of laps I’m doing. So now I just move over one lane number every lap.

For next year I’m not going to increase the length, but hope to decrease the time it takes to run the 3 miles. I would also like to reduce the number of times my daughter laps me. She completed her first marathon last month in Sacramento. In the summer she does triathlons — swimming a mile, biking 12 miles and running six miles.

I also plan to do more watercolor painting in 2010. Those are my resolutions — run faster, paint more.

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