Christmas 2001 will forever be known as The Day Of The Neighborhood Flu Epidemic. There is nothing worse than spending a major holiday like Christmas with your head in the toilet when you should be taking advantage of the biggest, guilt-free binge fest day of the year. There is no cheerful clinking of champagne glasses or popping sugar cookies in your mouth faster than an aardvark sucking up ants. There is only LONELY time in the bathroom to contemplate the identity of the fiesta-colored items that erupt from your stomach into the toilet bowl. Nor is it fun to be a party of one when you've been quarantined from family and friends like the town pariah. Swapping gifts on Christmas is fine. Germs, not so much. But the flu bug doesn't have discerning tastes and will happily descend upon whatever poor, unsuspecting host it can find.
In 2001, we attended the annual neighborhood holiday party, which is traditionally held a few days before Christmas. As was custom, the entire block gathered for the festive event at a neighbor's home to chat with old friends and strain the waistband of our pants with an array of holiday foods. Little did we know that our stomachs and intestines were preparing to take us for a ride on the toilet train to hell.
There was a child at the party who was recovering from a recent bout of the flu, but none of us gave it a second thought as we chatted over rum balls and queso dip.
The party was a success and we left that night with full bellies and happy hearts. We had no clue that an invisible, uninvited guest had followed the majority of us home.
By Christmas Eve, the entire block was infected by the nefarious flu bug that took us down one by one like dominoes. The bubonic plague was alive and well in our neighborhood. The "Welcome To Our Home" plaque outside our front door should have been changed to: "Welcome To The Vomitorium." While others were listening to "O Holy Night" and sipping apple cider, my oldest son and I were singing "O Wretched Night", curled in the fetal position with a vomit bowl between us. It didn't matter that the stockings were not hung by the chimney with care, because old St. Nicolas was not going to be coming there. The ONLY thing that mattered to me was the sprinting distance between my mattress and the bathroom door. The problem was that I couldn't decide which end should hit the toilet first----my mouth or my backside. I ended up sitting on the throne with the vomit bowl in my lap and called it a BOGO---buy one get one free.
That night we missed the candle light Christmas Eve services at church, along with the big solo my son was to perform with the choir. He was too busy making a casserole in the toilet bowl to be bothered with hitting a few high notes. The Hubs was forced to pull double duty with babysitting, gift wrapping and stocking stuffing, not to mention all those pesky, "Assembly Required" packages stored in the garage.
Christmas morning I was greeted by the cheery sounds of retching and moaning behind the bathroom door. The Hubs was down for the count, along with two more of our children. I knew it was a bad start to the day when no one raced into the living room to see what surprises Santa had left under the tree. The only surprise I wanted from Mr. Claus was a second toilet, along with a gallon of Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate.
Once we reached four hours of vomit-free bliss, we felt well enough to attend the big family dinner at my folk's home. Selfish perhaps, but we were stir crazy from staring into the well of a toilet bowl for twenty-four hours and needed to get out of the house. We took into consideration that our motley crew looked like Typhoid Mary survivors, but we did our best to control the contagious bug by refraining from bodily contact. At least the surgical masks and gloves we donned made for some interesting Christmas family photos.
As we drove home that night and congratulated ourselves for surviving the holiday with our intestines intact, we heard the sound no parent ever wants to hear while they're behind the wheel of a car.
"Mommy....Daddy....I think I'm going to be sick...."
If we pretended not to hear our youngest daughter in the backseat, we were certain the specter of illness would surely disappear.
Apparently Santa had other plans for us.
Is it any wonder why the following year there was a new porcelain throne under the Christmas tree with my name on it?