For 10 years now, we've included a completely obnoxious, 4-page Christmas letter in the cards we send out to family and friends. It takes a lot of work to keep it to 4 pages. I hate leaving things out, but I must if I ever want people to read the blasted thing. So, here it is, in its entirety for you. Get your coffee ready before you begin.
How often do you find yourself enjoying a TV or movie simply because it reminds you of your life? Earlier this week, I was jolted by the realization that our life closely resembles not just a movie, but a franchise. I was watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at the time. As the movie went on, more and more similarities came to mind. And not just from that one movie, but from all three of the Griswold movies.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Throughout the movie, the Griswolds’ station wagon gets beat all to heck. By the end, it is a wobbly, creaky, filthy mess of a vehicle.
In one year, our van inexplicably got a flat tire in our driveway. On another day, every single wire on the back half of the van was shredded into teeny tiny pieces when the dogs tried to capture a squirrel that had scrambled up into the undercarriage. And when those wires weren’t fixed properly, on one dark and rainy night, the sensors didn’t alert me to the fact that I was about to back into a parked car behind me. That dent is still there.
Using nothing but a map, the Griswolds made their way from Chicago to California to go to Wallyworld. They had no reservations, but stopped whenever a tourist attraction caught their eyes or circumstances forced them to.
I took all six kids on a Spring Break trip in which we simply drove southwest. No reservations or plans were made before we left. We took back roads and stopped whenever we felt like it. While we did not make it to Dodge City like the Griswolds, we did stop at Hillbilly Gardens, the Big Dam Bridge, and Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio flows into the mighty Mississippi. The kids were just as impressed by the merging rivers as the Griswold kids would have been.
The Griswolds stopped to visit Cousin Eddie and his family. They were not happy to find out that Aunt Edna was going to join them on their vacation.
To start our spring break trip, we stopped in Kentucky to celebrate March birthdays with the relatives. When we left, my mom hopped in the van to join us on our spring break adventure. Don’t worry. Mom didn’t die and we never once strapped her to the roof of the van.
In the movie, Clark accidentally left Aunt Edna’s dog tied to the back of the station wagon, and it died a tragic death.
In our real life, our dog did not die a tragic death. Instead, the electric fence broke, our dog wasn’t tied up, and the pain in the neck dog caused the tragic death of 20 chickens in one fell swoop.
Two of the pigs were dragged, but not tied to the back of the van, and only after they had already died of pneumonia.
At one point in the movie, Clark walked through the desert to find help and save his family. In the end, he barely survived and the family got help from some passing cowboys.
Back in January, Bryan spent hours and hours using his new snow blower to clear over a foot of snow from two tire-sized lanes down our ¼ mile driveway. In -10 degree weather. He managed to get his car out and went to work. The kids and I were left to our own devices to get the van out. FYI: there are no helpful cowboys in the Indianapolis area.
In the movie, Clark causes quite a commotion in the pool, attracting the attention of all of the guests in the hotel.
Back in April, my mom, some of my soccer mom friends, and I apparently caused quite a commotion while at a Dayton-area soccer tournament. While hotel management didn’t do anything to Clark, my mom, my friends, and I were cut off and kicked out of the Olive Garden.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation
On the way to London, Ellen dreamt about the royal family. In her dream, they are friends with the queen, and Lady Di is infatuated with Clark.
While in London, Bryan and I actually walked across the street with Prince Edward and his wife. Just the four of us and their bodyguard. I could have reached out and held hands with him. Unfortunately, Bryan and I argued about the identity of Prince Edward (Bryan said it was Prince William, I said he was nuts. Plus, actual princes don’t just walk to work!) all the way across the street and up until Prince Edward walked through the gates of Buckingham Palace. Prince Edward not only didn’t become infatuated with me, he probably heard every word of our argument and now thinks of me as just another stupid American.
The Griswold family got stuck on a roundabout for hours, and each time they went around, Clark would say, “Look kids! Big Ben…and Parliament!”
Bryan and I spent hours walking around London, and much of that time was spent standing in a roundabout in front of Big Ben…and Parliament. By choice. Not only did we say, “Look kids! Big Ben…and Parliament” 100 times, we took photos and sent them to the kids. Kids who have never seen the movie and had no idea what we were so excited about.
Clark was a bad driver in all of the movies, but he especially had trouble driving around Europe. In England he drove on the wrong side of the road, and in the rest of Europe he raced through towns for a variety of reasons.
Phoenix got his driver’s permit in November. While he hasn’t run over any flower stands like Clark did, he has driven on the wrong side of the road and almost run over the bush at the end of our driveway. I’m crossing my fingers that he is also unlike Clark in that he never has to drive through town to avoid capture by men in lederhosen.
When the Griswolds fled the lederhosen-clad German folk, they had to leave their luggage behind. Once they got to Rome, they went shopping for new clothes.
When Bryan flew to London (We took separate flights on separate days.), he missed his connection. His luggage took a much longer route than Bryan did, which meant he had no clothes upon arrival in London. Unlike the Griswolds, Bryan chose to wear the clothes he had on his back for three days.
The Griswolds were supposed to spend a night with relatives they had never met but only written to. They accidentally spent the night with their relatives’ neighbors instead.
When I took Cuckoo to Florida for his special trip, we were supposed to stay 2 nights with a family I only knew through internet, phone, and mail correspondence. I’m sure they were thrilled when we decided to stay with them an extra two days. They were even happier when we made them trick or treat three times and go to the beach in the freezing cold.
In the movie, the French waiters made fun of the Griswolds for their inability to speak French.
In reality, Bryan and I were also made fun of by French wait staff. Sometimes it was subtle, like when I couldn’t understand if the guy was asking if I wanted my water “with gas or no gas”. Sometimes, I was outright laughed at, like the time I ordered crème brulee, and she put it down in front of me when it was still on fire. When I jumped back to avoid catching my nose hairs on fire, she laughed and said, “Brulee means fire,” and waved her hands over the brulee. While I ate my dessert, I caught her looking over at me and laughing several times.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
In the movie, the Griswolds go hiking through the woods to find the perfect tree. They come home with a tree way too big for their living room.
In our reality, Bryan and Phoenix bought our tree at a tree lot, but they, too, chose a tree that was too big. It took 4 teens and 2 adults five tries to get the tree upright. We never could get it straight. In a fit of frustration, Bryan hollered, “We’ll just turn it so if it falls it will hit the wall!”
When Clark cuts the twine and the tree pops open, he says from inside the tree, “There’s a lot of sap”. The next scene shows him getting stuck to everything he touches.
After the kids and I buried ourselves into the tree to heave it into an upright position, one of us commented on the amount of sap in the tree. I’ll just say that in real life, toilet paper sticks to sap really, really well.
A squirrel jumps out of the Griswold Christmas tree and wreaks havoc amongst the relatives.
Nothing came out of our tree, but a bat did fly into our house. It didn’t cause much problem, seeing as how our kids aren’t fazed by a bat. Phoenix caught it (Bryan and I weren’t home.) with little fanfare. However, Bryan’s mom heard about it. She’ll never sleep well at our house again, if we can even convince her to sleep at our house again.
Cousin Eddie parked his RV in front of the Griswold house and emptied his toxic waste into the storm drains.
We did not have a Cousin Eddie dumping waste into a drain, but we did have a clogged septic tank overflowing all over our back yard. For weeks. Thanks to the Polar Vortex, we didn’t know it was happening for a while, and then we couldn’t get anyone to come out until after the big thaw.
Finally, someone came out to diagnose the problem (a clogged filter (Who knew septic tanks installed in the last 6 years had filters?!?!)) and empty the tank. Afterwards, that septic truck became our Cousin Eddie’s RV. Because of the thaw, our driveway was a muddy mess, and that blasted septic truck got stuck good and low in the mud.
National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation
OK, we know this movie hasn’t been made, but if the franchise were to continue following our life, this is what the next movie would look like.
In the movie, the Griswolds’ pet would get very sick, requiring lots of money to be spent at the vet in order to save it.
In our world, it was the pigs that got sick. There is no expensive vet, so we had to diagnose and treat the animals ourselves. They had pneumonia, and they all needed several rounds of shots in order to be cured.
The Griswold kids would start playing a sport, and their team would have an end of season party. Clark would see this as an opportunity to show off his athleticism. In the process of showing off his skills, he would severely injure himself and at least one of his kids.
In reality, Turken broke his collar bone all on his own by tackling the padding for a football upright. A week later, there was an end-of-season CYO soccer game of parents vs. players. I played, of course, and at one point, I took off at full speed to beat an 8th grade boy to the ball. I will have you know, I did beat him. Unfortunately, once I got there, I tried to turn with the ball and my foot didn’t come with me. I ended up in a heap, rolling on the ground in a very dramatic fashion, crying out that, “This is bad! You’re going to be taking me to the hospital!” I ended up with an ACL torn all to pieces and 2 meniscus tears.
If a movie were to be made, the pig event and the knee trauma would happen on separate days in order to make the movie an hour and a half long.
In actuality, these two events, as well as the shredding of the van wires by the dogs I spoke of earlier, all happened on the same awful, no good, very bad, miserable day. THE SAME DAY!!! Since I caused such trauma to my knee, I was unable to give the pigs their follow-up shots. Bryan is incapable of doing such a thing, so two of the four pigs died.
Now, onto the quotes. There are plenty of lines in the movies that get quoted on a regular basis. We have some memorable quotes from the year, too.
1. “I’m holding hands with a dead pig.” –Giant, when he and Phoenix had to drag the dead pig out to the field.
2. “You are a TERRIBLE driver!” – me, from the backseat while Bryan drove me home in my very doped up state after knee surgery.
3. “This doesn’t taste anything like mint!” – my mom, at Dairy Queen, after Cuckoo gave her an Oreo from his Mint Oreo blizzard.
4. “That’s because I sucked the mint off for you!” – Cuckoo, after my mom said it didn’t taste like mint.
5. “Wow, that must have been one bad accident.” – a complete stranger at the hospital the day we had to get Turken’s collar bone X-rayed (his arm was in a sling) and Buttercup’s back x-rayed to check for scoliosis. I was hobbling around on crutches.
6. “This is the best day ever!” – Bryan, on New Year’s Day, when he was able to eat Polish sausage he made himself with his new sausage stuffer, topped with sauerkraut I helped a friend make. We will ignore the fact that he ranks it above his wedding day and the days his children were born.
7. “Sauertwaut is da woost. Down at da bottom.” – Cuckoo, with his nose plugged.
8. “We can’t be lost! We don’t know where we’re going!” – Giant, on our spring break trip, after one of the other kids asked if we were lost.
9. “MOM! A CHICKEN STUCK IT’S HEAD UNDER THE DOOR AND GOT STUCK AND KILLED ITSELF AND IT’S GROSS AND I CAN’T EVEN OPEN THE DOOR AND YOU NEED TO COOOOOOME!” – Buttercup, on a day that I was hopped up on Nyquil and was in no mood to deal with a dead chicken, especially a dead chicken that was peering at us from under a door.
10. “Who tf is dis” – in a text from someone we don’t know, after I texted him thinking it was Giant’s number. I only know it was a full-grown, cranky man who probably smokes and just woke up because I answered his text with “your mother” and he called me right away.
11. “The marker said it was washable.” – Turken, with a very sad face, while carrying a sopping wet thank you card he had spent the last 30 minutes making.