Posted by: deadmousediaries | January 10, 2013

May All Your 2013 Holidays Be Rated “NCG” – looking back with Mitchell Kyd

The Big Three holidays may be over for another year but you can count on another set of celebrations rolling around in 2013. May all of your holidays be rated NCG.

The 2012 holiday season was the first in many years that didn’t involve some kind of quaint little plumbing mishap for our family and we’re grateful. But no matter how bad it has ever been, we have a saying here: At least it’s NCG (Not Clark Griswold).

You fans of National Lampoon’s movie classic Christmas Vacation are already enjoying a private chuckle or maybe an out-loud snort, aren’t you?   If the name Clark Griswold doesn’t conjure up funny man Chevy Chase in a scene from this timeless,  inter-generational Christmas train wreck, your holiday pleasures are incomplete so please rent Christmas Vacation.

At least it’s NCG has become part of our own family’s code talk, that special language that people sharing living quarters put together over the years to capture secret messages created through shared experiences. It’s like Morse Code for the dexterity-challenged.   We’ve watched Christmas Vacation so many times that we no longer need the audio; we can recite most of it line by line, although only my son gets that masterful performance correct where Clark describes his boss in delicious detail. (Cheap, rotten, no-good-, lying, four-flushing, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, over-stuffed... well, you get the picture.)

The important lesson here is that NCG has set a standard by which our family now measures all holiday chaos. No matter how bad the oversight or mishap, we are consoled when we remind each other: At least it’s not Clark Griswold.  Truthfully, it helps us remember that we really don’t have holiday disasters at our house; we have inconveniences. For instance, unlike the Griswold family Christmas, we’ve never had an exploding turkey or a Christmas lighting incident that nearly turned a favorite uncle to toast. We’ve also never used a chainsaw to decapitate a newel post or had our home invaded by a SWAT team on Christmas Eve.

I remember two Christmases in a row where an overflowing toilet created quite a distraction while the in-laws were all visiting.  (Apparently we weren’t too quick on the pick-up about what toilet paper really works best at our house.) I also remember a toilet seat emergency at my grandmother’s house decades ago.  One of the little cushion thingeys came off the bottom and caused the seat to slide off the rim when you sat down. My Pap, a fixer, came up from the garage with a solution: a piece of baler twine, a giant rubber band made from a slice of truck inner tube and a stick. I don’t remember the exact physics behind his approach but I know it had something to do with creating torque on the inner tube by turning the stick, the entire mechanism of which was held creatively in place by the baler twine.

Everything worked well until my grandmother got home and found the fix unaesthetically pleasing and then the whole damn opera fell apart.  We all wobbled until after the holidays when someone could drive the 14 miles to nearest hardware store for a new toilet seat. (That’s ho things got done in the pre-WalMart era.)

Our current best story – and I’m leaving room for it to be updated and upstaged – is the 2009 Thanksgiving Incident. Those of you who know me well know that I’ve made n0 claims as a Domestic Diva and despite my perennial night-before scurry and my continued best intentions, Thanksgiving always finds our entire family waiting in queue for a shower in that last hour before lunch gets served. That has pending disaster written all over it.

The root cause of this particular incident is still open to dispute but one of the early contributing factors was a lost pendant that may or may not have gone down the bathroom sink drain. We’ve learned since then that when you live in an old house, it’s best not to disturb the plumbing for anything less than a full-scale blockage but in our zeal to confirm or deny the existence of said pendant, somebody in our house twisted the pipes open under the sink to check. (Somebody in our house is also family code talk and is used to assign blame to a mystery being who is responsible for all sorts of unclaimed mayhem.) There was no pendant. There was also no chance of getting the two parts of the pipe to realign properly again and in a way that assured their watertight integrity.

Thanks to our vast experience with plumbing problems, this was a situation we knew we could fix. With a bucket.  And so the dribbles were caught behind closed vanity doors and the bucket was dumped regularly into the toilet bowl where the evidence of a quick-fix could be flushed away.  I can’t say how long the bucket solution had been in play under the sink before the Thanksgiving Incident but suffice it to say, it had been at least  a day or two…

During that same time period, my daughter was still wearing her hair long. Her grooming rituals were lengthy and rigorous, involving several sessions of lather, rinse, repeat and about a quart of Mane and Tail conditioner with every shower. Even the most tolerant drains can only take so much, you know what I’m saying? A back-up was inevitable. Enter my son for the final shower of the morning but facing several inches of standing water.

The events of the final 20 minutes of meal prep are a bit of a blur but I do know that I had just pulled the turkey from the oven and was standing at the kitchen counter with my mom and dad, sweet potato casserole on one side, a bowl of stuffing on the other. I had set the turkey on the cutting board and but instantly whisked it away to the other side of the counter so my dad could carve and be out of my workspace. I had barely moved the turkey when the first trickle of bath water began running down through my kitchen cabinets, the same cabinets I had taken a vacation day to clean inside and out just two days earlier.

As the three of us stood mesmerized by the waterfall that was cascading with more ferocity, my son slid through the doorway demanding a pot –not a cooking pot it seems, a bailing pot. Through some fascinating combination of gravity and water pressure and the power of a vacuum, the clog he had dislodged in the tub caused such a surge in the drain pipes that all the tub water rushed back up into the sink drain where it of course, followed the path of least resistance, out of the broken sink pipe and onto the bathroom floor. And down through the ceiling into my kitchen. And the whole way through my cupboards.  Two seconds before that, our Thanksgiving dinner had been in perfect position for a final basting of Mane and Tail. At least it was NCG, we all declared.

The next few hours after dinner were spent with mops and fans and coat hangers and drain snakes and my son finally retrieved from the bathtub drain a wad of sister hair that resembled a small raccoon.  (But it’s coat was certainly in great condition after all that Mane and Tail.) Just like the Griswold’s, we hadn’t let a little mishap ruin our holiday;  we had only added another story to the Mitchell family album.

So here’s the moral of the story: no matter what has happened or may happen to change your vision of the perfect family gathering, if your family was gathered, it was perfect as intended. And the next time your toilet overflows when guests arrive or your dogs yacks up a bone under your table during an elegant dining experience, just remember: it could be worse. Your holiday is still rated NCG.



  1. Your stories always brighten my days,keep them coming Thank You

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