When a dinner guest accidentally clogged the upstairs toilet, “Level 3 contamination water” gushed from the light fixture above the dining table, causing $20,000 in damage. (Jennifer Bardsley)

When a dinner guest accidentally clogged the upstairs toilet, “Level 3 contamination water” gushed from the light fixture above the dining table, causing $20,000 in damage. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Holiday disasters that will live in infamy

Sewage raining from the ceiling onto the dinner table, and other red-letter days in Bardsley family lore.

Some of my most memorable holidays are the ones I wish hadn’t happened at all. But at least they make for some great stories to tell. Here are three incidents in particular that long time “I Brake for Mom” readers might remember.

“Level 3 contamination water” from 2015: Hosting 17 people for Christmas Eve dinner sounded intimidating, but I was up for the challenge. I cleaned my house so thoroughly that even the baseboards shone. I set out my grandmother’s china on one table and my wedding china on the other. Dinner was perfection, especially since I had sprung for the rib roast. When dessert came around I sat at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of coffee and a delectable assortment of my mother-in-law’s famous cookies … and that’s when water began gushing from the light fixture. It wasn’t just any type of water, it was “level 3 contamination water” from the bathroom upstairs. One of our guests had accidentally clogged the upstairs toilet and now there was poop everywhere.

The damage was so bad that it cost the insurance almost $20,000 to fix. They ripped out the upstairs bathroom, tore out part of the laundry room, hired an asbestos abatement team, repainted the hallway, family room and part of the kitchen, and also professionally cleaned the ducts. In a really unfair twist of fate, as the upstairs bathroom was the only room in our house that had already been remodeled. The circa 1984 bathrooms weren’t ruined, it was the circa 2006 bathroom that was destroyed. We have never hosted Christmas Eve dinner again.

“A pain in the butt” from 2016: I blame the poodle for this one. It was a beautiful Christmas Eve on Camano Island. Dinner was about to be served. Before I sat down I took Merlin out to do his business outside. What happened next was a bing-ba-da-boom-ba-da-CRASH! I slipped down icy steps and landed on my rear end. “Help!” I cried into the wind, but nobody could hear me but Merlin. I was in so much pain I thought my tailbone was broken. (Later, X-rays showed that it was only severely bruised). Somehow I managed to crawl up the steps and back into the house where I collapsed and my family dialed 911. Kudos to Camano Island Fire & Rescue. I didn’t want to spend Christmas Eve with you, but you guys were swell.

“A very trashy Valentine’s Day” from 2019: We left for Hawaii in the middle of a snowstorm and on the heels of a family medical emergency, but it’s what happened when we returned that will go down in Bardsley lore. After 12 long hours of traveling we came home and realized I had left our house key in Maui. We could enter our garage, but not our home. Did I mention that it was 36 degrees outside and the garage smelled like trash? Before we’d left for Maui the snow had been so bad that the garbage truck hadn’t come for two weeks straight.

At one point we had owned a hide-a-key, but it was buried in the back yard like lost treasure. We burrowed in the car, huddling for warmth underneath our camping blankets, and waited for my in-laws — saints, really — to drive over from Snohomish at 1 a.m. and rescue us with their spare key. Aloha, family. Sorry about our new perfume.

So, how was your holiday season? Got some stories to tell?

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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