The Kitchen Pipe Burst, the Oven Died and Other Holiday Disasters

By Rachel Vincent

Thanksgiving morning, the pipe that drains water from our kitchen sink burst in our basement. My mother had been concurrently washing dishes, attending to the massive turkey in the oven and trying to avoid my father as he tried to herd the dog and cats out of the kitchen and whip yams for sweet potatoes when this happened.

I was awakened around 9 by my mom, who with plaster dust in her hair and on her glasses, said, jabbing my shoulder: “Our pipe exploded. Dad went to Home Depot, in case it’s open for some reason. Get the vacuum and come downstairs.”

After examining the 6- by 4-foot hole my father had made with an X-acto knife and hammer in the drywall downstairs, my mother and I sighed and returned to our posts to prepare for the seven guests due in less than five hours. As it happened, Home Depot was closed, so my dad attacked the gaping hole in the pipe with duct tape and plastic wrap. Amazingly, the repair held.

My family has become strangely adept at dealing with holiday disasters. One Thanksgiving, now dubbed by family the “Surprise Thanksgiving,” my aunt, who was supposed to be host that year, called in tears. Her new state-of–the-art oven had broken, and she would be at our apartment in a half-hour, her family and half-baked turkey in tow.

With nothing to say but “all right,” my mom surveyed the mess that was our apartment and our “landlord’s special” oven, at the brink of tears herself. I was only 1 at the time, but I imagine my dad returning with the bottle of wine he had gone to buy and my mother hustling around the apartment like a cartoon blur, leaving set tables, clean bathrooms and closets stuffed bursting with the stuff in her wake.

Our family’s bad luck extends beyond Thanksgiving. There was Dehydration Independence Day (not, unfortunately, freedom from dehydration, but a day I spent curled on my floor with crippling stomach cramps). And the Memorial Day of the Nearly Broken Leg, when at 8. Somehow, I became stuck up to the hip in a gap in my aunt’s wooden pool deck for almost an hour. Finally my uncle maneuvered me out, without snapping my femur. And then there was the New Year’s of the Missing Door, very much what it sounds like. The door to my parents’ apartment came off the hinges, and when the super –my Dad’s uncle – said he was going out for New Year’s and would fix it the next day, my father had to forcefully to persuade him to change his plans. Were the hammer and X-acto knife used at that time? I don’t doubt it.

And so we regrouped, cordoned off the den with a baby gate, and cooked, basted, sautéed, baked, vacuumed, mopped and arranged silverware until we had quite handily knocked the Vincent Family Holiday Chaos Beast out for the count. Or at least until Christmas.

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