It’s the day of our annual Christmas house party, when we get to enjoy the best of the tide of yule with our friends. It is always a special night that says ‘Christmas’ loud and clear, and always reminds me how important friends are, especially the ones who bring presents.
Just kidding about that last part, but it is quite a memorable festive event every year, where we regale each other with entertainingly exaggerated conversation, and scarf down an amazing array of gourmet goodies and delectable exotic food treats, which takes me all day to help prepare by staying completely out of the kitchen.
Not that I don’t have a useful function for our annual Hay Soiree. I have my ‘honey-do’ list like every veteran husband — things like: pick up the beverages, vacuum various carpeted areas, take the dog for a walk and stay out of the kitchen.
And at the party, of course, my role is crucial in dumping people’s coats in a spare bedroom somewhere, making sure that they aren’t being bitten by Scamp, our deranged diabetic shih tzu, and that all the guy guests get to personally observe Big Loader, my favourite annual Christmas toy that runs on a track going on fascinating journey involving perpetual motion, while all the female guests gather in another room and laugh and tell outrageous stories about each other.
And although I have broached the following subject in a column a while back about wearing a girdle during the civic election (don’t ask), it being the Saturday before Christmas and the traditional time for our party, I can’t help but think back just two short years, to one of the strangest, most spastic Christmas parties I’ve ever experienced.
You see, it was the morning of the big par-tay, and I was ready to head out with my long list of last-minute things to do for the party.
One minute I was tying my shoes, the next I was flat on my face on the hardwood floor in excruciating, mind-numbing pain.
Silly me. Bending over to tie my shoes like that. I should have known better.
If there’s anything that can drop a full grown humanoid like a sack of P.E.I. potatoes, it’s that quaint little manoeuvre known charmingly as ‘putting your back out.’
Technically speaking of course, your back isn’t actually ‘put out’ — but you certainly are. And it’s never the ‘big’ things that get you with lower back muscle spasms. You can go tobogganing with the kids, flying over ice-bumps at 50 km/h, crashing in spectacular fashion at the bottom of the hill. You can step on the cat that is sleeping on the stairs in the middle of the night, careening like a stunt man in a movie down the stairs, wind-milling arms and legs, landing on your back in the middle of the family room, and have nary a spasm. (You may break a tibia or two or inconveniently dislocate an elbow, but your back will be just fine.)
But try to turn a wee bit to your right and reach over to take a five iron out of the old golf bag and — BLAM! — 10 thousand volts to the spine, and the next thing you know, you’re being helped into a golf cart a centimetre at a time by two friends and a complete stranger.
But unceremoniously hitting the deck on the day of our household’s biggest social event of the year was a classic case of bad timing, which resulted in an unprecedented lack of sympathy from my normally nurturing Better Half.
“Don’t tell me it’s your back again!” a serious voice comes from the kitchen where my BH has been preparing for the party for the past 36 hours straight. “Not today!” she says, more like a command than a lament. I knew right then and there that there was no way I was going to be babied to the hospital the way I was the other time this had happened.
I knew even though the party was something my Better Half took very seriously and had been working on since early October, I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist helping me in my excruciating episode of torture, party or no party, and I was right.
She came over to the front door, where I had by now slowly pulled myself up by the doorknob, sweating and grunting, scared spitless to move as much as a millimetre, and she leaned over tenderly … and gently … took the list out of my hand.
Mumbling something about the rotten kids doing my jobs, she turned, went back to the kitchen, returned with a chair from the table, helped me open the front door and placed the kitchen chair in front of me on the sidewalk. The seat part facing away from me, the high back of the chair in front of me — just the right height to use as a walker.
It took me a good 20 minutes to get from the house to the car, with spasms of breath-sucking, rubber-legging lethal pain jolts at every step, using that kitchen chair as a walker — leaning pathetically on the back of the chair for dear life, I sweated and swore my way to the car, a half-shuffle at a time.
Shuffle. Stop. SPASM! Recover. Rest. Move chair. Repeat.
The Spastic Shuffle.
I’ll spare you the details of my ordeal at the emergency department and how I managed to get there by myself, except to say that it took all afternoon. However, I returned in good time for the party, and in a much better mood — what with the excellent care and chemistry that made all our Christmas decorations glow with warmth and well-being, even the ones that weren’t plugged in.
By the time the guests arrived, some of the medicinal glow had faded but by then it was the friends and family that mattered most, and a lovely Christmas party was had by all, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of my party-throwing BH.
I spent most of the evening waddling like a baboon with broken leg, randomly spasming, twitching and grunting like a person with Tourette’s syndrome. This, of course, was barely noticed by my friends, who know me well enough that nothing weird I do surprises them anymore.
So if you’re lucky enough to go to a Christmas party this year, I wish you the best of times with good friends and family no matter what.
Just be very careful tying your shoes.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.