Although I haven’t lived in my parents’ house for over 20 years, it is where you will always find me on Christmas morning. It doesn’t even matter that now that my niece is a teenager, we no longer have true young’uns springing out of bed at the crack of dawn to see what Santa put under the tree. The Christmas tree at the Parental Abode is still where we gather to usher in Christmas Day.
One Christmas when I was in my mid-20’s, the forecast was calling for the possibility of icy weather late on Christmas Eve. I lived in downtown Baltimore, and my parents lived in the suburbs. It wasn’t a long trip by any stretch of the imagination. But still, the thought of trekking through icy weather on Christmas morning was far from appealing. So the husband and I decided that we’d head over in the early evening on the 24th and just spend the night.
Throwing our overnight stuff in a bag was easy. Our Christmas Day is a pajama affair. I don’t even think I brought makeup.
Packing up the rest of our household was a bit harder. We had a dog and six ferrets at the time. I wasn’t leaving without them.
OK, I know, that’s a little weird. We weren’t even going to be gone a full day. But it was Christmas Eve, and the thought of leaving my critters alone riddled me with guilt. I know ferrets don’t follow calendars and don’t know Christmas Eve from any other winter night, but still.
So with some grumbling help from the hubby, I hauled a cage that was taller than me and contained six excited, squirming ferrets into the backseat of the car. Stacy, our half-border-collie-half-we-never-could-figure-it-out dog, hopped in beside them.
We brought our own menagerie to the Christmas celebration, and my parents’ house was already something of a zoo. They had 3 dogs and a parrot of their own. One of the dogs was Bruce, a Great Dane who had joined the family when I was 19. I had already moved out and was living in an apartment on my college campus, but spent the 4-week winter break from school at home. My parents were both working all day, and the gangly Great Dane pup attached himself to me since I was home with him. At night, I slept with him draped around my head and neck like a big black-and-white scarf.
So Bruce and I had a special bond. On the rare occasions I’d come home for an overnight stay, he’d insist on sleeping in the guest bedroom with me. If hubby was there too, he’d wedge himself between us even if this meant pushing him right out of the bed. It happened more than once.
So that was our Christmas Eve. We set up the ferrets cage in the my sister’s bedroom, where she could let them run free now and then. Stacy curled up beside the cage. She was part herding dog, and had long ago decided that the ferrets were her flock. We all hung out, munching appetizers, drinking a few glasses of wine, and wrapping some last minute gifts.
Finally, we settled down for the night. Dad had fallen asleep on the couch with the remote control in his hand. Sis went to her room to hang out with my weasely crew. Hubby and I retreated to the guest room, with Bruce at our heels. The three of us crawled into bed, Bruce in the middle and matching our length from head-to-toe when he stretched. It had been a long day of last-minute holiday preparations, and we were soon all snoozing away.
A sound something like “oommmphh!” woke me out of my slumber. Bruce had woken up and bounded off the bed, pushing hubby halfway to the floor in the process. The big Great Dane padded out of the room, and hubby rolled back over and starting snoring again. We figured that was our big adventure for the night.
How wrong we were. The party was just getting started.
Down the hallway, my sister had also fallen asleep, her bedroom door cracked open just a hair. She didn’t realize the latch on one of the doors to the ferret cage hadn’t quite caught all the way. We humans might have been oblivious to the fact, but my ferrets Weaz and Callie had figured it out. They’d left their warm pile of hammock-snoozing weasely friends behind and snuck out for a little exploration. Stacy, who was used to them weaseling around at night at home, thought nothing of it and stayed curled by the cage with the others.
Bruce, however, had heard the pitter-patter of ferret feet all the way in our room. That was what had caused him to get out of bed. Stacy-dog thought of them as friends. Bruce, however, thought they looked and smelled more like curious snacks. We didn’t know it, but he had taken off on a weasel-stalking venture.
While all this was going on, Mom had decided to take advantage of the supposed “peace and quiet” that comes when everyone else in your household goes to bed. She had taken a glass of wine and a candle into the bathroom and was enjoying a tub full of bubbles.
That night, we must have had a door-latch-failure epidemic going on in that house. Just as we hadn’t latched the ferret cage all the way, she had closed the bathroom door but hadn’t quite clicked the latch all the way in.
That’s how Weaz ended up in the bathroom, with Bruce at his heels. I of course knew none of this, until I was startled out of sleep again by a bloodcurdling scream.
I shot out of bed like a rocket – a miracle for me. I’m not exactly agile when I first wake up. Hubby was right behind me. I dashed barefoot down the hall to find the bathroom door wide open and mom screaming from her little sea of bubbles.
Weaz was backed up in a corner, bouncing and hissing and chattering as a threatened ferret does. Bruce was blocking mom’s escape from the tub and my way into the bathroom as he stood before the cornered Weaz, sniffing and drooling.
Somehow, I managed to back Bruce up a little. Weaz darted out of the bathroom and off down the hallway while I held onto Bruce. Mom grabbed a towel. Her wine-and-bubble-bath Christmas Eve treat had come to an abrupt halt.
Meanwhile, Hubby had heard more commotion going on in the family room, where Dad was couch-snoozing with Brady, their golden retriever. When Weaz had darted into the bathroom, Callie had taken off on her own. She’d woken Brady up and was cornered by the couch, looking up at a furry yellow face that clearly said “you’re not as fat as that other ferret, but you still look mighty tasty.”
Hubby was able to grab Callie and get her safely back into the cage. Dad snoozed through the whole thing. Still dripping, poor mom had gotten into her PJs and wrapped a towel around her hair. She stood in the kitchen and poured herself a hefty wine refill as Hubby and I went in search of Weaz.
We didn’t have to search long. Another of the ferrets, Brooke, had woken up to find the cage door wide open. When we put Callie away, we hadn’t even realized she was no longer part of the sleeping weasel pile. But she soon made her presence known.
A happy ferret bounces around and does this jerky little move we call “the weasel war dance.” They also make a clucking sound much like a chicken. Brooke hadn’t been part of the near-death-by-dog experience, so she was in a fine mood. She boinged into the kitchen and started doing the war dance for mom.
If you have ferrets, you think this dance is the cutest thing ever. If you aren’t used to them, it makes you think you’re under attack. While Brooke bounced and clucked in front of mom, Weaz crept out of his hiding place and showed how he was feeling about Bruce’s assault by leaping at her ankles.
Mom’s glass of wine crashed to the floor.
“Weasels! Weasels! Weasels!” she yelped, and started doing a dance that looked a lot like Brooke’s.
Hubby and I each retrieved a wayward weasel, but not before Weaz got himself a good-sized helping of the spilled wine.
That was a Christmas we’ll never forget. That whole “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” thing? So not true when two households that each come with their own small zoo get together.
Note: This is the last “Home for the Holidays” post before Christmas, so I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a very joyful holiday season full of memory-making with your friends and loved ones. Thank you for making Hawleyville part of your blog neighborhood this year!