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Christmas in Dot: The Day After

Mary Casey Forry’s writing was often at its best when she wrote about the special occasions whose peculiarities make family life entertaining. Below, a reprint of her 1984 post-Yuletide “Urban Gardener” column.

December 26, 1984

6:45 a.m. - Dear Diary, if you by any chance recall how Jason Robards looked in “The Day After” on TV, sitting amid the rubble of what used to be his home following a nuclear attack, you might have an inkling of how I feel this morning.

The house looks as though Toys ‘R Us and a nearby wrapping paper factory exploded simultaneously, and the debris scattered over the 800 square feet that once was fondly referred to as home. I’m not sure whom to call first: the insurance adjuster, Roto Rooter, or the National Guard to keep away the looters.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting here with a cup of tea, listening to the radio and enjoying the solitude in the one place that sustained the least damage. Can’t stay here long, though. Someone might pass by, see the exhaust fumes and think that I’m attempting suicide.

8:45 a.m. - Two hours and five cups of tea later, the initial state of shock has passed. Happy to say damage is not as extensive as I first imagined, but am still glad Joan Crawford isn’t alive to see it.

9:15 a.m. - I’ve made my way to the Christmas tree. Am on the fourth plastic garbage bag. Can’t help but think that if I had come up with the simple idea that is the plastic garbage bag, I could afford to pay someone to clean this mess for me.

As it is, I’ve assembled the remaining pieces of two games, and have come up with an entirely new game which I have tentatively called “Scraboggle.”

Having swabbed the last pieces of cheese fondue from between the piano keys, and removed Darth Vader from the figures in the Nativity scene, I have moved on to the family room. Here the scene is particularly devastating, but nothing can be done until the water from Barbie’s bathtub and spa can be pumped from the room.

9:55 a.m. - Children have emerged from their rooms following a night of undisturbed sleep and are actually expecting their mother to make them breakfast. I tell them that the kitchen is still buried under several tons of china, and that breakfast will be nothing more than a fond memory today. I give them both a Santa cookie and tell them to go play one of their games.

10:22 a.m. - Had to drop what I was doing in the kitchen to break up a dispute between children playing in family room. Daughter had overinvested in certain real estate and ultimately couldn’t come up with the bucks necessary to pay the rent incurred when she landed on Marvin Gardens with three hotels owned by son. Son was forcing her to liquidate some property that had evidently come to mean a great deal to her, and she was reluctant to go along. So he was threatening to break both of her legs.

I gave them the names of two good lawyers, and told children to let them fight it out in land court. Then I locked myself in the bathroom, turned the water on full-blast, and screamed for ten minutes.

11 a.m. - Husband emerged from bedroom looking thoroughly refreshed, remarked how the house looked pretty good considering, asked what I had been doing all morning, and wondered if I’d mind if he invited a few friends over for a Day After Christmas party. I gave him a cookie and told him if he knew what was good for him, he’d keep his bright ideas to himself.

11:05 a.m. - Packed a lunch for one and headed for the garage.