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Meredith Holt, Published December 23 2012

Holiday disasters: When things go wrong during the holidays

Fargo - Like anything else in life, the holidays don’t always go as planned.

As hard as we try to make sure everything’s “perfect,” there’s no such thing, and you know what? That’s OK. The unexpected can be funny, cute or heartwarming. It might even teach us something.

Holiday “disasters” – the Christmas tree catching on fire, the cat sneaking turkey off the table, the dishwasher overflowing – become stories as much a part of our family history as the recipes handed down from generation to generation.

Three Forum readers share their memories of what went wrong during holidays past, and, in one case, how it turned out to be just right.


Amber Fischer was en route to Minneapolis with her mother and two siblings when the cold, snowy weather and a car that wouldn’t start stranded them at the Kelly Inn in Fargo.

Now 30, Amber recalls how her mom took her 14-year-old twin brother to the nearest grocery store while she and her 15-year-old sister stayed behind.

“When they arrived to the store, they realized that it was going to be closing in less than 15 minutes, so both Mom and my brother had to run through the store and find food. Bologna and bread was all she could find in a quick pinch.

“When they got back, we spent time as a family enjoying the pool and watching a ‘Back to the Future’ marathon. At some point, Mom did ask if we wanted to open our Christmas presents, but we decided that we would wait until we got to our cousin’s home because we were having too much fun spending time with our mom,” she says.

Amber, of Fargo, says her mom was surprised but proud that they didn’t want to open their gifts.

For them, a hotel pool, a “Back to the Future” marathon and bologna sandwiches with their mom was all they needed to enjoy the holiday.

“I feel very blessed every day knowing that the life lessons I was taught were from the most special person in my life,” she says.


One year it was an exploding Pyrex pan full of gravy drippings. Another it was a burnt Betty Crocker cookbook. Then there were the scorched oven mitts and potholders.

“For some reason, it seems like every holiday, something happens in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s just a little thing, sometimes it’s a big thing,” says Sue Matcha, 54, of Grafton, N.D.

The gravy mess wasn’t Sue’s only run-in with Pyrex.

“I had filled a 2-quart Pyrex pan with sweet potatoes, and of course I always add the butter and the brown sugar and the pineapple and everything to make the candied yams, and I thought the burner was off, and I set the Pyrex pan on the back.

“Well, apparently the burner had been left on, and the burner was still hot enough so it made the Pyrex explode. There were sweet potatoes all over the place, and they weren’t even cooked yet,” she says.

Sue’s four grown kids are in on the joke, too. They wrote “Christmas 2007” on the burnt cookbook to mark the occasion.

“It’s like I go brain-dead when I’m cooking holiday dinners,” Sue says with a laugh.


Mitch Skajewski, 28, of Fargo, will never live down what happened the first holiday he spent with his girlfriend’s (now fiancée’s) family.

Her mom is known for her apple pies made from scratch, crust and all. “What she spent hours on took me seconds to destroy,” he says.

When Mitch was asked to move the pies from the shelf, he fumbled with the racks and one of the pies started falling to the floor.

“Everybody’s looking at me, and I go to try to save the pie, and I ‘catch’ it, but I smushed the pie, so my right hand goes through the top of the pie and my left hand is holding the bottom of the pan, so I kind of squished it between my hands,” he says.

His girlfriend’s eyes “got huge,” and she immediately looked over to her mom to see her reaction. Her reaction? “Well, that sucks.”

“From that day on, it’s ‘Hey Mitch, don’t touch the pies,’ or ‘Hey Mitch, we’ll get the pies for you.’ They laugh about it and give me crap about it,” he says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590