"Scrambling" on Christmas Eve

Kinzy Janssen


My family was scurrying around, rummaging through dressers and closets trying to find belts/ties/shoes that matched our brown/black/navy socks/pants/skirts. Mom and I were sequestered in separate bathrooms, singeing our foreheads with curling irons. Dad was bouncing his keys and pacing around the front closet. Meanwhile, the car was warming up in the garage (with the doors open, of course – we weren’t that careless). My mom even made sure to turn off the tree lights so the aging angel tree-topper’s lacy gown wouldn’t self-combust. Yep, it was Christmas Eve.

While we were at mass (bunching into pews with other perfumed and rushed-looking churchgoers) carbon monoxide lingered in the now-closed garage. It was leaching into the house through tiny gaps in insulation. We left the car running for something like eight minutes, but that was enough time to fill an open garage with carbon monoxide.

Piercing bleeps greeted us at the door instead of carolers, but we didn’t dial 911 or stand out in the snow and take “deep gulps of fresh air” like they advise on PSAs. We did, however, call Xcel Energy and a man named Eric came out and probed every nook and cranny with a Ghostbusters-like device for the gas. My parents were chatty and sympathetic since he was working on Christmas Eve; we even offered him chili, which sat on the stove as part of our Christmas Eve tradition. He didn’t accept any, nor did he detect any dangerous levels of gas. It was either a sensitive detector or the levels had already subsided. He simply chided us for running the car in the garage (even with the door open) and was on his way.

Twice. The entire sequence described above happened twice.

The next Christmas (or maybe there was a year in between), we warmed up the car for (what we thought was) a negligible amount of time, drove to church, heard the bleeps, and the same employee checked our house. Again. On Christmas Eve.

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