Swift: Saving 'Niece-mas' by getting with the program

Tammy Swift, columnist. The Forum
Tammy Swift, columnist. The ForumThe Forum

Well, at least I got to save Christmas. Let me explain.

Many years ago, one of the assorted sons-in-law in our family nobly carried a bowl of gravy to the table while we were all sitting down to Christmas dinner. He probably didn’t do this so much to be helpful as he did to hurry up chow time.

Even so, my mother gushed about it as if he had single-handedly achieved world peace. As the rest of us had been laboring in the kitchen for hours — only to hear of one guy being lauded for gravy-conveyance — we burst out laughing. “Thank goodness Earl saved Christmas!” we joked.

Ever since then, anyone who does anything even marginally helpful will be greeted by that punchline. The dog had an accident and you helpfully suggested that someone should get out the steam cleaner? You saved Christmas! You opened your gift and remembered to save the bow? Christmas is saved! You didn’t fall asleep at midnight Mass? You Christmas-saver, you! In time, that tagline has been dusted off to be used for any occasion and any time of year.

And so, when I was able to step in and help my godchild Kari with a wedding emergency, my sisters joked that I had saved Christmas. It was the day before the wedding and we were all at the parish hall, helping to move tables, rearrange chairs and test drive those giant church coffee pots.

It was a bit chaotic, as these things normally are. Could we fit 400 people in here or would latecomers need to eat in the broom closet? Would that card table hold up under the weight of her massive cake? Who would plug in the apple cider before the reception? GREAT SCOTT: WHAT ABOUT THE CIDER?!!!

Through it all, the cellphone never left my godchild’s ear — not even when she was helping to carry tables or fending off questions from us. Up to now, I’d marveled over her impressive emotional control. But by the eve of her wedding, her serenity was starting to fray. Several days earlier, she had decided to wax a mustache that was visible only through electron microscope. Now her skin had broken out, and she was furiously dabbing aloe vera on it to ease the redness.

As her distress and furtive texting escalated, I decided to swoop in as any conscientious godmother should. She looked up from her phone long enough to mumble that she had ordered her wedding programs off a website and — due to some confusion at the post office — they would not be delivered until three days after the ceremony.

She had contacted a speed-printing service in Bismarck. They said they could squeeze in a last-minute print job, but she needed to send a PDF of the original programs ASAP. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out a way to do this. The online printing service was configured so you couldn’t download the design just to have it printed somewhere else.

Then it dawned on me: We could use Canva, a free, online design program, quickly pick a similar template and crank out a design in minutes. It worked. We were able to send a new design to the quick printers within a half hour, and they actually delivered the programs that very night.

I can’t say I saved the wedding cake from crashing to the floor or single-handedly repaired her dress at the last minute with dental floss and duct tape. But I helped make one detail work, which eased at least one of her worries. Christmas — or at least Niece-mas — was saved.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.