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The Holtzy and the Ivy

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1. Holtzmann asks if it’s OK to give a thrifted gift, and everyone agrees that it’s fine. So when they have their own little Ghostbusters family holiday on Christmas Eve, among the other gifts, there are four sweaters wrapped in space blankets.

For Abby: A sweater woven with TARDISes and bow ties.

For Patty: A New York skyline sweater, with tiny sparkling LEDs that were definitely an aftermarket (Holtzmann) addition.

For Erin: A cardigan that looks like the uniform of a Star Trek: TNG science officer.

For Kevin: A sweater woven with a scene depicting Santa riding a unicorn through space. Also, Santa has a sword. Because…reasons.

“My first ugly Christmas sweater!” Kevin claps and starts to pull his on.

Abby tries to shush him, but he’s busy struggling to find the right exit for his head. Holtzmann and Erin look at each other, perplexed.

“U-ugly?” asks Erin in confusion. “But it’s so chic. Blue and black look so striking together…”

“What’s an ugly Christmas sweater?” Holtzmann whips off her lab coat to reveal her own sweater: it’s cats, with laser beams for eyes, destroying the North Pole.

Abby shakes her head. “Never mind those. These are the other kind, Holtzmann: awesome Christmas sweaters.”


2. Holtzmann, naturally, does not stop at roasting chestnuts on an open fire. No, she has to do some research, to determine whether chestnuts are really the optimal seasonal roasting material. When she thinks the others aren’t looking, she uses Patty’s parents’ fireplace to roast the following: an assortment of other nuts, persimmons, pepitas (until they fell through the holes of the roaster Erin brought), a chocolate orange, a mince pie, acorns (but only once), a stick of summer sausage, a candy cane, a wonton, a slice of pizza, a snickerdoodle, Christmas Tree Peeps, rum balls (but only once), a pig made out of marzipan, and a piece of Patty’s mother’s Jamaican Christmas cake (until she realizes what a waste that would be and eats it instead).

Findings: The research was interrupted due to a sugar cookie crisis (namely: people were cutting out and decorating cookies without her). Research could not be resumed due to Abby giving Holtzmann a lecture about cleaning the Tolans’ fireplace.


3. Patty can sometimes be seen answering or asking questions on AskMetafilter during downtime at the firehouse. Shortly before Christmas, Patty and Holtzmann somehow wind up in an arms race of weird holiday songs. It starts with "Make It So" and "Christmas at Ground Zero" and spirals downward. Finally, in a moment of competitiveness and too much mulled wine, Patty plays the (in)famous Metafilter Christmas tune “Jingle Rock Bell.” Patty wins the game—but Holtzmann can’t get enough of “Jingle Rock Bell,” so the next day, she’s singing it. A lot. The whole time she works in her lab. And sound carries, in the firehouse…

“It could be worse,” suggests Patty, when Abby and Erin reach their breaking point. “It could be ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’…”

“Argggghhh. I can’t argue with that. But we have to replace it with something that’s sufficiently earwormy, but won’t make me want to drown myself in ectoplasm.” Abby thinks for a moment, then reaches under her desk and pulls out her stereo. She fiddles with her phone for a moment and nods with satisfaction. Then she rustles around in a drawer and takes out a green box. “The only solution is ‘Last Christmas.’ HEY HOLTZ! Come down here! I found those pickle-flavored candy canes you wanted to try!”


4. “I made this for Erin,” says Holtzmann. She beckons Patty and Abby over and shows them a snowglobe. It’s got a little 3-D printed, full-color tableau of the four Ghostbusters surrounding a twinkling Christmas tree, facing toward the outside of the globe. They’re suited up, proton wands out, braced for action. Holtzman turns it over, gives it a good shake, and sets it down. Sparkling snow drifts down, but at the same time, filaments of wild pink and purple light ripple out from the proton wands to the glass.

“Whoa,” says Patty. “It’s like a mall novelty store and a Hallmark had a really freaky baby.”

Abby cocks an eyebrow. “Holtzmann, tell me that this is just a normal discharge, just like one of those plasma globes, and not anything nuclear.”

“This is just a normal discharge, just like one—“


“It is! Making it work with the figures and the snow is a pretty cool trick though.” Holtzmann buffs her fingernails on her lab coat. “I am a genius. Anyway, you think she’ll like it?”

“Oh, I bet she used to collect snow globes, with little ballerinas ’n’ fawns ’n’ crap in ‘em,” Patty says with an affectionate eyeroll.

“How’d you know?” Abby nods seriously at Patty’s really? look in reply. “She’s gonna love it, Holtz. Better put it away! I think she’s back.”

Holtzmann stuffs it back into a drawer, and Patty and Abby go back to their work. But as Erin comes in and says hello, Patty sidles back to Holtzmann’s desk and whispers, “Think you could make me one too?”


5. Abby: “Holtz, it’s so sweet that you made us an advent calendar. And I know you’re excited because the whole idea is new to you. And you know that I support and love your creativity and lateral thinking. But. Holtzmann. Why is the advent calendar making the PKE meter go off?”

Holtzmann: “Honestly, I'm really surprised. I thought you’d notice the geiger counter readings first.”


6. Early Christmas morning. Abby and Holtzmann are the only ones in the firehouse.

“What is that noise?” Abby pulls a plush robe over her t-shirt and sweatpants and makes her way up to the kitchen, sleepily.

“Merry Christmas!” It’s Holtzmann, awake and bright-eyed. She’s wearing footie pajamas printed with 1940s pin-ups. “I made us some cocoa. And some coffee. Actually, it’s coffee-cocoa. Wait, is that what a mocha is? Anyway, here. And also—“ Holtz points just past the kitchen table, where Abby’s Christmas stocking is buzzing and crawling across the tiled floor.

“Uh. Do I even wanna look? Holtzmann! You better have been kidding yesterday! We said G-rated presents and stockings! G-rated, non-radioactive, not likely to get us indicted for anything…”

“Well, although I’m new to the stocking thing and—quite frankly disappointed—in your lack of appreciation for seasonal wordplay—“

“If you mean along the lines of your ‘stocking stuffer’ comments from yesterday, you just keep on being disappointed, miss.”

“—I do understand the parameters, however arbitrary and restrictive they may be.” Holtzman grins sunnily. “It’s harmless. It’s just having some…premature operation issues. Go, free it from its yarny prison!”

Abby picks up the stocking, still suspicious. She pulls out a small mechanical doll shaped like an adorably plump snowwoman. It’s wearing a tiny replica of Abby’s glasses. “OK, that’s very cute. Th—“

“No, no, that’s not the gift. Put it down.”

“Pick it up, put it down, make up your mind.” Abby’s grumbling, but she sets it down on the floor again and takes a sip of her coffee-cocoa. “I feel like I’m gonna need this.”

The toy is rattling and clacking its way to the storage room at the back of the kitchen, the one that they haven’t gotten around to putting in shelves yet. Abby follows cautiously, firm grip on her mug. Holtzmann dances along behind her.

The snow-Abby bumps into the storage room door repeatedly, and real-Abby takes a hint and opens the door. “What the…”

“Hang on, your eyes will adjust!”

Abby squints. Her face begins to change. “Oh my gosh.”

The storage room is filled with a miniature Christmas village, sitting on a hastily-constructed table made of plywood and safety barriers. There are a few dozen buildings, with welcoming, bright interiors and sparkling holiday lights; decorated trees; and an ice-skating rink. Tiny figures spin on the rink, and others move slowly down the snowy sidewalks. There are faint sounds of people talking or singing and the wind blowing. The obvious centerpiece of the display is an exact replica of the firehouse, surrounded in rainbow lights and glowing warmly from inside. Abby moves in to take a closer look at it. “Hey, it’s us, up on the roof!” She looks closer, and there’s Kevin inside, holding the phone in a perplexed way. Bennie is outside on a scooter, with take-out strapped to the back of the bike. And Jennifer Lynch and the mayor are watching the skaters.

“Mode 2!” says Holtzmann, and she presses a button somewhere. Green fog and eerie lights shoot out of a little house near the skating rink, and there are faint screams. Abby jumps as a little siren goes off inside the miniature firehouse. The Ghostbusters figures flip out of sight, and a moment later, the door of the tiny garage raises and a replica Ectomobile rockets out. Its yellow and red lights are swirling, and its “distinctly un-American” siren is screaming. It heads for the little house and pulls to a stop outside.

“I didn’t manage to pull off fully animated characters.” Holtzmann frowns. She pushes her glasses up on her nose and leans over beside Abby. “I have some ideas, but for now it’s all just tricks with magnets.”

Still, the sounds of busting come from inside, and the green light and fog both fade away. They can hear cheers, and then the Ectomobile makes an inadvisable U-turn and heads back for the garage.

Holtzmann clicks a button again and the peaceful winter activities resume. She leans against the wall and looks at Abby. “It’s for you. D’you like it?”

“Aw, Holtz.” Abby moves back into the shadows where Holtzmann. She puts down her mug, gently places an arm around Holtz’s shoulders, and pulls her in for a kiss on top of her curly head. “I love it.” They watch the scene for a moment, twinkling lights reflecting off of their glasses. “Question, though. Have the others seen it yet? Why’s it ‘for me’?”

“Erin hasn’t seen it yet. Patty helped with the building designs. They’re all super historical. And she helped me do the thrifting to find old Christmas village parts to build on. And it’s for you because…” Holtzmann stares at her shoes for a moment. “Because I built that, but you built this place. I mean, not the firehouse, but…all this.” Holtzmann gestures around non-specifically. “If you hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here.”

Abby sniffs, takes off her glasses, and pinches her nose. “I…um…I don’t know…I…”

“Ah, shut up, Abby.” Holtzmann hugs her tightly. “It’s all true.”

They hear the front door slam shut and two pairs of feet come up the stairs. Patty pokes her head in.

“Oh man, that looks even better than I thought it would! Good work, Holtzy.” Patty high-fives Holtzmann.

Abby glances back into the kitchen. “Ah, Erin, get in here! You’re gonna flip your lid.”

Erin squeezes in. Her eyes widen. Holtzmann grins and turns on Mode 2 again.

After a moment, Erin says, “This is just perfect. I…I’m so happy to be spending Christmas with you guys.”

Patty nods. Her smile has given her deep dimples. “Holidays with you guys are weird, but good. Like us. We’re just weird and good together, no matter how weird it gets.”

“Aw heck,” says Abby. “Give me a hug, you guys, and then Erin, give me one of your handkerchiefs. No reason. Just do it.”

They stand in a warm cluster for a minute, just watching the lights and movement in the village. Holtzmann’s gripping the controller and her mug in one hand, but her other arm is linked in Patty’s, and that hand is being gripped by Erin. So she presses it with her nose, and Mode 3 switches on. It layers holiday music—well, Holtzmann holiday music, meaning it starts with “Harry Potter Meets Metal"—behind the other sounds of the village.

Eventually, Erin pulls back and looks around the storage room. “Wait a minute, Holtz. Weren’t there a few things in here? Where’d they go?”

“…I’ll explain later.”