And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve not been a fan of Christmas for some time, but this Christmas was different. I actually looked forward to putting up the decorations, and I enjoyed flipping the switches on the lights every day. Outdoor decorations, indoor decorations, flip, flip, flip, bask in the light. I enjoyed the preparations, the planning, the shopping, the wrapping. I enjoyed Christmas Eve, with our traditional visit to an outdoor light show, followed by a viewing of the movie, The Homecoming. I enjoyed Christmas day with my family. The day after Christmas, my husband Michael, my daughter Olivia, and my son Andy went to another outdoor light show at the zoo, held at night after the zoo’s regular hours were closed, so the lights would be at their most brilliant. It was a walking tour, and it was freezing, but it was so much fun.
It was all fun. But then…but then…
There is just something so satisfying about taking it all down and putting it away for another year.
I know some people keep their Christmas stuff up for Epiphany, and some for even longer. The 12 Days of Christmas is more than a song for some, and for others, “Let’s make our Christmas tree into an Easter tree!” is a feasibility.
For me, everything comes down on New Year’s Day. The stuff is up for that final celebration on New Year’s Eve, but then…gone. Pick up, pack up, clean up, move into the new year.
I wondered if I would feel differently this year, since I did actually look forward to and enjoy the season. But I found I looked forward to putting it all away as much as I looked forward to getting it out.
Michael and Olivia both worked on New Year’s Day, which provided a challenge. But Olivia started us off by taking all of the ornaments off the tree and the stair banister and packing them away. I followed through next with the rest of the indoor stuff. The stockings, stocking holders, Christmas storybooks, the nativity scene, the lit-up nativity scene, the small tree on the kitchen island. The small decorative tree in my office. The tree skirt. The ceramic Santa sitting and snoozing in his golden chair under the tree. Then Michael came home and he dismantled the tree itself, then dismantled and packed away the outdoor decorations. From there, we all three loaded the stuff into my car so it could be returned to the storage unit. We did that the next day, when I picked Michael up from work and we drove over and unloaded.
“Bye, Christmas stuff,” I called as we walked back to the car. “See you next year.”
As we drove home, Michael wondered what would be the one thing that we forgot to take down and put away. It happens every year. But as I combed through my home in my mind, I didn’t see anything out of place. I figured we actually succeeded this year.
That night, the condo seemed quiet. There were no festive lights spilling in from outside. No soft lights in the corner of our living room, white lights on a golden tree. But it was neat and tidy, everything back in its place, and I heaved a great sigh of satisfaction. The gentle joy I felt the first night the decorations were up, when I sat and gazed at the Christmas tree, was back as I looked at my home, looking the way my home was supposed to look.
The next morning, Monday, everything really was back to normal. I had the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, but that day, January 2nd, I started in with a full load of clients and classes at 9:00 that morning. My alarm clock, not set for a week, got me up and moving. First thing I did was boot my computer, since the morning clients were all on Zoom. Then I dressed, patted the dog and both cats, then went down to get my breakfast.
Which is when I saw it.
Hanging from my oven’s handle was a bright green dish towel, featuring a large Grinch face. It was a gift several years ago from my sister, in homage of my usual Grinchy frame of mind during the holidays.
There was the one thing we missed.
I laughed and gave the Grinch a tug as I went about making my oatmeal and pouring my coffee.
Later, I pointed out the towel to Olivia. She considered it thoughtfully.
“Don’t you think it’s okay if we leave it?” she said. “I mean, it is practical.”
More practical than ornaments and stars and lights and stockings and a peacefully snoozing Santa Claus.
A little bit of Christmas left out in my house year round.
“You’re right,” I said. “Okay, we’ll leave it.”
“Well, plus,” she said, “if you get sick of it, you can always stuff it in a drawer.”
There’s that too.
So for now, the Grinch stays. And I am going to move ahead into 2023. Hopefully, my face will not match the Grinch’s very often.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.