This is the last picture of Christmas 2009 because the Christmas season is now officially over and done. Gone are the gifts! Gone are the secrets! Gone are the cookies, the ornaments, the sparkly lights! Also gone are all the receipts from Christmas shopping, so I hope everything fits and we're all happy with the color and style because oops.
There's just something about taking down the tree, isn't there? When we put the tree up, it takes about three hours and we watch Santa Claus is Comin' to Town or Elf or Frosty the Snowman on television. There is eggnog. There are cheerful voices and glad cries of, "Oh, I've missed this one all year!" and "Haven't we managed to break that awful thing yet?" Everyone is happy, even my husband, who is often irascible and tetchy at having to deal with strands of tangled lights.
"Who put these things in here like this?" he scowls, lifting some chaotically disorganized lights out of the red plastic Rubbermaid totes we use to designate our holiday trimmings. "A bunch of chimpanzees? It must have been, because no human being could have ever deliberately just....FLUNG...these things in here like this, knowing that we'd have to get them back out next year and have to practically UNWEAVE them before putting them on the tree." He fixes us with a gimlet eye and we all casually avoid his gaze, picking lint off our sleeves or polishing our glasses or running a careless hand through our hair.
Because we know exactly what group of chimpanzees haphazardly heaved those lights into that box. Yes.
Taking down the Christmas decorations bears no resemblance to the putting up. First of all, there's no music. Just a tense silence punctuated by heavy, irritated sighs. Secondly, we look like a group of vandals, snatching stuff off the tree limbs here and there and chucking it all over our shoulders into random boxes.
"Meelyn, help me close this box," I order, pounding on the lid.
"Mom, there are breakables in there. Stop whacking it before you shatter something."
"I don't care. I'm sick of the lot of it. I'll glue everything back together next Christmas. Just help me shut this."
Aisling appears in the doorway, twined in the garland-and-lights that have been decorating the china cabinet. "What do you want me to do with this junk?" she asks.
"Find room in a box," I say shortly, still pounding on that red plastic lid. "If you can't find a box to squeeze it in, take it out back and burn it."
"What about the centerpiece on the dining room table?"
"Ask the neighbors if they want it."
"And what should I do with the mini-tree in the upstairs bathroom window?"
That tree is one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Our bathroom window, which is big, looks out from a gable on our house over a busy street, and I like to think that we're adding to someone's festive Christmas cheer when they drive down the road and see it twinkling away up there. I paused to consider.
"Open the basement door and heave it down the stairs."
This year, it took us approximately half an hour to remove all vestiges of Christmas from the house except for the nativity sets, which will be with us until Candlemas. After that, we'll be giving everyone -- porcelain, plastic and resin -- the bum's rush, hurrying them all back into their boxes and under my bed, where they'll no doubt say to each other, "Geeeesh, what's the hurry? One minute I'm kneeling there in worship and the next thing I know, badda-boom, I'm being wrapped in some tissue paper like a mummy and shoved into this box. And I'm clearly not Egyptian!"
Until next Christmas, then, here are Aisling and Meelyn before it all came down.
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