Remember how I said December 26th was my favorite day of the year?
Remember how much I enjoyed the pause - sitting in the midst of wrapping paper and toys, cookies, fudge, and left over turkey?
How is it that a mere four days later things could be so different? December 30th hits hard.
I am on olfactory overload thanks to the once yearned for scent of the tree, mulling spices, and cinnamon that have permeated my house for weeks.
Forgive the unpoetic phrase, but the house looks like it threw up.
The charm of the nicknacks, nativity scene, and stockings has worn off.
I feel like a pack rat. I am being buried alive in stuff.
I walk into my closet and am instantly claustrophobic.
Away you embroidered Christmas sweaters and holly- patterned scarves.
The tree is turning brown and looks as if it would erupt into flames if I switched the lights on one more time.
It begs to be hauled out having served its purpose as the centerpiece of our living room for a month.
The candles are melted down to nubs.
The wax has dripped all over the mantle.
The wreath, once bearing fresh fruit and nuts, is now rotting on my front door having baked in the intermittent sun of this holiday season.
We are almost out of firewood.
I'm sick of the Spode and am ready to return to any color palette other than red and green.
The uneaten cookies are stale. The once melt-in-your-mouth fudge is hard as a rock.
My recycle bin is overflowing with empty boxes, tissue paper, ribbon and wine bottles - visible signs of overindulgence.
Once a four bedroom house, the guest room appears to have been swallowed whole. Where once there was a floor, only the frantic remnants of last minute wrapping remain - empty shopping bags and receipts strewn hither and yon.
The task before me is immense.
The attic ladder beacons leading the way to a hidden, hot space above my ceiling full of the boxes packed full of the stuff I had to take down to make room for Christmas. The pine needles will carpet the living room as I drag the dry Douglas Fir through the front door knocking the nutcracker over and breaking its little wooden drum. I will be numb to this. Semi-relieved that there will be one less decoration to box up.
"What else can I break?" I will think.
The fake greenery is unwrapped from the banister. The bows neatly rolled. I bubble wrap the bells, bowls, and butter dish.
I turn my attention to the dining room.
Suddenly, my task turns nostalgic.
Mother's slightly tarnished silver needs putting away. I pull out the heavy, monogrammed chest and piece by piece fit the knives, forks, and spoons into their slots. I see Mother's arthritic fingers setting our dining room table on Resh Place. An inheritance of riches - not the silver. The memories of meals and conversation around the very dining room table I set this year.
I move to the coffee table, where one of Mother's favorite decorations awaits re-boxing. The box still bears her Palmer Method hand written label - "Sugar Plum Tree" in felt marker.
I begin to dismantle the Christmas tree. I carefully wrap the ornaments from my childhood -all their names neatly written in white script . Elsie. Lee. Bob. Jamie. Luskey. And mine. It doesn't seem nearly as precious.
I remember Mother on the ladder in my bedroom handing down the boxes of Christmas decorations to my father. Mother had a certain way of decorating the tree - the size of the ornaments mattered...a rule I disobey. I remember the red, battery operated Santa Clause that went "Ho Ho Ho", and the plastic holly wreaths that encircled Bayberry candles until they caught fire one year and burned our yellow, laminate, 1950's vintage kidney-shaped coffee table in the den. I remember Frank Sinatra on the stereo loving his J I N G L E Bells ...oh.
I remember Daddy at the bar. Herring on New Year's eve. Party hats and noise makers.
I do not feel melancholy per se. I am simply aware of the passage of time - Decades of Decembers marking my life.
I am now Mother on the ladder.
My own children, grown, the magic of their own childhood Decembers moving to a place of nostalgia.
One day, they, too will hold the ornaments of their lives inscribed with my name and theirs and the memory of their own mother decorated house will come to mind. The time will come when they will climb the ladder and pass the boxes down to create memories for their own children.
And come December 30th,
they will sit amidst the chaos, wade through the mess, and recall the peace of December 26th as they box up another Christmas memory, and reach for the ibuprofen to relieve the back ache from too many trips up and down the ladder. A December 30th physical pain that gives way to something else.
A pain passed on through the years.
A pain I feel each December 31st.
A pain no ibuprofin can dull.
It is the sweet pain of Auld Lang Syne.
My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Auld Lang Syne.