We put Christmas away tonight. We packed it all up in plastic bins, nestling ornaments carefully in divided layers so they won’t be crushed; arranging and rearranging boxes of cards and wreaths and garlands and various other decorations so that somehow, some way, despite there being more of everything this year, they all fit into the same space.
The wall above the fireplace is empty and far too white. The mantel looks shrunken; the shelves – despite being full of books – look bare. The tree still stand, listing severely to one side in its container, but it has been given only a temporary respite. Come trash day on Friday morning it, too, will disappear, and in the meantime it looks lonely, stripped of baubles and sparkles and lights.
There are still bits and pieces of Christmas that remain. After all, putting Christmas away is never a one-day affair. This weekend or next Richard will climb on the roof and take down all the outdoor lights while I carefully wind up the indoor ones and store away all the suction cup hangers and gutter hooks for another year. There is the inevitable cluster of broken ornaments that require either some careful application of super glue, or for enough time to pass until we finally give up and just throw them away. And even when this is all done, days will pass before all the last bits of Christmas are found and put away.
Even so, there is a sense of relief. I have been ready to put Christmas away earlier than usual this year. It’s not that there was any particular reason – as holiday seasons go this was one of the good ones. I had simply reached the end of my appreciation for it all. It is as if only once Christmas is all packed up can I feel as if I can truly start a new year. And it is also because sometimes all I truly need is for everything – no matter how sparkly and colorful and lovely it might have been – to just go back to normal.