January 5, 2013
The Scientist and I just finished un-decorating the house.
About a week before Christmas, I had dragged in the purple and blue plastic tub marked “Christmas Decorations – Do Not Crush” and carefully unpacked its contents. Over the years, my collection of holiday decorations grew from a few inherited handmade items to enough ornaments and lights for a large tree, and an array of home décor both classy and kitchy to adorn every room (even a set of Christmas night lights for the bathrooms). Each year something new would get added to the mix – Piglet holding a candy cane, a tatted white star, construction paper chains and cranberry-popcorn strings, origami Santas, hand-painted wood and clay shapes, table wreaths, cranberry-scented candles, a stained-glass poinsettia, crocheted red, white, and green stockings—and the single Christmas box become two boxes, then three or four. But after the children were grown and I was on my own, I stopped accumulating Christmas paraphernalia, and began to give it away.
A few years ago, when preparing to sell my house and move back to Albuquerque, I discovered Freecycle (a Yahoo group). I purged my home of all things unnecessary, and found great delight in giving away just the thing someone else needed & wanted. At some point, I think I had already given my kids their childhood ornaments (like the one from 1984 that said “Baby’s First Christmas”), so the holiday items that remained had long since lost the shine of sentimentality. I put aside just a few things I wanted to save, like a string of small white twinkly lights, some handmade origami and wood ornaments, a few old Santa figurines, and a roughly made crèche scene. Those went into the labeled plastic bin; the rest went into a huge box. I advertised on Freecycle, and within minutes I had an email from a woman who said that her daughter and son-in-law had recently lost most of their belongings in a flooded storage unit while preparing for a move (or some such story—I don’t recall exactly) and she would love to help them start over with a box of Christmas goodies. I put the box on the porch and watched from the kitchen window as she picked it up – all smiles and waves and a mouthed “Thank You.”
This year, about a week after Hanukkah ended, I put on a CD of Christmas Concertos, unpacked the box, found places for the ornaments, bows, tins, and Santas, strung the lights, and searched my recipe box for the annual favorites, like Cranberry-Pecan Pie. I baked, cooked, listened to music, and corresponded with friends. And, perhaps because of the dark time for the families in Newtown, CT, I lit many candles.
Now the house is back to normal – no sign of the holidays (except the pot 1/4-full of posole in the refrigerator). But a certain warmth remains, and I smile as I think of the way our December traditions bring us light and joy and peace. May we carry those with us into the new year. Happy 2013.