Today, as The Carnivore returned to work early in the morning (after taking - ahem - one whole day off), I looked with disgust at the Christmas Tree from Hell, the one which dropped copious amounts of needles every day, and whose lower branches had begun to droop dismally towards the floor. I tried to ignore it at first. I took a shower, practiced yoga, followed up on some loose ends with a few clients, all the while thinking what a chore it would be to put Christmas away.
But then it wasn't. A chore, I mean. Christmas cards were unceremoniously tossed into the recycling bin, garlands and lights were wound back up, ornaments were packed carefully away, my childhood folk art creche was swept off the mantle and back into it's bag, and the tree was dragged out the door and tossed off the porch with zero fanfare, to be dragged into the woods on a less wet afternoon. It took longer to sweep the pine needles off the floor than it did to put Christmas back into a box for next year.
And just like that, I reclaimed this corner of my living room. The side table was brought back from its hallway exile, the loveseat slid back over into its rightful place, and we were ready for a new month, a new season in our family's rhythm.
It reminded me of the Christmas morning some 15 or so years ago, when I arrived late to my mother's house, only to find two of my brothers heading out the door with the already-bare Christmas tree balanced between them. "It's not even lunchtime yet," I cried. "Christmas was over a few hours ago," my mother answered flatly, looking up from her seed catalogs and her springtime planning list only long enough to hand me a highlighter so that I could circle the pepper plants I wanted her to grow.
January is just around the corner, and it is one of the only months of the year in which we do not have well-defined traditions to follow. There are no immediate family birthdays, or large holidays, no vacations. It is special that way. As the weather turns colder, the children will spend less time outside in the afternoons. The bikes will be put away. The sandbox toys will be tossed into a pile on the porch.
We will hunker down in our own little way. The curtains which are left open for ten months of the year will be closed against the chill, providing a small extra layer of insulation against the cold that seeps through our antique extra-thin windows. I will leave a trail of teacups behind me on every flat surface in the house as I try to warm myself with hot herbal teas. The children will snuggle together on the sofa, The Boy Wonder reading books about dragons as fast as he can get his hands on them, Princess Hazelnut sticking her own nose into books, trying her best to follow the lead of her brother. And her mother. And her father. Books are everywhere in our house, in our lives, in our hearts.
So much time is spent gearing up for the holiday season. I plan to spend twice as much time winding back down.