I’ve written a monthly column for my local newspaper for over ten years now. The articles are mostly small moments and reflections about life with young kiddos. Now and then, I’ll run into someone who recognizes my picture from the paper (because I’m quite the celebrity, with these sightings happening at least once every three years), and that person will tell me I should collect all of my articles into a book. And then I’m fired up, and I’m like, “Yes! Next time I sit down to write, I’m making that book for sure.”
This year, I’ve gone so far as to Seriously Think about collecting them into a book, so if that’s not procrastination-solving, I don’t know what is.
So! This post is an excerpt from that book I haven’t written! It’s about our holiday clean up last year. The timing feels fitting, since my Grinchy feelings of holiday extermination are already stirring.
Holiday Wrap Up
It’s that time of year again! The time when the presents have been opened, the Christmas cookies devoured, schools looms maliciously, and I announce it’s time to clean up Christmas. The predictable protests and pleading from the children ping against my heart of stone. “Into the Christmas boxes with all of it!” I tell them, “so I can take it to the top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it!”
I started my morning already plotting my Christmas sweep, and while washing my two-year-old’s hands for breakfast, I mused, “That Santa soap dispenser will be the first thing to go.”
I followed it with a touch of laughter that I would deem mild on the maniacal scale, but Carson responded with hysterical breathing and protests that progressed rapidly to whines. As Carson sometimes helpfully prophesies, “There’s a tantrum in there.” I quickly changed the subject and steered him to breakfast, and he forgot about that Santa soap. But naptime will come, Santa soap, and I will be back for you.
Later, once I’d read Carson some stories and sent him off to bed with a glass of water like Cindy Lou Who, I turned my attention to exterminating all traces of holiday joy. Colin (aged 10) and Annabelle (aged 7) were assigned the task of gathering the decorations from their room in preparation for a visit from the Christmas inspector. This practice became necessary when the children were discovered to be willfully harboring Christmas fugitives in March.
After way too little time, Colin and Annabelle returned, deposited a paltry number of items on the table, and gave me sweet smiles and promises that no inspection was necessary because I would find nothing.
Their smiles did nothing to melt my resolve to squish Christmas like a bug beneath my thumb. I found several somethings. I always do.
The biggest cleanup job is taking down the tree. “Wouldn’t this be easier if we had fewer ornaments?” I ask. “And what better time to go through them than now?”
Well. Things got boxed up pretty quickly after that suggestion.
We have A LOT of ornaments. Many of them are homemade and beautiful, but some of them are a touch past their prime. I’m thinking in particular of a one legged gingerbread cookie ornament who looks like his leg has literally been bitten off. (Why does it look bitten off? Don’t think about it, Kirstin. Just don’t think about it.) I sometimes mention that maybe we could say a prayer for this little ginger person and send him to that big cookie jar in the sky, where he can be reunited with his missing limb.
The children think they have gotten smarter. Annabelle will quietly agree with me, letting me think I’ve won. But then somehow, next Christmas, I’ll open a box, and little Peg Leg will be there, silently hoping that this is the year his right to euthanasia is recognized.
Or what about that box of ornaments that didn’t even make it on the tree this year? Should we just toss those? This fresh breath of sense was met with wails about injustice, so those unused decorations will continue to live in our shed until next Christmas, when we vote not to use them again. It’s good for families to have their traditions.
While stripping the tree of ornaments, Colin noticed several empty hooks. “Why would anyone put empty hooks on the tree?” he asked. Until he began to suspect that perhaps those hooks didn’t used to be empty.
Accusations were flung at the baby, who was still napping, innocent and unaware, in his bed.
“Carson.” Colin slid open the door as soon as his little brother was awake. “Where are all the vehicle ornaments?”
No trial. No representation. Just blatant accusation.
The poor baby, still blinking away sleep! Who would defend him?
But then, when Carson’s immediate response was “No! No! Don’t lift that blanket!” it seemed like maybe Colin’s work as judge and jury was spot on.
It was a group effort, but Christmas cleanup 2020 finally wrapped up. Every year one or two decorations escape the Christmas inspector’s notice, and every year I vow that this year I’ll catch everything. I’m sure I did. What could be left?
But then, this morning, we found it. Hidden in Carson’s trains was the box to his police car ornament, but he’s only two. It couldn’t have been premeditated, could it?
“And,” Colin says, “since the box is empty, where’s the police car? Carson…”
“No! No! Don’t lift that blanket!”
Hope you all had a lovely holiday! Now you know our holiday traditions include hanging ornaments that are on their last legs (heh heh) and stealing from the defenseless baby. Tell me about your holiday traditions—or just post any thought you want to share! Happy New Year!