I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love it. I love the decorating — filling the house with all my favorite things from Christmases past, laughing and remembering as we put up our ridiculous ornaments, baking, and being with family and friends. But I hate the rushing to try to get everything done and most of all, I hate taking it all down, packing it up and putting it away.
I hate it for a few reasons. Mostly, because it takes time. I’m anal enough to try to wrap each ornament in the same box it came in, if I still have it. I wish I could just be like normal people — throw it all in a box and not worry about it — but I make sure everything is wrapped securely to survive a summer in the heat of a California attic. I also make sure it’s organized so I can easily find things. I sometimes even label the boxes, but not always, because I kind of like the thrill of opening boxes and being surprised at what’s inside.
I also love/hate Christmas because it’s a reminder of the past. With a pang of longing, I still hang things the kids made with their plump little hands in elementary school. I have the green yarn wreath Brandon gave me when he was five or six (his first gift to me), the candle my daughter made me in pre-school, the banner and the reindeer poster my son made in first or second grade and lots more things I’d put up if I had the room.
I have the Fish Shoppe my sister-in-law Donna sent me the first Christmas I couldn’t go home. It’s one of my favorite things — the Christmas season doesn’t begin for us until the Fish Shoppe is lit.
I also have the English fish monger woman I bought with money my dad gave me the last Christmas I got to spend with him. Dad told me to go buy myself something for Christmas because he couldn’t take me shopping. I look at it and smile thinking of him, and remembering all the awesome Christmas Eve’s spent together eating crab and shrimp with my fun, maniacal family.
I also have a pathetic little Christmas tree I bought when we lived with Dad. All my decorations were packed away in a storage locker at that time, so I bought it as a tiny reminder I’d get them back one day.
I have the burlap reindeer my cousin bought me as we window shopped in Beaver, and I still have the ribbons I sewed together for our Christmas tree when I was between traffic reports.
I still even have the homemade felt ornaments I made my very first Christmas in my own apartment. I was poor, so I cut felt into snowmen, holly leaves, candles and stars, sewed them up, and stuffed them with toilet paper. I can’t believe they’re 40 years old!
I also have the ornaments we made the year we were really poor and couldn’t afford gifts. I wanted to show my kids you can have as good a Christmas with little money as you can with a lot.
One of my favorite poverty ornaments is Sputnick. My son took a styrofoam ball and stuck toothpicks in it. We laughed until we were completely silly over it. And every time I see it, it makes me smile. (I recently replaced a few of the toothpicks that had broken, but I think Andy will have to make some adjustments, I’m not the artist he is.) The homemade ornaments are a good reminder that our Christmases may not all be rich, but as long as we have each other and a good sense of humor, they’ll still be fun.
I think the other thing I hate about putting all my things away is the unknowing. What will change in a year? Will I still be living here when I open these boxes next December? What will my life be like? Will I be happy? Who’ll be here and who won’t?
Each year I whisper a little wish into the boxes that next year will be better, and that all my loved ones will be happy and healthy, and that includes you, my wonderful readers.
Happy New Year!