Putting Away Christmas


When I was little, I believed that all of the Christmas decorations and ornaments slept in their boxes dreaming of the moment when they would be lovingly unpacked for the holiday.  Deep in their sleep, they waited in anticipation for the motion of their boxes being lifted down, the light spilling in as the flaps were opened, the rustle of tissue paper being lifted out.  Each had a face, each a personality, and I would greet each one as a beloved and dearly missed friend as they yawned and stretched and woke to the holiday.

Things haven’t changed much.  There’s a part of me that still believes it, that always will.  It can’t be only my anticipation I feel as I begin to unpack the trappings of Christmas.  Surely the ornaments contribute their own measure of excitement.  How could they not?

Such familiar faces.  Our tree, in particular, carries a wildness, a free-spirited personality created by the varied ornaments.  Theme trees are not my thing unless memory is a theme.  Each of our ornaments has a story, a history.  Some of the bulbs have been handed down to me from my parents and graced the trees of my childhood.  Others were purchased new because of a particular look.  Others came from antique stores, and a few very special ones came to me from a 73-year-old friend who inherited them from her great-aunts.  There are ornaments that remind me of pets past and present; several in memory of a particularly sweet-natured Pony of the Americas I once knew named Applejack.  There are many different birds, winged pigs, and Mouse Kings(my favorite character from “Nutcracker”).  There are handmade ornaments made by friends and a wonderful Yeti purchased from a charity.  There is my very first Christmas stocking, a fairy made of pink netting, and a Santa with a pine cone body — all of them given to me in 1957, the year I was born.  And there is a pewter heart of Celtic knotwork given to me this year to commemorate a long-term friendship.

I enjoy sharing the joy of opening these boxes, setting out the decorations, hanging the ornaments.  Usually, it’s just Ed and I who do this, although in the past my step-kids have joined in and once we were fortunate enough to be joined by Paul Alexander, one of our former Coast Guard sponsor cadets, who loves Christmas as much as I do (which is saying a lot).

But when it comes to winding things down, to bringing out the boxes and carefully laying the ornaments to sleep for another year, I prefer to do it by myself, all alone.  I like quiet and to take my time, to say goodbye to each old friend as the tissue paper folds back around them for another year.  Every ornament is carefully packed and gently stowed, layer upon layer.  I can almost feel sleep descending upon them.  There are those who complain, those who (like children on Christmas Eve) aren’t ready to lay down their heads for that long winter’s nap.

And when it’s done, when every last light and ribbon and sparkle is put away until next year, the house echoes with Christmas like the aftermath of a party.  It’s a melancholy sound, but a hopeful one as well as they shift in their paper beds, snuggle down together, and dream of next year.  I, too, will dream and look forward to that moment when the calendar shifts to December, the boxes emerge, and the lids raise on magic.

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About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Christmas, Connecticut, CT, Essays, Holiday, Melissa Crandall, Memory, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Putting Away Christmas

  1. Lorraine Spaziani says:

    Melissa… this is such a great piece. The creative juices are running and we get to enjoy your efforts. Thank you.

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