Janine Talbot

Janine Talbot

Our house has had Christmas decorations up since the weekend after Thanksgiving. This is a bit unusual, but we were making up for the fact that we didn’t get our vegetable garden going until July. Now comes the task I dread the most — packing it all up again.

Every year I try to think of a more efficient way to gather our tree ornaments, manger scene, ceramic village and knickknacks that have taken over our living room, and shove them back into the same variety of containers from whence they emerged. My biggest gripe is how impossible it is to find storage for anything but “normal” ornaments. Have these manufacturers never been given a handmade ornament made by their kids that will never fit into a simple slot?

Pine needles, hooks and wayward ornaments are splayed across the living room as if the North Pole exploded. Spouse and I argue about inflatable lawn animals that linger like creepy clowns staring out from the spare room for the next couple of weeks.

I don’t know where all these things come from. It almost feels as if they multiply in the attic, even though each year I instruct Spouse to take out less and less containers for us to go through. The most baffling are the pieces that were put in the same box year after year but somehow did not wind up there this past year. For instance, this year I had a red ladder and no Santa to climb its rungs.

I know people who pack up their entire Christmas display the day after Christmas – there are no lingering holiday mementos taking up space. You might not even know they celebrated Christmas the next day, whereas my house shows signs until sometime in May, when the last of the stray holiday salt shakers is shoved into a cabinet.

Then there are the lights.

For every box of Christmas paraphernalia there is also a box of lights. I don’t know if there is a method to his madness, but supposedly Spouse has specific containers for the hanging light strings on the house and others for the tree and anywhere else we choose to hang them. Personally, it seems to me he could supply half the neighborhood with lights considering the number of containers that materialize and then hang around for two weeks in the living room/spare bedroom/hall.

Spouse is a much neater packer than me, so his lights are carefully collected and wrapped neatly for placing in a container. He can just whip those suckers out every year and hang them. Allegedly. The truth is, those painstakingly packed up lights have a mind of their own. By the time next year rolls around there will be at least one rebel bulb that has decided to not follow the lights – I mean, not turn on – which means having to just about reconstruct the light scenario with surplus bulbs.

It’s a little weird, I suppose, that our winter display in front of the house has grown bigger since the kids have grown. Are we trying to replace parenthood with inflatable animals? It’s hard to say, but those creatures now have their own section in the attic, which – by the way – will be our biggest packing nightmare if we ever move.

The weekend before New Year’s is typically when we dismantle Christmas. By the end of New Year’s Day the living room will basically be dried up tree needles, bent hooks and ornaments trying to make a run for it. Our cats will step cautiously around the chaos on the way to their cat tree, which is not decorated.

After all that, what about a New Year’s resolution? Mine is to avoid buying any more storage boxes. Wait – do they make them for handmade ornaments that will never fit into a square space?

Janine Talbot resides in southern Maine with her husband of 30-something years, their youngest daughter until she gets a better offer, and two-and-a-half cats. She can be reached at [email protected]

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