Last year, after I thought I'd put away all the Christmas decorations, I kept finding odds and ends I'd neglected to pack. I always leave one balsam wreath up for an extra month or two because it's so loaded with pinecones that you can't tell it's dead, and it still smells like Maine. But in the days after I thought I was done undecorating, I found the antique postcards I'd arranged on a bookshelf, and a stray roll of wrapping paper in the bedroom. I'd left the red candles in the candelabra, and there was a sparkly spray of hydrangeas in a silver pot on the bedroom mantel.
This went on for about a week. I'd find myself staring into space — and my eyes would come to rest on a little carved Santa that never made it into its box. And then there were all the late-arriving Christmas cards piled on my desk that had never made it into the display on the back of our front door.
I began suspecting I wasn't too bright. I mean, I began suspecting I was even less bright than I'd previously thought.
This year, I had a plan. I was determined to get everything packed away in one fell swoop, all on the same day — this past Sunday. I decided I'd start with all the little stray bits I'd missed the year before, and not begin on the tree until everything else was gone. I worked systematically, starting in the bathroom and kitchen, which hardly get any holiday tarting-up anyway.
I got rid of all the holiday cards next, and then packed up all the stuff on mantels and bookshelves and tables and... I realized I do far too much decorating. It's ridiculous; I need to cut back next year. I started on the tree long after sundown. We dragged it into the alley (and said our farewells and thanks) just after Downton Abbey (Season 2 premiere, poor Lady Mary...) ended. We left all the bags and boxes to put away the next morning.
A number of bows escaped from an open bag in the middle of the night. What a racket. It's lucky we have bow-herding cats to protect us.
On Monday, all the stuff went up into the crawlspace. It barely fit. That just left the tree stand, which we store in a relative's basement. Goodbye, Christmas 2011, or so I thought. I found a bird ornament buried in the mess on my desk within hours. I also found a stray stack of our own unused Christmas cards. Yesterday, I found the same stupid sparkly hydrangea that was left behind last year. This afternoon, my husband presented me with a metallic plastic acorn ornament that he'd had to mend after Wendy pulled it off the tree and broke it.
And then I found a string of Christmas lights in the bedroom. "No way!" I thought. But then I remembered that they're broken, even though they look new. We got frustrated with them as we were putting up the tree and tossed them in a basket to deal with later.
About an hour ago, I turned on my iPod, which is attached to the stereo, and was confronted with "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album," which my husband adores. And which is the bane of my holiday. I have hundreds of tunes on my Christmas playlist but cranky old Ian Anderson turns up for just about every third song because the shuffle algorithm must have been created by a Tull-Head. I created a new "At Home" playlist with about 1,000 songs, updated the iPod, set back in its dock... and promptly got "Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light" from The Roches' "We Three Kings" album." It had gotten mixed in with all the other Roches music I'd chosen.
So I can't win. I'm only 80% convinced that everything is really, really gone now. At least I'm listening to Bob Dylan, whose Christmas tunes are not in my collection.
Oh, and here's the Christmas card that arrived today. Some of my friends are even more behind the times than I.