I’m so glad the “Holiday Season” is finally done. It’s such a long and exhausting period. And I’m not just talking about Christmas or Xmass or whatever you call the “Winter-Solstice-Based” holiday itself.
It starts with Halloween, of course. That’s the great run-up to the events of Late-October to New Year’s Day. It’s like the gunshot beginning the Boston Marathon. You know you’re in for a long haul.
There’s the decorating and the pumpkin cutting and the costumes. There’s dusting off all the candy you didn’t eat last year, still sitting in the bowl on the top shelf of the book case, so you can hand it out THIS year and hope its gone by the end of the night. Then there’s Wal-Mart, because by the week before halloween they’ve completely given up on Ghosts and Goblins and they’ve already put out the fake trees and Santas. Halloween hasn’t even happened yet and it’s already forgotten.
As soon as Halloween is over, by the time the decorations come down, its fall and there’s leaves to rake and plans to be made for Thanksgiving. Who is going where, what are we doing, and then it’s time to start the cleaning. And of course, there are various levels of cleaning based on who’s coming over:
Cleaning Level 0: This is for those relatives who are about six boxes away from appearing on an episode of Hoarders. Throw out the trash bag with the bad meat in it and flush the toilet, and you’re done. Merry Christmas.
Cleaning Level 3: For those relatives you like to pick up for, but who still “know you” well enough to realize the way you normally live. The relatives that may stop in for a bit here and there, the ones living close by. Putting the dishes away, picking up clothes, maybe a light sweep here and there, but otherwise, not much work.
Cleaning Level 7: The out-of-towners. For friends and relatives not seen much, or for certain personality types. This is MUCH more labor intensive than anything above a level 5 cleaning. A level 7 cleaning is a chance to really look at yourself in disgust and realize what a nasty lazy pig you are. This involves things like touching up trim work with paint (wait – last time I did the trim did I use oil paint or latex. Well, I guess we’ll find out), getting out noxious chemicals and scrubbing things like grout (yes its supposed to be beige, not black) and the inside of the oven. Taking apart the refrigerator shelves and scrubbing out the various colors and wondering for days just what WAS that thing in the box in the back corner.
Cleaning Level 10: This involves major work. Repainting certain parts of the house may be in order, steam cleaning upholstery, maybe even a trip to the furniture store to replace certain items. There better not be a SPECK of dirt on the floor. If required, a doctor and an ambulance crew could stop at your house and perform emergency surgery in your living room, and they would thank you for getting everything clean for them. When considering a Level 10 Cleaning, offer instead to meet the relatives somewhere, or maybe just set the house on fire and start over.
In any case, whatever Cleaning Level you force on yourself, it can be a good thing. For the next month or two your house will be cleaner than it has been in a long while. You’ll even try to maintain a certain level of clean after Thanksgiving, because you’re doing it all again in a month. Because after the turkey carcass has been dumped, and you’re eating your last turkey sandwich, its time to put up the tree.
Whether you go real or artificial, the results are about the same. It involves a large object taking up space formerly occupied by something else, involving in most cases rearranging a certain room in your house so strangers driving by can see that you have a pagan symbol adorning your living room, that you are a “normal” American and not one of those weirdo religions that doesn’t celebrate like the “normal” Americans do. You venture into the basement or attic or wherever you store boxes of lights, glass balls, and crumbling, wrinkled, terrible-looking ornaments your kid made ten years ago in preschool. Then comes the wrapping paper and boxes from last year.
If your family is anything like mine, you reuse boxes over and over until they are WAY past needing to be replaced. We have a Joseph A Bank gift card box that has gone around for the past three years and still looks good. When you’re given a gift at my house, open the box and examine the gift before you exclaim, “I can’t believe you gave me an iPad!”, when in reality the old iPad box contains a couple of books you wanted from Amazon.
So, after the evergreen (whether its made in China by slave children or cut in North Carolina by Immigrant laborers) is put up and the empty ornament boxes are stored, its time to go shopping, which means wrapping gifts. Which means the formerly clean den (especially at level 6 and above) will resemble an episode of Hoarders, from The day after Thanksgiving until Christmas eve. Because when the UPS guy comes a couple of times a week, and theres several trips to the malls to make, who wants to get out all the boxes and tape and wrapping paper over and over.
Shopping in itself is a never-ending nightmare. Just when you think you have it all, there’s someone you left off the list, or something else ON the list you haven’t found. I like to do everything online. The more I can do in my pajamas in front of the computer, the happier I am. But there are SOME things you can’t get online. Well, you can, but they probably won’t fit right. Food, Alcohol, and Clothes. We are pretty much restricted to actually having to leave the house and deal with crowds and traffic for those.
Then finally Christmas arrives. Four weeks of shopping, decorating, cleaning to various levels, moving that damn Elf (if you have small kids and got suckered into that), cooking, and cleaning up the wrapping paper. Its done. Our extended family is all over the place, and couple that with having two sets of divorced parents out-of-town siblings, and that’s a lot of people to arrange. Scheduling gets to be problematic. So opening and giving presents goes on for about a week, and then its over. It’s time for the “burning of the boxes”. All the boxes that didn’t make it through this year, the cardboard packaging from Amazon, the torn gift bags, all of it goes in the fireplace.
Unless it’s like this year, when it was 78 degrees on Christmas. Look, we’re in South Carolina, not Florida. Its SUPPOSED to be cold here. Below 50 at least. Maybe not -5 like up north, but cold enough for a fire, damn it.
So now until it gets cold enough, I still look like Hoarders in the den, because all those boxes are waiting on the fireplace to come calling.
After all the giving and getting and unwrapping is over with, there’s a few days left until the new year. The tree has to come down, either back in the box if you go synthetic, or tossed in the woods behind the house or to the curb if you go real. Then the lights come down off the house, the oversized wreaths and such get stuffed upstairs, the re-usable boxes get packed away (and you start giggling about who you can give the iPad box full of socks to next year). Finally life starts getting back to normal.
Then there’s New Year’s Eve. It’s like a party just for adults, a celebration that you made it through from October without hurting someone or setting the house on fire. In the south we like fireworks, because we think alcohol and explosives are a good combination. And after midnight is over and the last drink has been drunk and the last fireworks explode, you can relax and really settle in for the winter.
And sometime in April, you’ll go outside, and get the Christmas tree stand off the front porch.