In the dark of predawn I lay in bed, tucked snugly beneath my downy comforter, sleet pinging against the window panes in soft yet fitful waves. Against all odds associated with parenthood, no one under the age of 8 burst into the room to announce that the sky was falling. Translation: my husband and I had had the presence of mind to skip setting the kids' alarm the night before, in anticipation of inclement weather almost certain to arrive by daybreak. So for a time, all was silent in this good house -- except for the ticking of clocks and the tiny taps at the window.
As the not-so-surprising news of yet another school cancellation reached my ears in the wee hours that day, I was filled, impossibly, with hope. Hope that I would enjoy a morning devoid of the madness I had known all too well since September. Hope for a day abundant with hot cocoa, kindness and good cheer. Hope that I might finally summon the strength and ambition to take down the blasted Christmas tree. The one that had been standing very nearly straight in my living room for 63 days, mocking me as I addressed my cache of shamefully belated holiday cards.
The tree had to come down. It would come down. It was January 28th, for Pete's sake. Besides, I was tired of its condescending glare, as if it were looking down its boughs at me, judging my every deficiency. Shaming my inadequate core.
Moreover, with my army of helpers that would likely be at my disposal ALL DAY (since no one wanted to frolic in the freezing rain), I banked on being able to pack up and stow away each and every jingle bell, snowman, Santa likeness and string of garland-y foolishness in the entire house. To reclaim my space. At least until Easter.
Needless to say, lots of people here agreed that it was high time. "Mom, you know we're going to get arrested, don't you?"
"Arrested? For what?!"
"Because January's almost over and we don't even have our Christmas tree down yet! We'll all be thrown in jail!"
"Whaaaaat?! Who's going to throw us in jail?"
"The Holiday Police."
"The Holiday Who?!"
"The Holiday Police. They arrest people who don't do stuff right -- like taking Christmas trees down BEFORE Groundhog Day. Helloooooooooo."
She had a point.
All I had to do was glance at the calendar and then at the muddled mess surrounding me. Remnants of the holiday season were everywhere. The Christmas lights were completely shrouded with ice and fused impossibly to the trees and shrubs outside. The stockings were still hung -- and shockingly, still laden with beloved items that had been tragically forgotten since Santa's celebrated arrival. Gifts of every size, shape and hideous stage of disarray lay like carnage throughout the house and under the aforementioned evergreen, gloriously bedecked with enough ornament-age for a forest. Legions upon legions of festive-looking dishes, alarmingly bare except for the smarmy trail of cashews and the red and green fleckage of holiday M&Ms, still rested upon my tabletops, whispering without end, "Cleeeean meeeee." Santa's cookie plate begged to be returned to the cupboard, the crèche longed to be back in the attic and quite frankly, the mistletoe was tired of hanging around.
What's more, I noted that the kids had been swiping stuff from the tree for weeks -- like the reindeer, now chummy with Barbie's horses and sharing a corral, and the snowmen, warmly adopted by a family of Lego people. I even discovered a few sparkly ornaments dangling precariously from the rooftops of doll houses. Icicles, maybe?
That said, it was way past time to begin the arduous process of un-decorating. Clearly, the snow day that had been bestowed upon us was a window of opportunity and perhaps the spark that would ignite my drive and determination to succeed in spite of myself. At least that was the plan.
But it was not to be. My great expectations for the day were shot by 10 a.m. and my hopes for a tidier living room were all but dashed. For all intents and purposes, the thorny pine had become rooted there, a glaring reminder of my ineptitude as a putter-away-of-holiday-wares. Instead, we frittered away the time, putting six puzzles together, littering the house with Barbie dolls and dresses, devouring books, stuffing ourselves with chocolate chip pancakes and lounging in our pajamas till it was almost evening -- at which time I sent my brood outdoors to play in the snow that had FINALLY begun to fall in big, feathery flakes. A consolation prize for my efforts.
Then again, maybe my reward was the delicious chunk of time I spent fishing for puzzle pieces with my kids, eavesdropping on their Barbie powwows and listening to the ice hit the windows -- safe and sound in this good house.
Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel