"Is it time?" I thought to myself as I sipped my coffee and stared at our lifeless Christmas tree. I could flip the switch to electrify the tiny lights, top off the stagnant water, and blur my eyes to the curling branches for one more week.
Or, I could take the whole damned thing down.
Positioning myself closer to the tree, I considered my options. I cocked my head sideways and sighed, remembering her lovely pine smell on that first night not long after Thanksgiving break. This tree had been with us for month of celebrating, shopping, eating, baking, and gift giving. Shouldn't I keep her for one more week?
In my sentimental haze, I reached out to touch the lovely blown glass ornament my husband had given me years ago, and as my hand brushed against the branch, I set off a veritable avalanche of dead pine needles.
"That's it," I thought, "she's gotta go."
One by one, I removed and wrapped our tree decorations, packing them away in the storage closet under the stairs. Using a turkey baster, I sucked the scummy water out of the tree stand, and detached the naked tree, lugging her dead carcass across our family room, out the back door, and across the yard, finally heaving her into the gutter in front of our mailbox.
Fueled by a colossal sense of relief, I marched back into the house, going room by room to purge all evidence of Christmas. I shook the candy wrappers out of the stockings, packed away the Nativity, derailed the train, bubble-wrapped the ceramic Christmas trees, stored the Santa mugs, and silenced the jingle bells.
I filled garbage bags with dying poinsettias, stale cookies, burnt candles, wrinkled wrapping paper, used doilies, broken candy canes, half a cheese ball, a whole fruitcake, a carton of egg nog and a stripped turkey carcass.
Invigorated, I stormed out onto the porch and unwound the garland from the columns, plucked the light-up candy canes from the walkway, tugged until the twinkle lights gave way from the railings, and tore the wreath from the door, hurling it like a Frisbee into the gutter with the discarded tree.
Then, I set my eyes on the enormous blow-up snow globe, faithfully regurgitating the tiny Styrofoam balls in a continuous flurry over the inflatable snowman and his penguin sidekick.
Yanking the outdoor extension cord from the outlet, I heard an electronic sizzle, then turned with sadistic satisfaction to watch the orb slowly suffocate and die on my lawn.
I was infuriated to see that the blow up monstrosity failed to give up its last puff of breath, leaving one stubborn bubble trapped in its folds of Visqueen. With vengeance, I bounded across the yard and onto the bubble, stomping its last sign of verve.
I exhausted the remainder of my cathartic frenzy by firing up the Shop Vac. With crazed eyes, I sucked up thousands of pine needles, glitter, crumbs, cookie sprinkles, red and green M&Ms, snips of ribbon, scraps of tissue paper, and one or two gumdrops fringed with dog hair.
I dumped the canister in the trash, and along with several boxes and bags, wheeled the whole shebang out to the curb next to the tree cadaver. Grabbing the mail from the mailbox, I headed back inside.
I sat at the kitchen table in my freshly expunged house, pleased to have wiped my slate clean and ready for a fresh start to the New Year.
But then, I opened the credit card bill. As I leafed through a month of reckless spending memorialized on paper, I took a slurp from my coffee cup and a drop dribbled from the rim, plopping onto my protruding stomach.
Moving the bill to one side, I stared down at my surprisingly large gut, dented in the middle where my belly button lay just under my shirt. A month of overeating had turned my middle-aged mom tummy into an embarrassing mound of flesh.
I realized, the real battle to purge myself of the excesses of the holiday had only just begun.