There I was, sitting on the floor, in the middle of the living room, trying to decide what went in what box.
I wanted to cry.
I was in the middle of the annual ritual of putting holiday decorations away.
Taking down the outside lights on the house last week was the easy part. I put them up, so I knew where every clip and twist was. I knew what box to put them in. I knew where they went.
But the inside stuff is what had me confused. You see each year I help to decorate the tree, so I know about the ornaments to a certain extent, but when it comes to the wreaths, nutcrackers, carollers, various Santas, bells and other sundry items I was lost. I had never put these things away before.
"Where does this go?" I cried to my wife who was in the middle of something else at the other end of the house, hence my designation as the decoration depositor for this year of 2007.
She came into the room and there I sat. At first I thought I saw a look of pity in her eyes, but it was instead a look of Christmas determination.
"The boxes are all marked," she said. "If you look on the bottom of the nutcrackers, the marking matches the boxes. That is where they go."
She disappeared into the hall and went back to what she was doing. I was only performing a task which she had been doing for many years. I had always had the fun of putting most of this stuff up, but seldom the drudgery of putting it away on a sunny January day.
And to think I always supported women's liberation.
So I plunged into the large plastic container that held the boxes; red ones, green ones, purple ones and blue ones. The first thing I noticed was that there didn't seem to be enough of them to fit the number of nutcrackers that were sitting on the mantle.
"There aren't enough boxes here," I yelled down the hall. She emerged once again.
"No there aren't," she said as she held wires in her hand. She was obviously messing with the computer, a job I would have gladly traded her for, but she didn't offer. "We didn't keep all of them over the years. So you will have to wrap some of the nutcrackers in tissue and put them away, carefully."
She started to walk out and then turned and said, "By the way, make sure each of the nutcrackers hair is laying flat when you wrap them up. Otherwise it is a nightmare trying to get it to lay down flat when I put them out next year."
When she said that it reminded me of a girl I went out with in high school who would never let me roll the windows down in my non-air conditioned Mustang even on a day when it was 90 degrees. She was afraid the wind might mess her hair up. Now I had to worry about a bunch of stiff guys whose hair might get out of place when I put them in a box. It wasn't a nostalgic moment.
I took the small boxes and was able to match them up with the right figures. Then I started to wrap up the ones without boxes and put them in a big plastic storage bin. The only problem was that four of them were too long for the bin. By the time I was to this point, I thought about breaking their legs to make them fit. Honestly, I really did think about it. You see I figured if I was quick, that tactic wouldn't be discovered for a whole year. I might even be dead by then and might not have to face the fire for doing it. But then I thought I might somehow still be alive and would have to face the music. It wasn't worth it.
"Where do I put these ones that are too long?" I cried down the hall like a baby yelling for his binky.
Once again my wife came out, with a look on her face like "Why didn't I just put the damned things away myself." But she was patient with me.
"Well, you'll (with an emphasis on you'll) just have to find a box to fit them," she said. "That biggest one I just cover with a garbage bag and set him downstairs on top of the Christmas stuff. Look around."
She left again and I went downstairs looking for another container. As I looked in the storage room I noticed that with the stuff I had put away and the boxes that were still coming we had reached an interesting point in our lives. We had a 12-by-10 storage room half filled, from floor to ceiling, with boxes of holiday decorations. And then I counted. We had only used six boxes of decorations and lights this year out of that entire stock. I realized then that we have literally never thrown away, given away, sold at a yard sale or shot for target practice one item of Christmas cheer in our 25 years of marriage.
"Don't you think we should get rid of some of this stuff, " I called up the stairs, but my disguised plea for throwing away the too tall nut crackers went unheard.
I did finally find a box to fit the four nutcrackers of the apocalypse; it ended up being a long plastic storage bin my wife had purchased to replace the worn out cardboard box that the Christmas tree went in. Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately for me, the tree had not fit in it and we had to staple, tie and tape the old tree carton up for another year.
Later I showed my wife the accumulating pile of Christmas joy in the storage room and shared my epiphany about the accumulation of stuff.
"You're right, we should do something about this," she stated. "It's true we haven't ever gotten rid of any Christmas stuff. This spring you can bring it all upstairs to the patio where we can open them up and spread it out and decide what we want to keep and what we don't."
I looked at her.
"And does that mean if I bring it up and spread it all out that I will not have to put it away?" I asked.
She just smiled at me and walked down the hall.