The day after Christmas and the day I pack up the Christmas decorations are two of the saddest days of the year. At least, for me. I love Christmas. Yes, the season is hectic, at times overwhelming, and Christmas Eve is the anniversary of the death of my niece, Andrea, but I still hold Christmas within the chambers of my heart where memories of childhood dwell: the tingling cold of my fingers after a snowball fight, the smell of fresh-baked Mexican bread and the sound of distant wind chimes. In short, my favorite things.
With each ornament I remove from the tree, I relive the memory of when I bought the tiny ballet slippers after a performance of The Nutcracker in Chicago, or received from my mother the snowman holding the long string of glittering snowflakes or was first handed the tiny triangle made from red and green macaroni threaded with red ribbon from a hesitant small boy. And while I revisit those memories when I put up the tree, taking them off the tree and wrapping them in wrinkled tissue to place in the ancient Holiday Greetings box seems so far away, so final, like packing for a long trip and knowing it will be months before you open that box, months before you hold in your hand forty-plus years worth of Christmases all in a tiny, pink ceramic angel.
So, how do I withstand the 330 days (give or take) leading to Thanksgiving weekend when I carry, well, mostly drag those nine tubs out of storage?
It sits atop my box of Frida Kahlo notecards, on the side of my nightstand closest to the bedroom door where, if compelled, I can quickly pick it up and give it a gentle shake. It shimmers in the glow from the bedroom lamp and its jingle echoes down the hall. I don’t do this every day, just when I need to be reminded of rushing home from school to watch Santa and Kakeman (or Toy Boy, depending on your age), burning my tongue on hot chocolate while circling items in the Sears or JcPenney catalogues, the smell of the evergreens bunched together behind the chain link fence in the parking lot of St. Patrick’s Church. The sound of those simple bells helps me to forget the headache of a work day, the 100 degree heat, the loss of a friend.
It is not cliché nor sentimental to try to keep a little Christmas within our grasp throughout the year. Johnny Mathis sings about it, Ebenezer Scrooge promises it, but what if we could keep Christmas if just for a few moments each week, each month. I highly recommend it, because for me with just one simple movement of the wrist, all is right with the world.