The decorations in my house had multiplied and like Gremlins fed after midnight, they were turning vicious!
When we moved into our house almost ten years ago, all of our Christmas decorations could easily fit into three medium-sized moving boxes, which even included our table-top Christmas tree with ornaments already attached. Apparently someone opened the Christmas clearance floodgates years ago and forgot to close them. (I refuse to acknowledge that I am the sole culprit in this predicament. I blame those creepy stalking elves that everyone keeps buying to watch over their kids.) The color-coded red and green bins stack to the basement ceiling and fill an entire Gorilla storage rack, which does not include the boxes of ornaments and large faux Christmas tree. So clearly, I have a problem.
As my tradition dictates, I started hauling everything upstairs on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While retailers ran security detail on Black Friday in riot gear and overly-eager shoppers pepper-sprayed each other for the latest deals worth abandoning all manners and dying for, I spent the day in my pajamas with a Thanksgiving hang-over fighting for my life in the unfinished basement of doom filled with toys that wouldn’t even be allowed on the island of misfit toys, mix-matched tools and supplies from the ghosts-of-household-projects-past, discarded furniture too embarrassing for the garbage day curb disposal, and rows of industrial strength shelving bursting with plastic tubs, whose labels don’t always reflect that which is inside -- Surprise!
The danger began with the removal of the very first bin. As if I needed further proof that the laws of the universe long ago dictated that my lack of coordination and impulsive-decision-making mean that even the simplest of tasks (pulling bins off of the shelves) would result in at least one injury, I quickly dodged falling plastic tubs which I had precariously stacked last year with no consideration for my future frazzled-Christmas-decorating-self. Thankfully, I managed to duck and dodge most of the falling plastic bins of licensed-character holiday cheer (this bruise brought to you by Disney) after the first one slid from my out-stretched slippery hands and landed on my head. Unfortunately, my poor vocabulary exclamations brought my children dashing to the basement, which meant that I had now endangered my children’s lives as well as my own and taught them some new inappropriate words. “Save yourselves!“ I yelled at their panic-stricken little faces. They quickly got over their fear for my safety as soon as I suggested that they play video games until I had finished bringing all of the bins upstairs.
Two hours later and I still possessed the uncanny ability to see other people’s auras (apparently that bin hit my head a little harder than I initially thought) but I had finally unearthed all of the Christmas decorations. My arms, back, thighs and rear ached from the many trips up and down the stairs carrying bins much heavier than my usual weight limit of a soup can during my exercise DVDs. And forgive me for bragging for a moment here, but I only slipped on the basement stairs once during the numerous trips up and down. Sure, I did trip on the cat, land on my ass and break a glass snowman trinket, but, heck, I only fell once!
After unpacking and sorting all of the many bins, I stood up and took inventory of all of the stuff, too much stuff, and realized that I had spent hundreds of dollars (possibly thousands, but let’s just not go there) on pre-packaged-no-assembly-required holiday cheer and it was suffocating me. I glanced at my children anxiously still waiting for the decorating fun to begin, terrified to ask for the hundredth time if they could help yet, and wondering why their mother was still in her pajamas at 5:00 pm. I knew what I had to do, but first it started with an apology.
I gingerly climbed out of the cave of Christmas decorations and prayed that my movements wouldn’t start an avalanche. I wrapped my arms around my children and told them that I loved them, that without them Christmas wouldn’t be complete, that they were the best gifts that I have ever received and that I would gladly give up everything in this world for their health and happiness. And I begged for their forgiveness because without even realizing it, I had lost the importance of the Christmas holiday season. I’ve never forgotten the incredible religious significance of the season, and my children can each recite the biblical story and sing all of the religious Christmas songs; however, I was the one focused on the Hallmark holiday aspect of the season. I was the one who needed a battalion of creepy nutcrackers, more decorations, more mistletoe-stamped holiday serving pieces, more Christmas tablecloths, more napkins and kitchen towels and bath towels and placemats and napkin ring holders and more, more, more! I was the one literally injuring myself with the excess of manufactured (probably not even made in America) holiday spirit.
I grabbed the box of garbage bags from beneath the kitchen sink and started filling them up. I filled up the first bag with Hallmark stuffed santas, snowmen and reindeer. I filled up the second bag with superfluous Christmas linens. The third bag was jammed full of Christmas stockings (even the three cats had more than one stocking each) and Christmas candle holders and centerpieces. And I kept filling up the garbage bags with crap until I was left with the items that had personal meaning and significance: the hand-made preschool ornament cut in the shape and size of my child’s tiny preschool hand with his sweet little 3 year old picture glued to it, the hand-painted snowmen and porcelain nativity that my mother painstakingly made for us, my favorite snowman from the collection my mother-in-law gave me when my husband and I were first married, my tattered, discolored, ripped and stained copy of Holly Hobbie’s illustrated The Night Before Christmas book bearing my biological father’s hand-writing and one of the only items in my house which I will allow as a reminder of him.
Other items remained as long as their presence made me happy, made me touch them as I passed or made my children recall a specific holiday memory.
As that sage Dr. Seuss wrote in his 1957 holiday classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! … Maybe Christmas… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas …perhaps… means a little bit more!”
After getting rid of all the bags of decorations, my house is finally filled with the Christmas spirit. Once I could finally see through the clutter and the weight was lifted from my chest, I, too, like the Grinch felt my small heart grow three times that day!
And so I plead with you to learn from my mistake: Focus on the holiday - no matter which holiday you celebrate - and not all of the trimmings which go with it. And if you ever visit my basement, please wear a hard hat, protective eye wear and remember to sign the waiver!
Do you have other ideas for focusing on the holiday season instead of the stuff? I would love to read your tips, stories and ideas to re-focus my family this Christmas. Please consider commenting and sharing your ideas!