Sunday, January 04, 2009

Clearing Out to Start Afresh

It is that time of year. Looking back and looking forward. Although I had taken down the door wreaths and the many table top accessories and small items lining the books on one book case, both trees were still up yesterday morning when the phone call from Mary Ellen came. Her family was sleeping while she was driving, and she was getting sleepy too. So she phoned to get her dad to talk to her, so she’d stay awake. They were trying to make it home to Lake Saint Louis from their holiday trip to Florida since the kids had friends to meet and things to do (of course) and so did the adults. Gerald suggested they meet at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, but a later phone call pleaded to just come crash here at the farm. Of course that was fine with us. All the beds were empty.

While they slept, I turned on the trees for the last time thinking they could still feel a bit of holiday spirit when they woke up—which wasn’t until noon. They were ready to head out the door, but I’d already doubled our left-over pot of chili from the night before, so they were persuaded to have a bowl of chili first, so we could hear about their trip to Disney World and their visit with Brian’s mother.

This afternoon the decorations quickly came off the upstairs tree and it is ready to be stuffed into its box in the morning and crammed back in the closet.. The guest room bed is covered with its ornaments and earlier removed accessories that still must be boxed. I climbed onto a step stool and took down the angel looking down on us from the cabinets in the dining room.

Just to get started, I even took a few ornaments off the downstairs tree, which has the accumulation of keepsake items from 52 years of marriage. There are some pretty plaid bows Jean Harrison gave me on a gift many years ago (20 or 30 years?) and a bright red and yellow bow from a flower arrangement that Hua-ling Hu brought to us at Woodsong once. There is an adorable white miniature plastic cowboy boot with attached tag promoting Kathie DeNosky’s first romance. She gave it to us when she spoke to Writers Guild, and I loved it and knew the tree was the perfect place for it.

There are many ornaments made by our children and grandchildren—including some made from toilet tissue tubes to slip over branches. There are some made by Texas relatives and Wyoming relatives and some made by my sister-in-law Ginger before her stroke. There is a red poppy bought on the street one Memorial Day from an American Legion member. I put it on the tree in remembrance of all the fun my friend Lynn and I had selling poppies in Anna for her grandparents’ veterans group.. (They treated us to lunch at a restaurant, which was a big deal to me. Lunch came with vegetables served in cute little white bowls beside your plate.) Leukemia claimed Lynn’s life a year ago right before Christmas, so I lingered over that poppy. There are so many many ornaments and memories to be mulled.

That tree will take more time than the more stylized tree upstairs did, which didn’t have that many ornaments. (The upstairs tree has always been decorated with artificial roses and blue and silver ornaments.)

I am eager to finish up Christmas tomorrow, although I will probably still be sending a few belated cards and thank you notes next week. On Christmas Eve I had to follow my usual tradition of realizing that some cards would have to go out late. I started in early December with cards to shut-ins first, then the cards I carry to Sunday School rooms to pass out at church to save postage. ( I do this in honor of our late friend Helen Beasley who had her little G.A. girls do this so we could give more to our mission offering. I conscientiously added that postage saving to my mission check.) Then I addressed cards to all the relatives—except some whose addresses had been misplaced. Finally this year, I started on our lists of friends. Then suddenly it was Christmas Eve and time to celebrate whether the cards were finished or not. I always think I will do better the next year and get cards out earlier, but so far I never have.

I love the plainness of January after the richness of December. The house bared of decorations pleases my eye and refreshes my spirit just as much as the color and brightness did when the decorations went up. I cooked white beans and corn bread for New Year’s Day, and that menu has tasted good also after the richer holiday fare.

With the holidays behind us, I look forward to a reestablishing a daily routine. And I want to use the cold wintry days ahead to go through some closets and chests and see if I cannot buy some storage space by eliminating unused items. Most of all, I want to unclutter my office, but that may never happen. Papers, pamphlets, and books accumulate almost as quickly as I can sort and throw out. We will have to wait and see what is accomplished in 2009. I am looking forward to it, but grieving the violence plaguing the planet. I wish we could throw out hatred and misunderstanding and start afresh.

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