Facebook brings us in contact with people from long ago. One young lady I especially enjoyed watching grow up in our village had writing talent. She went off to college, married a doctor, lives in a coastal state far from Southern Illinois, and has three sons— one of whom will be in college next year if I understand her status remarks correctly. Her post-Christmas comment was she was cleaning up the aftermath of Christmas. That is where we all are now, isn’t it? There is always physical and emotional aftermath.
We are still eating leftovers, and I carried some—including the last pumpkin pie--in to Katherine’s house this afternoon. Mary Ellen said to take the extra loaf of banana bread she had made to the Cedars, so I delivered that too. I feel a certain satisfaction when I empty a dish. Now that is done, I think.
Gerald was concerned that we might run short on fruit despite the huge bowl we had available. (Katherine had seen this commercial-size aluminum bowl at a rummage sale when she lived with us in 1993, and she laughingly carried it home to me. She knew I would love it, and I do.) Actually we’ve had adequate fruit in these three days after Christmas. We still have plenty of apples, but I think we did eat the last orange today. I have made a mental note to buy two boxes from Sam’s band fund raiser next year.
Gerry looked at our house after Christmas and commented that it would take me two weeks to clean it up. I laughed and knew he was correct. This despite the fact that others cleaned the kitchen beautifully with all its pots and pans after our Christmas dinner, people gathered the discarded paper when we unwrapped our gifts, and they picked up before they left. Although I counted 16 pairs of shoes in the front foyer once, nary a one was left. Granddaughter Brianna picked up the den again before the Taylors left Saturday night, and Mary Ellen loaded the collection of dirty towels downstairs in the washer. I had already laundered the upstairs towels. And the table coverings are laundered and put away except for the one on the table now. Yet there are many items still out of place—things Gerald and I don’t use but bring out when a crowd is here.
In another week, I will be thinking of disassembling the two trees—one upstairs and one down—and packing away all the decorations for next year—decorations I have been collecting for over 50 years. I will enjoy it. Putting things away allows me to relive and remember the fun times we just had as well as the ancient Christmases that the decorations bring to mind. After our first Christmas as an engaged couple, I went to the after-Christmas sale at the dime store in Anna and bought two dozen ornaments in preparation for our tree the following year. Some have broken, but most are still intact. I have added some of Gerald’s mother’s ornaments as well bought many since then.
Many ornaments on the downstairs tree were made by children and grandchildren, and others are made by friends and relatives. “Somebunny in Wyoming loves you,” says one little painted bunny from Gerald’s sister. The wooden replica of a Texas map that niece Cyndi made in 1985 commands: “Deck them halls, ya’ll.” For a few years before her stroke in 2001, Ginger and Garry would come to our house early in December and bring an ornament that Ginger made us. Those are precious. I try to enjoy the ornaments and the memories as I put them up, for there is more time to lovingly linger when I pack them away.
Christmas cards and letters have poured in—some hand made, some made on the computer, one with an ornament for the tree, two original poems for the season, many notes and annual letters, and one very cherished long hand-written two page letters just to me. My cousin Ginny sent me a copy of a book her sister Kathie published of their late mother’s journal notes about the two times their family moved to California—once in 1926 before I was born and I had never even known about. The other was the 1940s move that separated their family from ours during all the war years. Soon after moving to the land of his dreams, Uncle Bill died of a heart attack, but Aunt Liz and their four daughters remained there.
Aunt Liz and her sisters, orphaned by early adulthood, stayed connected with a round robin letter that went from home to home growing with one more letter at each stop. We kids devoured these letters also. So I was quite familiar with Aunt Liz’s conversational writing style. Reading her early journal was almost like having her in the house for a visit. I will want to read this again too just as I will re-read the Christmas cards and letters.
Getting over Christmas and its aftermath has always been more relaxed and pleasurable in some ways than pre-Christmas activities. This post season week too will pass, and the plainness of the house cleared of excess color and clutter will be as refreshing to the eyes as the ornamentation has been. Meals will deliberately be simple and down home. I will probably be making beans and corn bread soon.
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