After Christmas Passed

There are no Christmas carols about taking decorations off the tree or digging holiday lights out of the snow to pack them away. All the joyous memories of past celebrations are filled with the wonderful activities that end about half way through December 25th, just after Christmas dinner, when the last of the relatives have pulled out of the driveway and the kids have disappeared into their private corners.

Now, with no kids in the house and our relatives far away, it is a different routine. We clean up the living room, collecting and separating trash and recyclables, which doesn’t take long (it used to look like a tornado had hit the place). Her presents are drifting toward shelves and dresser, mine are lined up on the stairs to go up to the bedroom (wearables) or my study (CD’s & books).

We snuggle a bit on the coach surveying the scene, reminiscing about Christmas past and enjoying the fireplace, while the dog sniffs about for another present or treat. Then it is up to wash and dry the dishes, put away the leftovers, and maybe take the dog for a walk, depending on the weather. Then we go our separate ways.

My wife, Kelly, usually finds more food to put a way or dishes to wash and then does I know not what. I dump the clothes on the bed and head to my study with the rest. First order of business is to unsync all the Christmas music from my iPod and phone. Then I upload any CD’s to iTunes and add them to my other devices. A Christmas day reading book is selected.

Soon the day will come to start putting away Christmas. In our house, we begin with the in-house decorations. Nowadays it is a sorting process. There is a storage box labeled “house decorations” and another labeled “old house decorations”. Into the latter box go decorations we agree need not come out again next year. Over time the “old” boxes have increased while the ones we will be putting out again diminish. Time was, the decorations filled every part of a 11-room Victorian. Now, it is enough to decorate the living and dining rooms, and sit a smattering of stuffed Christmas characters up the stairs and one each in the other rooms of our Colonial.

We don’t take down the tree until it is on the verge of being a fire hazard. When it comes down, a similar process takes place. What do we what for next year vs. what can we put away? This is necessitated by the smaller tree. It used to be 9 ½ feet high. Now, more like 7 feet and an all indications are it will be getting shorter, as am I. Shorter tree, less room for ornaments. The first to go were the ones that appealed to children, but we haven’t had kids in front of our tree in years. So, Looney Tunes characters and plastic Frosties have been replaced with a few lovely glass ornaments which are pleasing to our older selves, but not something one buys with small children, cats or puppies.

Now, putting away the holidays means more than just boxing things up until next year; it means setting things aside in an effort to keep Christmas manageable and meaningful for us today. There are still memories and cherished pieces, but now some are on the tree and others are in our hearts and boxed up in the cellar. Remembered by their absence like loved ones not joining us, but still a part of Christmas.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.