January 1st, 2010

Christmas, Advent

Advent 2009: Another Christmas season bites the dust

My mom liked Erma Bombeck but I think she would be horrified by the idea that you might take down the tree as early as January 1. She loved Christmas, and especially she loved Christmas ornaments, so she would always keep up the tree as long as possible. If she weren't so attached to having a real tree, she might never have taken it down.

Incidentally, Bombeck is wrong: the Christmas season is not yet over, liturgically speaking. Depending on who you ask, the Christmas season ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, on the Sunday after Epiphany, or on Candlemas. I lean toward the first, which is why I have five more poems to post before wrapping this project up.

Another Christmas season bites the dust

January 1, 1987

You say you've had enough people around to last you a lifetime?

You say if you don't get some time to yourself you may start braiding your hair and humming?

You'd like to clear everyone out of the house and be able to have some quiet time alone?

Read my lips and slowly repeat after me: "I am going to take the Christmas tree down." You will only have to say it once and feet will scurry, doors will slam, car motors will turn over. In 30 seconds you'll feel like the last person on Earth.

No one loves a Christmas tree on Jan. 1. The wonderful soft branches that the family couldn't wait to get inside to smell have turned into rapiers that jab you. The wonderful blinking lights that Daddy arranged by branch and color have knotted themselves hopelessly around crumbling brownery and have to be severed with a bread knife. The stockings that hung by the chimney with care are hanging out of sofa cushions, and they smell like clam dip.

And the angel that everyone fought to put on top of the tree can only be removed with an extension ladder that is in the garage, and no one can remember how to fit it through the door.

Next to the presidency, detrimming a tree has to be the loneliest job in the world. It has fallen to women for centuries and is considered a skill only they can do, like replacing the roll on the toilet tissue spindle, painting baseboards, holding a wet washcloth for a child who is throwing up or taking out a splinter with a needle.

How to undecorate the tree is my business. There's no one around to give advice, so I do it my way. I take the end of a rope of gold tinsel and give it a jerk. The tree spins around, and I clean the whole thing off in eight seconds. I eat the candy canes as I go along. Better me than the mice. I never bother with sheets to catch all the dry needles. I just vacuum them up until the sweeper smokes. Then I empty it and start all over again. The balls near the bottom I catch in a box, and the ones near the top I shake off and sometimes catch in midair.

If this creates wear and tear on the ornaments, tough. Next time around, my husband can marry a tall girl who plays basketball.

Any gift left under the tree legally reverts to the person who untrims the tree. This includes money left on branches and magazine subscriptions.

In nearly 38 years, you'd think someone would be curious enough to ask what happened to that large tree that was in the living room last week. No one ever does. Somewhere between Arizona's first down on Michigan's 15-yard line, Christmas '86 passed into history.

Erma Bombeck (1927 – 1996)

Previous Advent posts:

2004: Auld Lang Syne
2005: New Year's Day in Tokyo
2006: A Happy New Year
2007: New Year’s Day
2008: Panel from a Diptych Showing the Adoration of the Magi
2009: Auld Lang Syne

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Books 2009

Here are the books I read in 2009. It's quite a lot fewer than I read in 2008, and I didn't maintain the even balance between fiction and non-fiction I aim for, but I can live with a 56/44 split. These are presented in reverse order, i.e. the one I finished most recently is listed first.

  1. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose
  2. Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times by Ralph Stanley with Eddie Dean
  3. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency by Barton Gellman
  4. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip—Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica
  5. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
  6. I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb
  7. Demon Ex Machina: Tales of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
  8. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  9. State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey
  10. Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
  11. The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran
  12. The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Tad Williams
  13. Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, Michael Lewis, ed.
  14. A Devil to Play: One Man's Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra's Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees
  15. Polo: The Runaway Book by Regis Faller
  16. Deja Demon: The Days and Nights of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
  17. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  18. Get Real by Donald E. Westlake
  19. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  21. Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
  22. Revenge of the Spellmans: A Novel by Lisa Lutz
  23. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  24. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  25. Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo
  26. The Associate by John Grisham
  27. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal
  28. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  29. Boogers Are My Beat: More Lies, But Some Actual Journalism! by Dave Barry
  30. The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
  31. The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son by David Gerrold
  32. Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations by Charles Wilkinson
  33. Demons Are Forever: Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
  34. The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War by James Mann
  35. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel by Charlie Huston
  36. Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
  37. Fool: A Novel by Christopher Moore
  38. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  39. Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Explains Cloning, Blouse Monsters, Voting Machines, Romance, Monkey Gods, How to Avoid Being Mistaken for a Rodent, and More by Scott Adams
  40. The Shack by William P. Young
  41. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  42. Redeemed: A Spiritual Misfit Stumbles Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding by Heather King
  43. The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent into the Ocean's Depths by Bernie Chowdhury
  44. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  45. Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty by Steven Waldman
  46. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
  47. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
  48. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
  49. The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley and Tanner Colby
  50. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  51. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  52. Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times by George Crile
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