Taking Down Christmas

I have finally tucked away all of our Christmas stuff, which always feels so darn bracing and refreshing. The Christmas decorations are like vacation — I love the during, but it’s pretty awesome getting back to normal, too.

It felt like a particularly long stretch after Christmas this year because I like to wait until everyone’s back out of the house at school or work before I dismantle the tree. It’s a serious project because we have a ton of ornaments, many of which have their own individual packaging or batteries that have to be removed or delicate pieces that need to be swaddled into tissue paper. So I just completely surrender to the process and put a movie–possibly even two–on the TV. This year I queued up Bird Box, which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I predicted most of the major plot points.

Anyway, this year as I pulled everything apart, I took a few pictures along the way.

These are some of my favorite ornaments from long ago when we were newly married and I felt that we urgently needed some ornaments to fill up whatever small-ish tree we would drag up stairs upon stairs to put in our New York apartments. I think these are all from the Pottery Barn. There were originally four ships in a bottle, but they’re glass balls, so we’ve lost half of them along the way. The bears are wood, so they’ve managed to survive the years of getting knocked around.

This cute little snowman is from the same era. We had a party in our Park Slope apartment and one of our guests brought this as a housewarming. We were finally in a presentable enough living space to host people and it felt delightfully grown-up to have a holiday party. Plus, every year that I unpack him and discover that his little twig arms are still jauntily thrusting out from his ceramic body I feel a rush of accomplishment.

Speaking of blasts from the past, this silly and surprisingly enormous wooden ornament was a gift to Cute W and me from my neighbor. In high school I would babysit her kids, and she, my mom, and I schemed to set up my sister with her brother-in-law, a match that stuck. I used to bring boyfriends to her for inspection, and I’ll always remember the time Cute W met her. I brought him over to her house, which was a big, very open contemporary with wood floors all over. The three of us were talking when her kids and many neighborhood kids suddenly showed up, laughing, shouting, and roller skating all over the house. I caught Cute W’s eye because this was the sort of nuttiness that I’d come to expect, but we continued with our conversation. Then, suddenly, my neighbor said, “–Wait a minute–” and then she yelled, “Kids! KIDS! Everybody STOP!!” and they all took it to a slow roll and/or crashed into the nearest counter to look up. I assumed that she was going to send them outside and off her lovely wooden floors, and instead she said, “GO CLOCKWISE!!”

By far the biggest source of our ornament collection is Cute W’s mom’s tradition of purchasing Hallmark ornaments. The girls pick out a new one each year, which means that we have an interesting blend of classics and the super-trendy stuff. . . there used to be a lot of princesses and Barbies, and this year the choices were a succulent and sushi. Along the way, though, the Hallmark creations are so beguiling that if there’s an ornament that involves the Muppets, Star Wars, a classic toy, or the Twelve Days of Christmas available, you’ll likely find it on our tree.

Also: there tends to be an appropriate Hallmark ornament for most major milestones.

My mother isn’t immune to the charm of ornaments, either, and when she encounters super-adorable matching pairs of ornaments, the girls score. Actually the cow couple may pre-date the girls, but for all of these pairs, it is family tradition that the two ornaments never hang far ways from each other so that no one will get lonely. The skater girls are particular favorites.

Cute W has a few family heirloom ornaments that make me laugh every year because they are just. . . not the very cutest ornaments on our tree. But a picture’s worth a thousand words, so enough said on that.

And of course there are the many, many adorable homemade ornaments.

And ornaments that are lovely souvenirs of the Crafty Girl Parties I used to host, way back when the girls were young and they still wanted to have Crafty Girl Parties for the holidays. Sniff. I miss them.

When J was finished with her palate expander shortly before the Christmas holidays years back, I proposed that it was so sparkly that it would be a fun ornament and J eagerly agreed. Since then, she’s come to her senses, and now, each year, every other member of the family looks at this thing and somebody says, “Are we seriously still keeping this thing? It is so gross!” and I insist on keeping it because I am a complete freak and also because I remember that first Christmas, when J was so delighted at the prospect of hanging it from the tree. In deference to good taste, I place it somewhere in the back of the tree, near the wall.

There are oh-so-many more, but in the middle of taking all of these pictures and keeping track of Sandra Bullock’s progress down the river, the kittens were viciously attacking the tissue paper and creating more of a mess all over the living room. I was hell-bent on getting things organized before the rest of the family arrived home. And I almost succeeded.

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