A Middle-Aged Woman Laughs (and Whimpers) Over Christmas Re-Packing
By:  Mary Fran Bontempo

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Saint Joseph lost his head.

As is my custom, right after the New Year, I began the arduous process of putting away all of the Christmas crap…er, decorations. Labor intensive and not at all rewarding, given the fact that after everything is safely put away, the entire house needs to be cleaned, it’s a job I detest—no surprise to any woman out there.

As the holiday approaches, most of us revel in the glitter and glitz, gently unpacking treasured ornaments and decorations and placing them in their time-honored places around the house. The clean up is another story.

Oh, who am I kidding? I used to feel all misty-eyed and sentimental about decorating, back when the kids were small and their little eyes shined at the winter wonderland I created for them at Christmas. Snowmen and reindeer, Santas, nativity scenes, lighted villages, a glistening tree festooned with ornaments they’d chosen over the years. All of it meant something then.

It meant something not only because of their wide-eyed reactions to my excessive and hysterical decorating, but also because in the back of my mind, the time would come when I’d be able to pass the torch, and all of the boxes of junk, on to them in their own homes, where they would continue for their own children the traditions I’d begun for them. At that point, I’d simply watch the re-creation, the respected elder who provided the elements of the transformation. As for decorating my own home? I’d happily march outside, cut a few evergreen boughs from the trees, lay them on the mantle with a couple of candles interspersed throughout, and be done with the whole overwrought process.

But recently, my kids have informed me that the entire ordeal is too much for them to even contemplate, much less execute. My daughter, Laura, went so far as to say that if I insisted on giving her an entire set of light up houses, she’d simply put them on display in their boxes, picture side out, and forgo the unpacking altogether.

So, not only has the art of decorating in the first place lost its shine, the thought of putting away and storing the thirty-plus boxes, bins and bags of Christmas clutter has me running for a wine bottle and fighting off a major panic attack, as it looks like I’ll never get rid of this ka-ka.

Thus, the unfortunate episode with Saint Joseph.

I was wrapping the attendees of the first Christmas, part of a large nativity scene my mother-in-law once gave me (by the way, thanks for that) when I got to Saint Joseph. Much as I hate to admit it, I was not according the earthly father of our Lord the respect he deserves. Past Christmas clean-ups have found me carefully wrapping the nativity veterans in newspaper and gently placing them together in a large box. This year, however, I picked up St. Joe and, well, I whacked him against a shepherd already in the box. A sickening crack confirmed my fears: Saint Joseph was beheaded as cleanly as if I’d put him in a guillotine.

Horrified, I ran for my glue gun, hardly able to contain myself until the thing heated up and I could re-attach Joseph’s head. After the third attempt, when once again, Joseph’s noggin refused to sit straight on his neck, it hit me—the solution to my decorating and packing woes. Let’s call it the art of the “Ooops!”

From now on, instead of painstakingly wrapping every decoration in newspaper and placing it in a bin to be hauled up to the attic or down the basement, I’ll systematically break or ruin things one at a time until there’s nothing left. Next year, Christmas will look a bit different.

What happened to the light-up Dickens villages? Gee, I don’t know, kids. Looks like jolly old England must have had an earthquake. The stuffed snowmen and Santa by the hearth? I guess the dog misplaced her chew toys and figured they would do in a pinch. Where are the 400 tree ornaments? I’m really sorry, but the box slipped out of my hands when I was dragging it down from the attic. Guess we’ll have to go green this year and skip the tree.

Not everything will be jettisoned, of course. I’ll leave the Nativity scene intact, such as it is, given the current state of Saint Joseph’s head.  After all, Saint Joseph provided the inspiration for this plan.  He deserves a reprieve, as well as my unending devotion, for that.

Have your own Christmas re-packing horror stories? Click “comments” below, in red, and share!