Monday, January 08, 2007

Haul away the holly

When I lived in Shoebox Manor, all my Christmas shit fit in two boxes: the box for my four-foot tree and the smallish packing box that held all my lights, the assorted garlands and other crap I strung on my tree, my stocking, my garter, the Santa hat I put on my cheap knockoff reproduction David bust, and a handful of candles and other doodads I scattered around the house. Total decorating-for-Christmas time: two hours. Total un-decorating-for-Christmas time: 45 minutes, including vacuuming.

But this year I got to experience Christmas in my friends Jim and Jeff’s fabulous Five-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Castle, while New Condo Smackdown 06-07 kept my own Christmas shit packed away in a distant storage locker. The boys spent inordinate hours decorating their home for the holidays, and I pitched in on the nights I was actually home to help. And everything looked lovely. Sumptuous, even. And this Saturday we tore it all down, boxed it all up and packed it all away until next year. Total time for the three of us: seven hours, plus a few random little things we still have to deal with. And on one of my last trips to the basement with one of the last boxes of holiday cheer blocking my view of my feet, I missed the last step and gave my ankle a jarring little shock. Nothing’s swollen or discolored, so I think my future as an ankle model is still assured. But it hurts enough that I am considering myself a martyr for the cause. A Misfit Toy in a world of high-kicking Rockettes. A 6'1" Tiny Tim for the gay home-decorating set.

I always imbue the act of packing up the Christmas crap with a weird time-capsule sentimentality. As I wrap and box and store my stuff every January, I feel like I’m packing up the memories of the whole previous year—until they’re unwrapped again in 11 months or so when my whole world could be completely different. Or boringly the same. This feeling probably grew out of the years my mom was recovering from breast cancer, when she’d make sure my sister and I understood the importance of various ornaments every year in case she wasn’t there to tell us about them again the next year. This was to be her legacy: a thorough understanding of Aunt Lottie’s homemade Christmas crafts. And every time we packed stuff up and hauled it to the basement, we were haunted by the idea that this could be the last holiday act we committed as an intact family. Fortunately, Mom is still with us. But if any of her ornaments are to survive through the generations, they’ll have to do it on my sister’s branch of the family fir; I’m strictly a garlands-and-coordinating-ribbons kind of guy. My tree may be emotionally meaningless, but it sure matches the drapes nice.

I also like to pack stuff up using the current newspaper, so when I unpack the glories of Christmas each year I can be reminded of that funny thing Paris Hilton said to the press a year earlier. It’s a great way to combine the fun of decorating with the excitement of remembering which blockbuster movies you’ve completely forgotten about, what stores have gone out of business, and the things like Pat Robertson’s unhinged world predictions and Mr. Blackwell’s inarticulate fashion rantings that yet again have failed to create a blip beyond the end-of-year news holes they once filled.

This unpack-decorate-undecorate-repack-store pattern has been repeating itself every year since I bought my first house in 1993. And next year, for the first time ever, unless Something Too Horrible To Contemplate happens, I’ll be blending holiday traditions with the boyfriend. Unfortunately, since neither of us put up a tree this year, we have no idea how compatible we are in the holiday department. Fortunately, though, my decorations are all pretty much cheap crap and I don’t think he has any decorations to his name, so we can start fresh if we want. And now we’ll have extra storage and nothing but time, so we’re gonna be fabulous.

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