Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cleaning up the old Year

I am sitting right now looking into my sun room, (former screened in porch), and procrastinating against cleaning up the last remnants of the Christmas tree, which would be pine needles.  Yesterday I took down the Christmas tree.  In my holiday rituals that usually falls somewhere around New Year's weekend.  I know many like to do it right after Christmas, taking down the dregs of the season finished quickly and neatly.  Its just not me.  I don't put up my live tree until the first weekend of December and like the idea of one month of Christmas tree gazing and happiness in the season. 

The tree came down pretty easily.  It is a job that I like the day to accomplish.  Off come the candy canes, then the ornaments, carefully re-boxed and packed away according to category or child as some day I keep thinking my other two kids will want the ornaments that are officially theirs with names listed on the box.  My eldest child took his ornaments a couple of years ago, and I still found a couple more with his name on them when I packed them away this year.  I worked on the tree through the Rose Bowl Parade, a once never-miss New Year's tradition.  Its been a decade or more since that was the case, but yesterday I enjoyed listening to the parade being broadcast and it was easy enough to turn to view breathtaking floats and wonder at how they do this, year after year.  But it was listening to the Marine Corp Band play the Corps Anthem and hear those first bars, "From the Halls of Montezuma", that brought tears to my eyes.  And the Salvation Army Band, a staple at the Rose Parade, and their familiar music allowing me to travel through the years, backward to that time when I was a kid and viewing the parade for the first time in living color.  In this age of second changing technology we forget what a thrill just watching the Rose Parade in color was to us then.

I continued taking down the tree through the Michigan State Bowl game in Tampa, FL.  It still smarted that we had been denied a BCS Bowl game because of politics and the NCAA's insistence on who travels well which said in the end its all about money.  We had to play yet another SEC team and the first half looked to be a replay of most of our bowl games in recent years.  But the second half was different and many would say the opponent went conservative but I think MSU just wanted it more and had some help from Above, though I always say He has no interest in these kinds of things.   Still, he seemed evident in that things that should have assured a win for Georgia, kept Michigan State in the game.  The tree take down slowed to a crawl, as I paced and vented that this game would never get over.  In a third over time, it was decided and Michigan State broke a long drought in Bowl games, Coach Mark Dantonio got his first Bowl win as a Spartan head coach and several very worthy seniors their first Bowl game win. 

A satisfying win and after a celebration dinner in which I actually made my first cupcakes from scratch since the very early years of my marriage, along with scratch buttercream icing, I settled down to finish the tree.  The last of the ornaments were packed up.  I always spend more time looking all the ornaments over taking them down as I'm rushed getting all of them on the tree.  I remember that I got the Muppets ornament for Annie thinking I would start cartoon ornaments for her, but having already started "angels" for her.  Korey got all the antique car ornaments and a few motorcycles, which are really kind of far removed from him.  They bring smiles as I tenderly put them back in their boxes for another year long sleep.  The light strings come off next and I note that one string which seemed to quit working and have another string added, now all worked.  Thirteen light strings and my tree was the smallest I had since our first Christmas together.  A bare tree now stared at me.  All that was left was to lift it from the stand and carry it out the door to the back deck.  In under five minutes the former Christmas tree lay outside forlorn and bare, a temporary perch for the birds who filled the feeder next to the deck. 

After the tree was disposed of, I turned attention to packing away Grandma's Creche.  In our second year of marriage, Grandma Laurenz, an adamant crafter, made all of the married grandchildren a ceramic Nativity set on her winter sojourn in Florida.  Ceramics was something Grandma took up the last two decades of her life.  She fired the creations in Florida most of the time where she and Grandpa wintered.   The painted images were never very sharp, and the colors, at the time seemed rather bland, and it was more because they were my one Nativity that I put them up every year.  But time has changed my perspective, even as time has seemed to age those ceramic figures into an ageless patina that seemed to glow with my grandma's presence and life.   They weren't perfect but in that very imperfection they speak to me of Grandma and the love she used to make them.  It was tenderly this year, that I put those ceramic figures in the same box they had been stored for 33 years.  Will this be something to be passed on?   Who knows, but I do know to me this Creche is a very special reminder of my grandma and the dimple in her round cheeks when she wanted to tease us.  Christmas memories now rise up to meet me everywhere I turn.  Is it that this year has been different, or that as I age, I look for and cling to those things that have made me who I am?  I am the product of all that has gone before me and was bequeathed to me.  I am not finished yet into growing what I will be in the end, and the good Lord willing I will be here to grow for years to come. 

Today I will vacuum the pine needles, left by the tree we cut to give other trees we'd planted room to grow and spread.  It gave us pleasure and did its job.  Today I will take down the spare decoration and light string scattered throughout the living room.  The snowmen display and Santas in the kitchen and dining area will stay a few weeks longer.  But I have to face the fact, Christmas is done, the New Year has begun and its high time ....

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