Given what pleasure there is in putting the Christmas tree and decorations up, I suppose it's only fair that taking them down again should make a person sad. I took them down on the correct day (Twelfth Night, Jan 6th) but it's taken me nearly a week to get round to packing them up properly and putting them away.
During the twenty years I lived in a different city from my family I used to come home every year for Christmas, and some years I'd bring home some new decoration for the family tree that I'd found while travelling, to replace things that had become shabby or been smashed.
After my mother died, my sisters and I each took back whatever we'd originally bought. So when I was packing up the decorations this afternoon in their tissue paper, my mother's handwriting leaped out at me unexpectedly again -- see December 12 post -- in a note featuring my own family nickname (hereafter 'X'), which was the only thing she ever called me except when she was white-knuckle angry with me. My ma was the kind of person who not only wrapped all the decorations in tissue but wrote on each parcel a note saying what was inside. The note said 'Pearly white bells and icicles, X, Christmas 1987.'
This year I had a tree for the first time in five years, since the cats moved in. I decided to chance it, and it was a good call; to my astonishment, they completely ignored it. I'd anticipated something along the lines of the Get Fuzzy Christmas classic, with Bucky Katt swinging wildly from a string of exploding lights in the topmost branches of the about-to-come-crashing-down tree, Satchel Pooch looking horrified in the foreground, and the caption 'Bright Lights, Bad Kitty'.
In the event, the tortoiseshells couldn't have been less interested, and left it aloofly alone. It's a great little tree, a completely non-realistic looking arrangement of stylised gold-coloured 'branches' that look like something out of Michael Leunig's Mr Curly cartoons. It was decorated with red, white, silver, gold and crystal ornaments that mostly take the form of critters and musical instruments. I hated taking it down.
But my consolation, as I look around the blogosphere and see the spectrum of reactions from stoicism to real despair that people are describing about going back to work, is that I don't have to. Sure, the workload itself is piling up, the phone is starting to ring, the deadlines are starting to loom. The income is wildly irregular and overwhelmingly modest; I sure as hell don't get leave loading; and if I get sick then that's just too bad. But my workplace is my desk and my boss is the woman in the mirror, and there's no feeling in the world quite like it. If anybody out there is contemplating the jump -- just do it. Life is short, and you only get one.