Putting the Holidays Away

As I put away the holidays today — sweeping millions of pine needles from the floor and storing bins filled with lights, ornaments, menorahs, candles, and sundry decorations — it occurred to me that I didn’t dread it as I usually do. In fact, reflecting on the hours and hours of cookie baking, candle lighting, tree decorating, and gift wrapping during the last many weeks, I realized that I loved every one of them. Sadly, this is a first for me.

It’s not that I’m a scrooge or a grinch. I like the festivities, the music, the food, the booze, the colors, the smells, family and friends. And while I’ve had a couple awful holidays — the one after my dad died comes to mind — I’ve also had a few truly wonderful ones — like the first Christmas for each of my kids.

But the holidays are just so much work. They consume so much time. And I’ve never felt like I could afford more work or more time. When I was a student, when I was a professor, when I was single, when I had a family — different responsibilities, different pressures — always an overwhelming sense of busy. The pleasure of decorating, baking, traveling, and celebrating was always overshadowed by the burden of other tasks and obligations.

And then there was the cleaning and the putting away. Oh my god, so much stuff to put away. I dreaded it, every year. What a waste of time, I thought.

Not today, though. Not this year. Despite the weight of a new term, several project deadlines, and the emotional well-being of two teenagers returning to school after a long break, I spent a worry-free couple hours this afternoon putting away Holiday 2018. I’m actually sorry to see it pass, and am grateful for all of the time that I spent with my kids doing all the holiday things.

It seems that I may finally be figuring out how to bring some balance to my life. Better late than never, I suppose.