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Happy New Year

Happy New Year

When I was a child, New Year’s was a sad holiday. It was the day the now shabby and wilting Christmas tree came down; the day we were forced to eat black-eye peas swimming in bacon grease for luck; and the day before the dreaded Return to School. Whereas December had been filled with class parties, cookies, gift exchanges, singing carols, and a Christmas play that the entire elementary school presented, January was a bleak, cold month in Tennessee filled with homework and early bed time. No magic allowed.

New Year seemed an even more hollow celebration as I grew older. Even though by high school the December lead up to Christmas no longer carried even the slightest celebratory trace of magic, still the idea of two whole weeks without six periods each day, homework to match, and avoiding the Popular People in the halls was anticipatory nirvana. But New Year’s once again marked the end of freedom and the return to drudgery. Nothing joyful about that.

After I graduated to career person, I used to hang out at various New Year’s parties, trying to feel festive and not sad. I never developed a circle of close friends, so I always shouted “Happy New Year!” among strangers. Despite being happy to be included, a holiday with people I didn’t know just reminded me I was pretty much rowing my little boat alone in the big wide ocean. No magic there.

But after I became the mother of three, I began, at last, to see New Year’s differently. It all changed about the time my oldest hit preschool, and I encountered the hurdles that face a Mom with Kids in School between October and January 1. First came Halloween, and sewing costumes. Three children, three costumes, a night of trick or treating, and then scraping my exhausted little ones off the bed and back to school on November 1. Then came Thanksgiving and preparing a feast alone while making sure three children under the age of five did not vaporize themselves while I shopped, chopped, baked, served, and counted the silver forks when it was over to make sure I hadn’t thrown one out. Next came Christmas. More sewing: matching mother, daughter, and sons outfits to wear to church on Christmas Eve. Decorating the house, including hauling a tree home on top of the car. And last, but not least, doing Santa’s work for him – and realizing that Santa Claus was just another way to keep women from earning credit for their own hard work. (On Christmas morning the kids never knew not only had I bought the toys, I had spent the night assembling them!)

When New Year’s rolled around that first year of being a Mom with Kids in School, I took a big breath (after the Christmas tree was down) and realized that no more holidays were in sight until Easter. Yipee! Suddenly New Year’s was not the drab little elf sitting on my shoulder after all the glittering Christmas fairies and angels had departed for warmer climates. No, New Year’s was the well-deserved break I had earned! Thankfully, Valentine’s and Easter were fairly minor holidays in the yearly pantheon, leaving me time to rest up before the onset of serious Birthday Season in our family: May, July, August, and September. Followed, of course again, by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and – at last – the well earned rest New Year’s!

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I am asking myself if it’s time to take down the Christmas tree. The answer to this question used to be set in stone: on New Year’s Day, it came down. But gradually over the years, especially after the kids grew up and lost interest in the tree, I stopped adhering to the hard and fast rule. Sometimes, if it feels right, I take it down before The New Year. When I got up yesterday morning, I began to feel as if it is about time to put it away.

Of course, I always resist taking it down. Night after night, I like to sit in the livingroom with just the light from the tree and the glitter from the ornaments lighting the dark. Face it, you only get a limited number of nights per year to bask in Christmas magic.

And, every year, as I begin to think about boxing up all the shiny eggs and balls and bells that look as if Faberge colored them and jeweled them and iced them with glitter, I ask myself how it would look to put them on a fake Ficus and leave them up all year round. If I did that, I could also keep my tiny skaters and shoppers, bears and llamas, felt birds and reindeer right where I could see them! Oh, joy! Maybe.

That train of thought always brings me inevitably to one conclusion: you can’t imitate a Christmas tree. Sadly but truly, the magic of the season yields to the new broom that sweeps everything clean on New Year’s Day. As much as I love Christmas, seeing my neighbor’s wreath on the door in late August (yes, he never takes it down) does not fill me with Christmas excitement. It makes me sad, as if I’ve arrived at a party where everyone else has already gone home.

Over the last couple of days, as I have mulled over the task of putting each precious ornament away for another year and boxing up my beloved fake pre-lit pine (don’t gasp in horror, I can’t put up a real five foot tree by myself because it is as big as I am but I can whip this one out of the box in five minutes flat unaccompanied!) I am thinking about the coming year. I often look back at this time, but I have discovered looking back only brings a profound sense of loss. Like the wreath on the door in summer, looking back at the New Year makes me sad.

The point of changing that digit in the date is fresh opportunity. New and wonderful things have been ahead every year but looking back has kept me from anticipating them with joy. I see the point in the Biblical story about Lot’s wife who turned to salt when God told her not to look back as they fled Sodom.

So, I am going to take my tree down with joy and put up my sparkling, fantastical New Year’s decorations with joy, and I am going to embrace the New Year and change and be happy! And I wish everyone of you a happy and prosperous 2013, and thank you for being my readers!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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