Today I went to the Bird Lady’s house. I call her the Bird Lady, not because she has a bunch of birds in cages, but because she spends the majority of her days in her sunroom smoking cigarettes and identifying all the birds who fly into her yard. She is an elderly woman, in her mid-seventies, but still gets around surprisingly well and always has her “face” on, even when she is in her nightgown.
Today was one of the two days of the year I dread going to the Bird Lady’s house. Today is the day we “put away Christmas.” The other day of the year I would rather get a root canal is in early December when we “put up Christmas.”
Christmas is stored in Birdie’s attic, atop one of those precariously narrow and flimsy pull-down ladders. Christmas consists of about nine boxes and tubs and a six-foot fake tree in 3 sections. The base of the tree is about four feet in diameter, which is two feet wider than the attic opening. The floor of the attic is sparsely covered in loose, two-by-fours straddling the rafters. One wrong step and I’m taking the express elevator to body cast land. So two days out of the year, I have to turn into a contortionistic, gymnast weightlifter who juggles 20 pound boxes flawlessly while hoping the curse words in my head do not make it to my mouth. This year’s excavation went well, with only a few splinters and a bruised elbow.
Next, after all the boxes and tree are down, comes three hours so painstaking I can only liken it to walking through the desert with no water and two boulders tied to your feet while being able to see the oasis in the distance. As I put up the tree (and embark on the maddening search for where the pre-installed lights plug into each other), Birdie opens each box. Then she sits on the couch and picks up each ornament, checks it over and verbally catalogs it before handing it to me for placement on the tree. Each one has a story and every one goes on the tree. All two hundred incredibly fragile, ancient ornaments with 50 years of Christmas memories attached. Granted it is very endearing and poignant but this is my tenth year crossing the desert and I am parched.
Of course this doesn’t include the four boxes of Christmas “other.” Christmas plates, Christmas dish towels, figurines, door stoppers, crocheted hanging signs, reindeer mantelpieces and one very big nativity scene. The barn itself is a solid wood behemoth that baby Jesus could have easily fit in to and placement of all the nativity figures always poses some logistical scriptural questions (“I think the Wise Men would want to be closer, dear. They can’t see a thing over the donkey’s head.”).
So by time I’m done the house looks like Santa successfully took a glittering crap all over the place and I can breathe a sigh of relief while looking toward that other day with the creeping dread of an anticipated appendectomy. That other day was today.
Today we repeated the whole process but in reverse. Each ornament carefully taken off the tree and put in its proper box. Each knickknack meticulously wrapped and secured. Every figurine placed in its allotted slot.
And then the worst part of all. Putting it all back up in the attic. I only screamed once when a Christmas tree branch stabbed me in the eye and I think my ankle will be ok in a couple of days. Eleven months and counting….