De-Decorating (When the Light Hits It)

EMERY GEYER

A vignette and poem

BY GABI ZEGERS

I’ll be honest: de-decorating is depressing.

When Christmas is over, all the brilliant blues, greens, whites, purples, gold, silver, and reds disappear into the vintage plastic storage bins we had hastily brushed and dusted before bringing them into our house a mere month before, with more energy and gusto than we now have putting them back. 

De-decorating marks another new semester approaching. Another eleven months before we see again the artifacts, young and old, that we are putting away. Another step toward growing gray hairs and a stooped back.  

The snowflakes, ribbons, and banners come down from the windows. The feathery-winged angels, the tinsel, the luminous ornaments we’ve collected, Santa Claus and his wife with all their clones scattered around the house, and Sint-Nicolaas too settle into their respective bins. 

Where in the world did we get all this? When? 

The stockings; poinsettias; twinkling Christmas lights; statuettes; heirlooms made of intricately painted wood and porcelain; nativity scenes of several shapes, sizes, media, and ethnicities; movies and CDs that are past their prime but have reigned as classics for decades; and the rainbow light-up snowman I won in a white elephant gift exchange are all mummified in wrapping paper. I leave the snowman out and turn it on, just to have one last hurrah, glowing for the first time in 2021. 

I glance under the coffee table. A shred of red wrapping paper is barely affixed to the floor with a piece of magic tape. Foam holly berries and plastic fir needles project from the rug. It’s an effective bird’s nest in the making, and I feel bad relocating it to the trash can.  

The silk linens and gold-rimmed, holly-bordered dishware are neatly folded, wrapped, and placed into the boxes in which they were first purchased. They’re placed into the familiar plastic bins. Along with them depart the smells of ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon. The recipes join: the savory chilli powder, peanut butter, and cacao in my father’s chicken mole; then goes the sweet saltiness of the ham, green beans, and scalloped potatoes made with care by my mother; taking up the rear are the iced sugar cookies my sister and I prepared for our neighbors and ourselves. 

Even the holiday pounds will leave for ten months, twenty-nine days, twenty-three hours, and thirty-seven minutes. We hope they leave, anyway. Maybe that’s all we hope leaves for a while.

I take down and pack, at least pleased with the speed of my work, not realizing until it’s too late that I have uprooted and compromised my mother’s carefully-constructed organization. In my twenty-two years, one month, sixteen days, and six hours of existence, I have yet to crack her code. Every year, she has conducted the routine clean-up like a symphonic orchestra… 

… with the occasional rogue tuba. 

This marks another semester approaching. Another ten months, twenty-nine days, twenty-two hours, and forty-nine minutes before we see the relics, young and old, that we’re putting away. Another step toward growing gray hairs and a stooped back.  

The house is less brilliant, less shiny now. We remove the silver garlands and golden ornaments from the sad artificial plant that had seemed to perk up for a few weeks. 

This marks the end of another unique Christmas. Or does it? 

*** 

The joy of Christmas is that there is always reason to celebrate

The Gift was born, died, and is alive

Many years before I was a thought traced in my parents’ minds,

Long before my grandmother painted the wood and ceramic sculptures we display in December,

On an unremarkable night, 

Through unremarkable people, 

By a seemingly silent God, 

An extraordinary event occurred that had been foretold from Earth’s first dawn

Pulling each person away from his own, limited perspective.

I AM was on earth

His Word lived among us

And continues to live 

Within broken jars, 

Sealing the cracks with gold from the inside out

Filling and surrounding them with fire 

So that all humanity can thrive,

Seeking other humans to heal, 

Filling other recovering jars

From the original jars, recovering. 

The significance extends infinitely in either direction of time, 

Woven into the fabric of reality—

The heavenly celebration that before the earth’s creation was, 

And is, 

And is to come. 

An ode to beginnings: old, new, and not yet. 

When gray hairs come

And my back is stooped,

I know I am at the end 

Yet on the threshold, 

And a graciously-included part of His Story 

***

The decorations disappear into the bins for another ten months, twenty-nine days, and twenty one hours. The bins enter the attic, again to accumulate a film of dust bunnies, cobwebs, and dead bugs once again. 

Nevertheless, what is inside—unperturbed by the grime outside—will be just as luminous whenever the light hits it. 

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