Saturday, December 27, 2008

I am taking the tree down today

Erma Bombeck - Another Christmas season bites the dust
(Editor's Note: The following column is one of 195 included in ''Forever, Erma'' (Andrews and McMeel), a recently published collection of the best-loved writing from America's favorite humorist, Erma Bombeck. This column originally appeared Jan. 1, 1987.)
You say you've had enough people around to last you a lifetime?
You say if you don't get some time to yourself you may start braiding your hair and humming?
You'd like to clear everyone out of the house and be able to have some quiet time alone?
Read my lips and slowly repeat after me: ''I am going to take the Christmas tree down.'' You will only have to say it once and feet will scurry, doors will slam, car motors will turn over. In 30 seconds you'll feel like the last person on Earth.
No one loves a Christmas tree on Jan. 1. The wonderful soft branches that the family couldn't wait to get inside to smell have turned into rapiers that jab you. The wonderful blinking lights that Daddy arranged by branch and color have knotted themselves hopelessly around crumbling brownery and have to be severed with a bread knife. The stockings that hung by the chimney with care are hanging out of sofa cushions, and they smell like clam dip.
And the angel that everyone fought to put on top of the tree can only be removed with an extension ladder that is in the garage, and no one can remember how to fit it through the door.
Next to the presidency, detrimming a tree has to be the loneliest job in the world. It has fallen to women for centuries and is considered a skill only they can do, like replacing the roll on the toilet tissue spindle, painting baseboards, holding a wet washcloth for a child who is throwing up or taking out a splinter with a needle.
How to undecorate the tree is my business. There's no one around to give advice, so I do it my way. I take the end of a rope of gold tinsel and give it a jerk. The tree spins around, and I clean the whole thing off in eight seconds. I eat the candy canes as I go along. Better me than the mice. I never bother with sheets to catch all the dry needles. I just vacuum them up until the sweeper smokes. Then I empty it and start all over again. The balls near the bottom I catch in a box, and the ones near the top I shake off and sometimes catch in midair.
If this creates wear and tear on the ornaments, tough. Next time around, my husband can marry a tall girl who plays basketball.
Any gift left under the tree legally reverts to the person who untrims the tree. This includes money left on branches and magazine subscriptions.
In nearly 38 years, you'd think someone would be curious enough to ask what happened to that large tree that was in the living room last week. No one ever does. Somewhere between Arizona's first down on Michigan's 15-yard line, Christmas '86 passed into history.

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