I took my Xmas tree down yesterday, a couple of days before the twelfth night, but it seemed as good a time as any.
It is always a slightly dispiriting exercise; a reversal of the anticipation and excitement that putting the tree up involves. The one thing that is easier, though, is the lights. Draping lights around a Xmas tree is up there on my most hated list of pre-Xmas jobs, along with trying to park at a liquor store. Dragging them off is a whole lot easier, as is drinking the liquor.
My mother announced that she also intended to dismantle Xmas at my parents’ place today and this was by far a bigger exercise. I basically have a tree and a few stand-alone ornaments, she has multiple Xmas features on every available vertical and horizontal surface, ones that are hanging from the ceiling and of course, the tree.
My brother and I were going to go to see Rogue One this morning.
‘Just hang on,’ I said, ‘I will be over to go to the movies and we can take it all down together. With three of us, it won’t take long at all.’
Of course, that was never going to happen and when I arrived to pick my brother up, there was what I can only describe as a confusion of decorations strewn all over the floor and sofas. The tree was stripped but still standing – at least two thirds of it was – and the lights were tangled around its base and lower limbs.
It was this that distracted me as I moved to at least get the lights off before we left, as a result we were late getting to the cinema and that meant that we only got tickets, not drinks or popcorn: better for us, really, but where is the fun in that?
The movie was pretty long and then we went shopping for some stuff, which took longer. By the time we got home it was mid-afternoon.
We set about packing stuff away, pulling tinsel branches apart and wrapping fragile decorations in tissue paper. My mother sat in her chair trying to retrieve escaping Xmas tree globes with a back scratcher that I bought her a couple of years ago: a long black handle with a fixed hand shape at the end of it.
She also began to use it as a tool to direct operations.
‘I need that box over there,’ she would say, then gesture with the tiny black claw to indicate what she wanted. We ended upreferring to it as the black claw of doom as she wielded it with increasing ruthlessness from her chair to ensure Xmas was packed up and her house returned to order.
In the midst of this madness, I went upstairs to get the ladder and saw laundry on the steps. My mother had decided to strip her bed of linen, wash it and replace it, just to add another thing to do in her day.
I took the sheets upstairs and made the bed. Then my brother and I loaded up the trolley and shipped all the boxes and bags of glitter, tinsel and Christmas promise back to the basement storage area five floors below.
Christmas had been packed away and I have a last few days with my brother before he, too flies home and all I could think of was how much I fancied an onion bahji. When I have visited him in Thailand with my husband, we have always gone to a restaurant which has the best onion bahjis I have ever tasted in my life. However tonight, I was due to be thwarted. I thought perhaps I could pick something up in a supermarket, or at a pinch a local food court – apparently not, I should have gone for an Indian takeaway when I had the chance – or made them, as I have just googled the recipe and it is not hard. Or perhaps I should have invoked the tiny black claw of doom, that would have done it.
In the end I made nachos and drank a Cosmopolitan. Christmas has been packed away and I have a few precious days of leave left before I return to work, just ahead of the first public holiday of the year – gotta love Australia!