Three Up; Three Down

And no, I’m not talking about baseball batters. I’m talking about Christmas decorations. It took three days to put them up and three days to take them down. At the beginning of the process, one day was devoted to taking down and stowing the things that are on display year-round. At the other end, a day was devoted to putting them all back up.

I didn’t accomplish this job by myself. Putting things up, I had a lot of help wrestling the bigger items and boxes out of the garage and into the house, and the reverse was true once Christmas was over, but the design work itself was entirely my own.

Over the years when our interior designer Jim Hunt was in charge of the process, we accumulated an amazing assortment of decorations, and lots and lots of boxes. With him at the helm, every room in our house and the front porch as well ended up looking like a department store window with decorations on every flat surface. The result was breathtaking, and that was the good news. The bad news was that the entire process took the better part of a month. And once the holidays were over, taking everything back down and stowing it away was a big job, too.

After Jim retired, the grandkids took over, but this year, if it was to be, it was up to me. That meant that it was time to downsize. Decorations that hadn’t been used in several years went bye-bye. In addition to the main Christmas tree in the entryway, we used to have a forest of trees on the front porch and in the family room as well. This year there was one tree only. In my slimmed down version of Christmas Decor, the living room was all Santas all the time. The front porch was for reindeer, the hallway niche became Nutcracker Central, and the family room was devoted to angels. By the time I finished, everything seemed to be in its proper place, and I was particularly proud of the Soft Santa pyramid!

Yes, this was a far less complex version of Christmas decorating than we’ve had before, but I liked it. I like to think of it as understated elegance.

And this time, when things went back into the garage, the boxes—far fewer of them—were filled and labeled differently. Porch decorations are in one box. Ditto for living room, dining room, family room. Next year the applicable boxes will be able to go straight to the appropriate room rather than sorting them in the garage and dragging them into the house on an individual basis.

This year our celebrations were understated, as well. Lil Jul Aften had the usual crowd, including our four great grandkids, but everyone was able to make it back home safely. With deteriorating driving conditions in Snoqualmie Pass, that was very important. As for Christmas dinner? That one didn’t happen at all due to snow and ice, but the beef roast we bought for that is still stowed in the freezer, and we’ll have it eventually.

The holidays are over. It’s time for me to go back to work at my real job which is writing books. I’m okay at doing Christmas decorations, but I think I’m better at writing.

37 thoughts on “Three Up; Three Down

  1. You did better than us this year. We had one tree barely up, one string of lights and half the ornaments. And yesterday the tree came down. Two weeks for Christmas decor. Of course there is always something that is forgotten to put away! It was a difficult Christmas due to a family members passing last summer.

  2. Well, we KNOW you’re good at writing. But it sounds like you’re pretty creative at Christmas decorating as well! My Christmas decorating took only about an hour, and was confined to only one room, but it hasn’t been UN-decorated yet because I haven’t had an hour since New Year’s to do it. Hope I can get at it tomorrow!

  3. I’m a few stages behind you, Judy. I’m 8 days to set up and 4 days to come down, and still doing 6 themed trees. However, I marked 28 totes by room about two decades ago! God bless you!

  4. Back when I was raising my family on the farm, we decorated the house in an afternoon. We still had to live in it!
    I now live in a 31′ Airstream travel trailer and only have space for small favorites hanging from the valances! Very quick and simple!
    All the kids’ special ornaments went to them years ago. Later when I sold my last house, I let them choose what they wanted from my childhood home and other favorite ones. It is freeing!

  5. Thank you for sharing your holiday decorating. I decorated my house inside and out for years, that hasn’t happened the last four years.
    I’m waiting for the last Ali Reynolds book on audiobook. My library has one and I am 6th in line about 6 weeks or more wait. Can you give a hint about your nexed book??

  6. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year……Hope things are good and keep writing……your “Northern Arizona Stalker”….turned another year older this past December……??

  7. I will be starting the take down today. The person who will probably be upset is my granddaughter (she’s 4). But between me and her father, we will make sure that she knows that the pretty tree will be back soon.

  8. Today is the feast of the Epiphany. That’s the day we take down our Christmas decorations – which this year are slim: one 4 ft. artificial pre-lit tree (no other ornaments other than a handmade felt photo ornament made by our grandson, Cass), two handmade table pine cone decorations made a couple of years ago by yours truly, a plain green painted wooden 12″ tree bought at a yard sale 3 years ago and decorated with bits and pieces and odds and ends of leftovers from other ornaments – again by yours truly. And the piece de resistance, a handmade pine cone door wreath from our last Christmas in Hopewell Junction NY made by a very crafty lady there. It’s falling apart, but we keep it going every year. Hard to discard happy memories. We used to have a life-sized Nativity set outdoors but gave it to our daughter and her family because it became more difficult each year to set it up and hook up all the illumination. For the last two years, we’ve had a plastic 2-foot high, solar powered Nativity set that self-illuminates at night and is pleasing t look at during the day.
    Today, is also the day we mark our lintel in chalk with 20+C+M+B+23, representing the new year with the initials of the 3 Magi who visited the manger – Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar. It is a Polish tradition (and I’m sure in many other heritages as well) as a reminder that gifts are given to use every day, and that God will protect us from evil, just as the Magi were sent to urge the Holy Family to flee to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod.
    I think your revised system of putting up, taking down, and categorizing your Christmas decorations is absolutely wonderful – as are YOU!
    Happy New Year to you and your family – and anticipating many more wonderful stories about Beau, Joanna, Ali, and the Walkers – and maybe another character to be?

  9. Blessings to you and Bill in the New Year. Looking forward to the new books this year. BTW, being roughly the same age, it is all about family at Christmas at our house.
    David

  10. Every year I downsize a little bit more. Didn’t even put up the artificial tree this year. Bought a little paper one that birds were to sit on the limbs–only I’d put three up and when I put the fourth one up, three would fall down. Ended up with double stick tape and taping them to the limbs. It worked.

  11. Now we all know the origin of Mel Soames’s Christmas decorating extravaganza — a little piece of our beloved author’s life!

    We keep the decorations up through Epiphany, also. That will be this weekend’s project. Everything fits into an ornament crate and two smaller boxes for the items that don’t go on the tree. The wreaths into a big bag and the rolled wrapping paper on top of the pile in the attic. When I find whatever we forgot (Margaret, you are not alone) it will go in the general wrapping paper bin so it will get found next year while I’m wrapping. It’s always something different that gets forgotten. Previous years’ items have a memory enhancing mental flag attached, it seems.

    Waiting to have Christmas dinner was wise. Our family also came through the ice storms unscathed, but one of my coworkers slipped on some ice and got a concussion, and his brother-in-law’s car, with him in it, slid sideways down a hill till it encountered an immovable object. Better to stay home and eat out of the cupboards than risk one’s health and safety.

  12. I didn’t even get any decorations out this year at all…just was not feeling it this year. I downsized last year and was meticulous when storing so everything is labeled. Looking forward to the next book!

  13. After a year in which I read 25 of your books, I finally realized of whose writing you remind me: Ernie Pyle. Of course, he wrote in a totally different world, but you achieve the same intimacy with your reader. Have you ever thought about making your blog a weekly newspaper column?

  14. you beat me as well. Today I finished the kitchen (swapping out Christmas dishes for ordinary time ones — began Christmas dishes tradition when we lived in SF bay area and worshipped at a church populated with folk of Swedish descent ) Blessings on all for a good new year .

  15. We scaled down this year, also, due to our ages and just not having the energy we once had. However, it still looked good and we enjoyed looking at it for a few weeks. Yesterday we took it all down. We were so exhausted I vowed never to do it again. But, of course, now that it’s over I’m sure we will try it again next year. Time will tell. As for your writing, I’m glad you are back at that as it brings untold joy to a multitude of fans. Happy New Year, Judy & Bill!

  16. It looks as if you are joining the rest of the nation in paring down. Congratulations! My friend Mary is determined to get rid of a huge pile of stuff in the middle of her and her husband’s living room. They moved in together twelve years ago and the pile has sat there all twelve years, so I don’t hold out much hope for her success. She has always been a hoarder, as has her mother. I, on the other hand get rid of things. The only thing I regret getting rid of is a pair of waterproof black lace-up high top boots. I did that when I moved back down to the state of Washington from Alaska. A mistake! Washington is wet, and these boots were wide enough across the toes, which are hard to find. Do you believe hoarding is genetic?

    • I don’t think hoarding is genetic, but my Great Grandma Mathilda was famous for saving everything. She was able to help new settlers when they moved to neighboring farms. She loved giving things away.

  17. I’ve downsized quite a bit and now it’s just a 3′ artificial tree and ornaments collected through the years. Back in the 60’s & early 70″s, I made quite a few boutique ornaments. Those are now being given as gifts to kids, grandkids, and great-grands.

  18. You sound good at Both! :- ) I’d Love a photo, too if you have 1.
    I downsized this year, too w/that same energy level issue! You’re a Gift to so many year-round & Thx for sharing your good ideas & humor! (& yay for Jim’s work on past Christmases!)

  19. Thanks, I and many others needed your descriptions to reap our memories ad relish the joy of past Holidays that have been SO decimated by World and personal events in the last three plus years. I am indebted to you for the clarity you have provided for me. I am passing on to you and yours the best juju and wishes for 2023 and beyond. Sincerely Chuck in Tacoma … also my Aloha..

  20. Enjoyed your Christmas decorations story. We have reduced our Christmas decorations to a couple of white light trees in the yard and a small Charlie Brown tree inside. We still like to decorate the mantle with live greens and stockings for the dogs ??
    Keeping the spirit of the holidays.
    Cheers!
    Jessica

  21. Our bunnies LOVE the Christmas tree! They like to lie under its’ branches, side by side, snuggling and grooming each other-
    I love the image of a “Forest of Trees” on the front porch and in the family room-
    It sounds like a winter paradise-
    But maybe it’s become a “winter Albatross” for you at this point!
    Your creative mind works its’ magic on the page, and in the wonderland of your Christmas home-

  22. Living with my 95-year-old mother, we also downsized and celebrated the reason for the season. First time it was too danged frigid to go to Midnight mass. How do people survive those Dakota and Minnesota winters? The few lights I put up around a bush out side and in the flower bed, can stay lit until the end of January when we look forward to spring by pursuing seed catalogs. You don’t have to order anything. Just dream of spring and summer!!

  23. Yesterday was cloudy and gloomy so I took “Second Watch” to bed to read. A good Beau book is good for what ails you.

  24. I also worked on downsizing Christmas decorations, and labelling better for next year. All outdoor ones together! And no heavy boxes to attic, getting harder to manage those. But I do enjoy the decorations, especially my tree. Look forward to new book!

  25. I just don’t do a lot of decorating. Used to do a little more but not much! Have one of those pre-decorated, lit trees. Take off the bag that covers it, put it in place, put the two 18″ Nutcrackers by that, maybe a poinsettia or two, a tree skirt and that’s it!
    Now I have time to read! I love the Beau, Joanna, Ali books. Haven’t started the Walkers. Just purchase those that aren’t available at the library because I am not patient enough to wait through the “holds”.
    Happy New Year! Looking forward to some great reading!

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