Robyn Margulis
Robyn Margulis Vernon Ogrodnek

The halls are decked, but there's no more singing. Fa-la-la-la-la-ing has been replaced by sighing as I look around at all the holiday stuff that needs to be broken down, wrapped up, and stored away until next year. In response to my moaning and groaning, my Jewish husband suggests not decorating every inch of the house next Christmas. I tell him to kiss my butt!

I'm a little testy because I've spent all of New Year's weekend in bed sick. I was looking forward to the long holiday weekend, especially having New Year's Eve day off from work with the kids. We were going to do a little shopping during the day, and then a celebratory family night out for dinner. Alas, it was not meant to be. The stroke of midnight - the ball drop - neither would be seen by me.

Yes, this was a crappy way to ring in the New Year. Not as bad, though, as New Year's Eve two years ago when we spent the entire day in the hospital with my sick son. Bright side found: At least I was the one ailing and not one of the kids.

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My North Carolinian mother will tell you I'm sick because I live in New Jersey; according to mom everything bad that happens to people in New Jersey is the state's fault - like a curse or karma, or something related to witchcraft ... I'm really not sure. I will tell you that I'm sick because my mom spent six days of the holiday week on my couch hacking and sneezing and sniffling. A case of Lysol wasn't going to save me from inheriting her germs.

So I woke up on this long weekend off from work to my husband's suggestion that today would be a great day to un-deck the halls on account of the rain outside. I agreed thinking I'd put the kids to work and maybe my illness would prompt him to help. (Lugging some totes and boxes is about all I got out of him.) Soon every inch of real estate in my family room was covered with ornaments, tinsel, tree branches, and knick knacks in need of wrapping and packing. And the kids, proving that they are in constant need of direction, kept asking questions: Which box do I use for this? Which bag do I use for that? And just as I was overcome with the thought that something was missing from the equation, my kids threw in a healthy dose of bickering. Ugh! Suddenly I was agreeing with hubby the Scrooge. Too much!

Admittedly, when I'm sick I have very little patience. Normally the kids know me as the unflappable of their parents. So even they looked at me a little cross-eyed as I was slowly turning into the post-holiday Grinch. I wanted nothing but a clutter-free couch on which to rest my weary head. Instead I had a mess with which to contend. Clearly this was not a good idea. It could have waited until next weekend.

It's funny how the holiday decorating is so different from the holiday un-decorating. Getting the house ready for the holidays is an event, something to be enjoyed while sprucing up the spruce and humming along to your favorite Christmas songs. The kids look forward to it and bounce around from box to box as they rediscover the long-forgotten holiday mementos.

Not so much with the un-decorating. It's a big chore that is even bigger to the infirm and of no interest to the kids. No mementos long-forgotten. No carols to be sung. The season to be jolly is behind us and the big job ahead. The upside to the breakdown, though, is the sense of relief that comes with a return to normalcy.


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