"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -- some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt and the children got ready for school.
There are enough leftovers to do warmed up for the rest of the week, not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, stayed up so late, attempted, quite unsuccessfully, to love all our relatives and in general grossly overestimated our powers.
Once again, as in previous years, we have seen the actual vision and failed to do more than entertain it as an agreeable possibility.
Once again we have sent Him away, begging though to remain His disobedient servant."
-- From "For the Time Being," by W. H. Auden The shoppers at Marley Station Mall yesterday weren't quoting W. H.
Auden's poem about post-Christmas depression, but many reflected the same angst.
All things considered, David Boyd of Millersville had a pretty lousy Christmas, said the 15-year-old. He was disappointed that it didn't snow, and higher prices meant "you don't get that many (gifts)," Boyd explained as he waited for friends at the mall.
The teen-ager had plenty of unhappy company. While some shoppers painted a picture-perfect holiday, many mourned that Christmas just wasn't quite what they'd imagined.
"The older you get, the less fun it is," said Sheila Croker of Arnold.
"You worry about it till it's over. I know that's terrible, but that's how it's been -- I looked forward to Christmas being over."
Croker, a saleswoman at one of the mall's department stores, sat alone eating pizza on her lunch break. "It's not fun today, either," she said.
"Everyone's returning everything. It's depressing just to be here."
Robert Hodges Jr., 64, shared the sentiment. Hodges had come into the mall to buy batteries for his watch, which stopped working Christmas morning, he said.
"People don't have the feeling for Christmas like they used to," he said. "People don't have their heart in it. Mostly it's the economy, I guess, but the Christmas spirit has just gone way down."
Cathie Smith, 19, waited on customers at a cookie shop, lamenting the crowds.
"I was looking forward to a day of relaxing, and this is unpleasant," she said with a tired smile.
For one 19-year-old from Pasadena, Christmas was "just like another day.
I got a few bucks and a new sweater," said the young man, sitting by himself at the mall.
"Now I'm sitting around doing nothing. It's all right."
But others, especially those still on vacation, upheld the notion of an ideal Christmas.
"We just really enjoyed being with family. That's what the holiday is all about," said Barbara Vickery of Brooklyn, who stopped at Friendly's restaurant with her daughter, Beth.
Another mother-daughter duo said they'd had the most relaxing Christmas in years. Diane Lenzi of Arnold said the family decided to stay in Maryland, instead of visiting relatives in Pittsburgh.
"We played music, cooked, ate, and now we're spending lots of money on sales!" Lenzi said.
And one enthusiastic white-haired woman described her holiday with a single word: Fantastic.
"You have to roll with the punches," said the Mitchellville resident.
"If you let things get you down, you'd never get out of bed in the morning."