Well, Epiphany has passed and so has New Year's Day and by any calendar, religious or secular, it is about time you put all that Christmas stuff away. Unless of course, you want somebody to see your Christmas tree through your living room window and report you to social services because if you can't get it together to get your tree down by now, you are probably letting a lot of other really important things slide, too, like homework and baths and dinners that don't come out of a microwave.
The decorations are not a big problem, because if you are like me you probably just put them back in the two boxes marked "lights, tree ornaments, angel" and "Christmas linens," and the 10 boxes marked "Misc. Christmas."
The kids' toys, however, present a much more urgent problem. You are going to have to find a place for all the stuff they didn't need and you didn't want them to have. A place they can easily reach when they want to play so they don't have to ask you for help. But not necessarily a place they can easily return the toys to, because they won't anyway.
This year's children's toys came in two sizes. Did you notice? Incredibly small and incredibly cumbersome.
Joseph got Micro Machines, and so I am now not only stepping on Legos in my bare feet, but also vicious, sharp little tanks and airplanes. Jessie has a new collection of animals from Littlest Pet Shop (they aren't kidding), and so I had to help my tearful child find the orange bunch of carrots no bigger than her fingernail so the baby rabbits could eat. We gave up trying to find the tiny diaper for the baby monkey and I just cut her a one-inch square out of a pillowcase I guess I didn't really want anyway.
We got some pretty big stuff this year, too. (I should say here that I didn't buy any of this. All of these toys were purchased by relatives who love my children very much but who apparently didn't spend a lot of time thinking about me or my life. I buy my children books and clothes and I can tell by the look on their faces when they have opened up one of my gifts.)
Joe got a rocket that you can actually launch. (Did you see that episode of "thirtysomething" when Elliot and his dad launch the rocket with Ethan and the child ends up in the hospital? First thing I thought of.) The good news is that it is apparently a one-shot rocket because it inevitably ends up in the woods somewhere and you never find it again.
Jessie got the Barbie Swimming Pool and Fountain, plus the Barbie Bubble Shower, which spits bubbles out of the shower head. Makes no sense to me. I mean, wouldn't Barbie get pretty cold, standing there naked while the bubbles float all over the bathroom? But that apparently has not occurred to Jessie, who has used up all the bubbles it came with and is now angry because toy stores tend to view bubbles as a summer kind of thing, and we can't find any more. We also have to find a place for the Barbie Roselight Bed, which looks to me like it came from the Barbie Brothel.
I keep thinking there is hope because soon my children will be teen-agers and all they will want for Christmas will be clothes, earrings and CDs. But that is apparently no salvation.
My sister bought clothes for her daughter -- she even tried them on before wrapping them -- and she still had to return everything because her daughter tearfully admitted that she hated them.
And the son of a friend got a Beavis and Butt-head CD recorded with Cher (they sing "I Got You, Babe") from his very hip, 71-year-old great uncle. "Once you have heard it once," my friend says, "there is no reason to listen to it again. I've never wanted to take a hammer to anything so much in my life."
And I am taking some comfort from the fact that, unlike another friend, I don't have to find a space for a 3-foot-tall stuffed reindeer with gold antlers and "1993" stitched in gold lame on its hoof.
Until next year, anyway.