Folks, it's time to pulverize what's left of the holidays

January 08, 2000|By Rob Kasper

FOR SOME OF US, the time has come to undertake one of the most unpleasant of household chores, taking down the holiday decorations.

Unlike demolishing a building, or knocking down a wall, this task offers little opportunity to experience the joy of destruction. Basically taking down holiday decorations is menial duty, about as much fun as putting away tools.

The one chance for excitement comes if you haul your spent Christmas tree to a designated recycling spot and observe an angry machine swallow the tree and spit it out as mulch. A tree getting pulverized is an impressive display of the power of machinery and the continuity of nature. Ashes to ashes, mulch to mulch.

This weekend I hope to strap our tree to the roof of the station wagon and haul it either to a mulching machine set up in the parking lot of Poly Western High School at Cold Spring Lane and Falls Road or to one set up next to Memorial Stadium at Ednor Road and 33rd Street.

I say "hope" because the machines are scheduled to be there only from 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon today and tomorrow. I am not sure my Christmas tree carriers -- our two teen-age sons -- will be available at such "early" hours for toting duty. When the kids were younger they weren't much help lugging the withered tree, but they brought a lot of ardor along on our annual trip to mulching machine. Now that they are teen-agers, they bring more muscle power but considerably less enthusiasm to family undertakings, even dispatching the Christmas tree.

There are a couple of reasons I prefer hauling the tree to a mulcher rather than depositing it in the alley for eventual pickup by a trash truck. First of all there is the aforementioned opportunity to witness the joy of the mulch. Secondly, hauling the tree away gets it out of my sight, and therefore helps me fight the onset of post-Christmas blues. This gloomy stretch of year from January until April is hard enough on my spirit, without having to start each day facing a forlorn Christmas tree rolling around the alley.

The few times that I have failed to make it to the mulcher and ended up putting the tree in the alley, I have behaved badly. I've found myself pacing around the house, on the lookout for the Christmas tree trash truck, a large municipal vehicle that seemed to specialize in carting off spent firs, to come rumbling down the alley. Moreover, I learned that once you make the arrival of the Christmas tree trash truck the core event of your life, you get nutsy. You fume, for example, when you notice that some neighbors -- the slackers! -- put their trees out too late, the day after the tree truck has made its long-awaited sweep through the neighborhood.

This year I have promised myself not to take names and hold grudges against the tardy tree types of the neighborhood. But already I have noted a disturbing change in another aspect of my post-holiday routine.

This year our Christmas decorations stayed up longer than in prior years. I don't think I will ever rival the holiday decorating customs of some Baltimore-area natives, who keep their Christmas decorations up until Valentine's Day or even St. Patrick's Day. Six years ago when I asked readers how they determined when to take their Christmas decorations down, I got about 200 replies. My favorite was from a Catonsville woman who said she believes in keeping the Christmas tree up until so many needles fall that "you can't walk through the living room in your bare feet."

I have not reached the no-bare-feet-in-the-living-room stage yet, but recently there has been decoration creep in my household.

When I moved here some 22 years ago, I brought with me the belief that the Christmas tree and accompanying embellishments should come down Jan. 2 at the latest.

But last weekend when I tried to take down the decorations, my heart wasn't in it. Moreover, rather than offers of help, all I got from family members was resistance.

It's too early, one said.

It's too depressing, another added.

Still another suggested waiting until the twelfth night after Christmas (Jan. 6), had passed.

Usually I dismiss such talk as sentimental claptrap. But this year I agreed with it. I switched sides.

Rather than advocating a quick end to the holiday mood, I voted to let it linger for at least one more week. Which just goes to prove that the longer you live here, the longer your Christmas decorations stay up.

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