Regardless what we call it, cabin fever or the humdrums, sentimental woolgathering, or couch potato syndrome, it is sadly true that the final “auld lang syne” leaves a person wanting.
Why do so many people feel a nagging letdown following the holidays? It could be that clinical thing, when one is deprived of long sunny days and teeters on the verge of depression. Doctors suggest sitting in front of a lamp that projects ultraviolet rays. The ideal would be a long vacation at one of those tourist resorts by the ocean, wallowing on sandy beaches and splashing through turquoise waves. Who can just up and catch tomorrow’s flight south and stay gone for four months?
Lack of long, sun-filled days with lingering sunsets isn’t always the case, however. I remember when Dad passed away, how different the holidays seemed. It went from something notably missing to feelings of desertion and bewilderment by the time all four of our parents had been taken from our midst. Like overnight, I was in charge of fostering new family traditions, not to mention the shrimp aspic Aunt Ellen always looked for, the apple pie the men craved, Mother’s scrumptious stuffing, scratch biscuits, ham gravy, and Dad’s “anything goes” fudge. Dad was a cookie dunker. There is no occasion more dunking-friendly than Christmas! It’s still my passion. Mom always created winter scenes on end tables, shelves, and any flat surfaces available. There was the sparkling, white cotton snow arranged in drifts, where she placed miniature reindeer and sleighs, Santa Clauses, elves, deer, frosty pine trees, and candy cane fences. Dad’s favorite bubble lights fluttering on our live tree always enthralled me.
It was company time when Mother opened the two-sided, built-in hutch between the dining room and the pantry. Almost reverently she removed the Fostoria goblets, one by one, her cherished china, and the red velvet lined box of silverware that she had saved Betty Crocker coupons for. Her stunning white linen tablecloth and napkins, ironed smooth, emitted the fresh scent of winter air and starch.
Depending on circumstances, the abrupt January, back-to-normal routine, slippery streets and roads, and family gone home following joyful gatherings can contribute to feelings of loneliness and melancholy. For Grandma and Gramps, the laughter, hugs, and sticky kisses of children linger in a quiet, fragrant house, as darkness falls and every dazzling, festive sign of Christmas has lost its magic.
After the glitz and glitter fades, reality sets in. Families head out in all directions. Then Mother and Grandmother fret about their safe trip home. Parents, and other generous Santas, begin receiving the damages from their overly zealous gift-giving sprees. You make a vow that you won’t bypass the Toys For Tots barrel next year.
My final moments of the holidays are spent in solitude, that last morsel of rich food, stacks of washed dishes, and heaps of crinkled wrappings finally out of the way, and the house is stilled beneath a star-studded calm and a new moon. Celestial light melts across the snow from neighbors’ displays. The tree from a box that I recline beside, its familiar decorations and family keepsakes aglow, briefly ushers me back home.
I sip a soothing mug of tea in contentment and something more than sheer exhaustion, as I unwrap the most treasured gifts of all…new memories made and shared with family and friends, another year ahead. Through all the trials and joys, losses and disappointments, our laughter and tears – there’s one guiding light that can never be extinguished.
“Oh, holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night…” Ring in the New Year with the gifts of hope, faith, and love, yours for the giving and the taking.
Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.