Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 09: The Clean Up

Much like Hurricane Ike, Christmas came through and spread debris and leftovers all around. The main difference is that the weather was cool, and everybody had a nice time without any fear of the house blowing away. But like a hurricane cleanup, a unique set of precautions must be noted during the cleanup to ensure a successful disaster. Hurricanes have live power lines, snakes and looters. Christmas brings other hazards.

Not that there wasn’t any big wind; Christmas Eve brought a cold gale blowing 20 or 30 miles per hour. My youngest commented earlier in the day that it sounded like we were at the beach, with the constant drone of the wind rising and falling sounding like the relentless surf. My Mom was the first to allude to the hurricane similarities. On the way to the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort we saw a horse that had been facing the wrong way in the blow; he was turned inside out.

The wind was OK, because it had rained for a couple of days, and for several weeks earlier. Had all the rain come in the space of about 36 hours, it would have been Ike-level water. The steady breeze had dried everything off as much as possible, but it is still not advisable to walk across our front lawn if you weigh much more than about a hundred pounds.

The comparison continues to the hand-outs and their wrapping. When Christmas gifts are exchanged, the ratio of usable and valuable to worthless debris and packaging is high on the wreckage and garbage side. With small children, the danger is greater for losing something essential/expensive, and that number recedes only slightly as the audience age increases. There is a Walmart ad on television that ran Christmas morning showing two guys rifling through their garbage cans in the snow between their driveways. Surrounded by bright wrapping paper, one says to the other, “What are you looking for…?”. The other guy holds his gloved fingers about an inch apart and says with a resigned certainty, “The comb for Rapunzel Barbie.”

I haven’t ever had to dig in the trash for the missing pieces, but have at times feared that as the next step. My usual procedure is no doubt perceived as a buzzkill, but it consists of a roll-call for every gift and any essential parts. This includes any cash or gift cards that were produced. Then begins the paper/box removal detail. Since there is a good bit of jewelry involved in our Christmas gift exchanges, I like to think that the reason we have no MIA James Avery earrings is my “post-joy checklist”.

This comes in part from a story my Grandmother related (every single Christmas) about the time Grandaddy was cleaning up after the opening of gifts, and tossed an envelope from his boss into the fire, only to find later that it contained a $100 bill.

Another hazard is the leftover food, which is usually directly proportional to the amount prepared in anticipation of a huge feast. The problem is frequently an overestimation of consumption. If there are any teenagers or young men around, planning for 10 easily becomes planning for 15. A characteristic of females is usually a calculation of need per person, even factoring in teenagers and young men. So if there are a total of 10 humans to be fed, including three teenagers and one young man, the normal factor of 150% would actually be sufficient. But looking through the filter of a female food planner’s eyes, there is a perception of the 200% rule. After the meal, there is usually nearly 100% left over that needs to be dispersed and dispensed back to various refrigerators. This requires Ziploc bags and Tupperware-ish containers to be at the ready.

This year was really a little different, though. At my parents’ house, the provisions were pretty much correctly anticipated and we took nothing home in Ziploc bagz or any other container. Likewise, at my sister-in-law’s house, the amount of food was fairly close to the amount of appetite. Of course I am not complaining that there was leftover brisket and shrimp. And some of the cauliflower salad, along with some homemade mac and cheese. There was even a good amount of “good potatoes” left and we actually get to eat them ourselves! The teenage boy that was there was full a little early, and that threw off the average some.

So this year was more of a “tropical storm year”; nothing lost on the Christmas floor, no 10 pounds of dressing to tote home and throw away on Valentines Day. But there’s always next year.


innominatus said...

Yeah, I hate when family members grossly overestimate the amount of food they need to prepare. "Have some more ham! There's still tons of it, dig in!" is not what I want to hear when my already hyperextended tummy is about to erupt like that fat guy in Monty Python's Meaning of Life.

Rhonna said...

Loved the artwork, too!

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