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When I hear the word “ornament” the first thing comes to mind is a shiny, round, brightly colored glass object that hangs precariously from the tip of a Douglas fir branch somewhere far removed from the virgin forests. For most of the year the mention of the word doesn’t bring on fits of panic. By the middle of November, however, it all changes, and now that December is looming I have to face the yearly ritual known as The Ornament Shuffle.

I have to admit I’m not an organized person. Oh, the coffee cups are always stored in the same place if only to avoid the disaster which would ensue if if my morning blind-reach didn’t set me up for COFFEE! NOW! But when it comes to things I only want to see once a year, you never can tell where they might be hiding.

The logical place would be somewhere in the garage, right? Not my garage. Hubby has it filled to the rafters and above with vacuum tubes and old car radio carcasses, a hobby gone berserk. Well, it keeps him off the street… I seem to recall that once, long ago, I did manage to slip in a box of Christmas lights while he was working out of town but, unsurprisingly, the box has never surfaced again. I’m not accusing him of tossing it out, you understand, but I did notice that his purchase of 10,000 assorted capacitors appeared one day in that very spot. At least I think it was the same spot; it’s hard to tell where you are in that backyard storage facility.

The last couple of years I’ve been spending New Year’s Day loading baubles from the sad and bedraggled Douglas firs to Bankers Boxes (which stack easily) and lifting them to the top shelf of my bedroom closet. In California, one decides what goes on top shelves with a careful consideration of what will be least deadly in case of The Big One. This means glass ornaments at a fraction of an ounce go on the top shelf. Christmas tree stands, approximately the weight of a refrigerator, live outside under the porte-cochere (which, for those of you not blessed with an imaginative real estate agent, means carport) and those beautiful, heavy ceramic candle holders go to any earthquake-safe place they can fit.

This year I plan to enjoy my Christmas tree once it’s fully-bedecked. I have every intention of displaying all of those cutesy decorator items that loving friends have lavished on me through the years. I even expect to spend a little money on a fresh greenery swag to add a little charm to the dining room mirror and a little scent to the whole house. On New Year’s Day, I’ll turn on the TV and select one of the dozen or so channels showing the Rose Parade in its snowless glory. Somewhere in between the floats and the bands, I’ll un-deck the halls as usual. I’ll box everything up, ensconcing all the fragile items in pages from the post-holiday shopping flyers and wrapping long strings of multi-colored twinkling lights on my homemade, industrial-strength cardboard reels.

I’ll set all the boxes on the front porch for the benefit of thieves or the Salvation Army, whichever comes first.

I feel released already! By mid-January, I should be ornament-free! I promise myself that, every day of the next year, I will stand in front of my closet and offer a silent thanks for the space I’ve given myself.

I won’t even think about next December.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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