20. A Happy Mess

20. A Happy Mess

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

A Happy Mess

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.

~Andy Rooney

It’s happened again. My husband has removed all his gifts from the living room, within hours of Christmas morning. He’s already eyeing my pile of gifts and cards, the ones I will stubbornly leave there for a week or two. Being married to a neat freak has its advantages, but not right after Christmas.

By the time I get through the holidays, I am exhausted, my to-do list has exploded, and my house is a mess. Between the extra food, the extra people, and the extra events, I feel myself falling further behind every day. But it’s all worth it, and the key is to relax and enjoy all the family time. After all, you wouldn’t have the mess if you didn’t have so many people you love home for the holidays. And that mess is all that’s left when everyone goes home after the holidays.

There’s nothing better than a huge pile of laundry, a dining room full of special occasion plates that have to be put away, and a kitchen chock-full of leftovers and wine glasses that have to be washed by hand. The new stains on the dining room carpet, the pine needles threaded into the living room rug, the melted wax on the table — they’re all souvenirs of the great time that we had.

We live in our house, and that means laughter and trash piling up and sticky spills and scratches where there shouldn’t be scratches. Our house is a home, not a showcase.

The British poet John Dryden said, “If you have lived, take thankfully the past.” And that’s how I view the holiday mess, as a souvenir of past good times for which I am thankful. That red salsa stain on the beige carpet happened the year we had almost thirty people for Christmas Eve and some people had to sit on cushions around a low coffee table. The sticky sap on the living room ceiling has been there for years, ever since I bought a tree that was too tall and it scraped the ceiling before we took it back outside to cut six inches off its base. Now that spot on the ceiling shows us where to put tree the each year. The dents in the wood cabinetry by the fireplace are from the heavy, metal Christmas stocking holders that keep falling down and bashing the furniture. They are a wonderful reminder of many magical visits from Santa.

So the debris from opening presents on Christmas morning will sit in the living room for at least a week after Christmas, and I won’t care, because I will already be feeling nostalgic. The Hanukkah pillows and the menorah will stay in our library until New Year’s, the tree won’t come down until the middle of January, and the rest of the decorations will stay up until the Super Bowl. And the lights on the big spruce outside? I haven’t taken those down for years; we even turn them on in the summer!

There’s actually nothing sadder than a completely clean house after Christmas, because then I know it’s all over, and we have to wait a whole year to do it again!

~Amy Newmark

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