An image that sticks with me from this holiday season is one of me hurling the tree—still in its stand—through the front door as Brian pulled into the driveway. There are also the rust color water stains on the rug (my having decided emptying the stagnant water to be an unnecessary step in the process). Eighteen billion (still fragrant) needles remained strewn around and hiding in baseboard crevasses and between sofa cushions.
Looking back, I have to confess that my zeal to decorate a tree and create that wonderful holiday environment I remember from my childhood involved a great deal of effort, created an enormous mess, and squandered a lot of natural resources. Admitting all of this irks me because my partner, Scrooge, was against the whole enterprise from the beginning.
Brian, who becomes Scrooge during the holidays, is a scientific-minded, skeptical, pragmatist. Twinkly lights, “special ornaments,” and obligatory gift giving all do nothing for him, which is why his initial response to my proposal to get and decorate a tree for what might be our last winter in this house really took the zing out of my eggnog, if you know what I mean.
So Scrooge waited in the car while I selected and bought the contentious tree. I decorated the thing, and I bought, wrapped, and delivered his secret Santa gifts. Throughout the whole thing, he explained why he didn’t agree with slaughtering trees and unfettered consumerism, and I conceded that from an environmental standpoint, his arguments had merit. It also didn’t stop me from telling him that he was taking all of the fun out of my holidays.
But in his defense, when it comes to things he believes in—like cooking great food for family and friends—Brian is a champ. He bought, prepared, and served our Christmas Eve dinner to my family. He made a southern-style pork roast with rice and beans, and I barely entered the kitchen.
He was also happy to spend the entire day with my family on Christmas, starting with breakfast at my sis and bro-in-law’s place and ending with the entire family gathering in West Seattle, where we all showered my niece and nephew with an embarrassment of toys and goodies. I, of course, justified our excess by pointing out that a large portion of my giving had included books and art supplies—things I felt were fully justified.
In the days following Christmas, Brian encouraged and campaigned for a massive cleanup and purging of all detritus from my house—which I hope to soon sell. Whining all the way, I filled boxes full of items destined for Value Village and Goodwill. Brian, like a saint (not that he believes in sainthood) actually sorted through boxes and boxes of my ancient paperwork—including old school records, papers, and assorted miscellany that I had held onto for various flimsy reasons—the leading one being that I had not wanted to take the time nor the effort to do what we were now engaged in doing.
Between Christmas and New Years, we spent the days filling up the recycling bin, taking old worn-out gear to second-hand stores, and shredding about a decade’s-worth of stuff I should have shredded long ago.
At the end of the week, we planned to celebrate the “big clean” with massages, which was my holiday gift to Brian. (And, despite his Scroogitude, he is buying me new sunglasses for our upcoming voyaging!)
When we left the house for our indulgent, spa massages, we had still yet to tackle the back bedroom—but the living room was immaculate, the kitchen was clean and organized, and countless boxes of trash, recycling, and donation-worthy excess had left the house.
On the massage table, I melted into a relaxation I hadn’t felt in recent memory. All-of-a sudden, I felt clarity and creativity and calm about everything in front of us—where recently all I have felt is angst—trapped in a job I hate and tethered to staying the course as the only way to meet our future goals.
Leaving the massage, I felt loopy and giddy—drunk; although, I don’t think it was the spa’s comforting tea. I felt optimistic; it was as if all of the obstacles that seemed to be in our way, preventing us from getting on with our sailing plans had evaporated. And, we returned home to an uncluttered, de-holidayed, tranquil place that suddenly felt full of hope and possibility. It made me anxious to get back to the writing I had pushed aside and unafraid of the hurdles involved in selling the house and saving the rest of the money we need for voyaging.
To credit the one-hour massage with my complete attitude realignment would likely be unfair. So despite my whining, moaning, and complaining that the Grinch (or Scrooge) stole my Christmas, I think it is fair to say that Brian’s unwavering focus on simplifying our lives and getting us one step closer to our voyaging goal was probably the greatest holiday gift of all, and we have agreed that if I can find a table-top artificial tree, it—along with our new, high-efficiency LED twinkly lights and my favorite special ornaments—will be coming with us—hopefully all the way to the South Pacific.
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