As an adult, it was the same thing. By December 27 or 28, needles were exploding from the tree every time someone walked by and branches drooped to the floor so out it went. But when we moved to this house, it was necessary to purchase an artificial tree, so for the last 10 years, I have left it up until after my birthday. Yesterday, I stripped it and packed everything up; Butch dismantled it and returned it to its cardboard home in the basement. It was especially bittersweet because this 9 1/2 foot tree that touches the ceiling here will not fit in our next house. Hopefully the next owners of this house will take it under their wings.
There were always extras--friends of my brothers and sisters who had no where to go on a particular Christmas. One year when brother Bill was in law school, he brought a friend from Maryland who for some reason was unable to go home. The young man was an only child with no cousins. He sat in a catatonic trance as we argued over the Christmas puzzle, sister Libby performed 'Little Rabbit Fru-Fru' (she was in her twenties at the time), and some bad attempts at carols on the piano crashed through the house. I have always wondered if he ever recovered from that holiday.
This year it was the same but not the same. Mother has been gone almost 30 years, and two brothers are no longer with us. The others have their own families and celebrations. But my immediate family has expanded to include a fiance and a couple of girlfriends, around 15-18, depending on the year. It is still bedlam. No one won more than $1 from the lottery tickets in the stockings but grandson Jack built a box out of Legos to wrap his cousin Elliot's present in. I cooked my first prime rib, which turned out okay, and Kate brought her wonderful custard pies. We completed one puzzle and the border on a second. It was necessary to keep a sharp eye out for the remote-control helicopter that Jack and Elliot kept airborne most of the day. Christmas Eve we all trooped to church, taking up a whole row, and no one dropped their candle. (That was another year.)
The next day, we headed to a small ski resort in Illinois for a day of skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. There were a couple of rope burns and bruises but no broken bones. All in all, a successful and memorable holiday.
They all left the Friday after Christmas, the washer ran continuously for a couple of days, we trekked to Lincoln, NE for a family wedding, and we sorted out the borrowed winter gear. A quiet New Year's followed by a lovely birthday wrapped up the holiday. Decorations are down--except for the ones you spot right after you sit down and think "Whoops." Time to move on. Happy New Year.