The Day of Grim Tasks – January 2nd


There has to be a better way to start the New Year than January 2nd.

After more than a month of feasting, parties, laughter, gifts and kindness, most of America awoke today to the reality of January; predictably cold, reliably grey January.  One minute it is December and you’ve just bit into a warm sugar cookie and the next you are asking your wife where to store the extension cords.

It is the day of grim tasks.

The day when you go out and take the lights off the shrubs and the cold jars your soul.  Funny, you think, it isn’t much colder than it was in late November when I put these lights up.  Yet, today your nose runs and your hands stiffen as you pull the multi-colored strings down.  The lights repeatedly get caught up in the branches, as if the bushes are saying, “No!  Not yet – don’t take them away just yet.”  But you just mutter to yourself and keep ripping the lights free.  Then you pile them into a box in a tangled ball, thereby setting up next November’s ritualistic question, “Honey, how did these lights get so damn tangled?”

You walk into the house and the weather channel is blathering about a winter storm.  Not a festive holiday snow with carolers and hot chocolate, but a January snow full of danger, delay and windshields that will need scraping during high wind conditions.  So, you switch off the television.

Heading into the kitchen you begin throwing out Christmas goodies like you are a Grinch showing up 9 days too late.  Christmas cookies lingering in jars and tins are the first to go.  You take a bite and confirm – there is absolutely no flavor left at all.  Then it’s off the fridge.  There is a carton of eggnog that will have to go, and some left over cheese with no crackers as a mate.  Wait, is that a bowl of cranberry sauce lingering in the back, perhaps hiding?  And then you are bagging up trash and taking it out; a perfect crime leaving no trace of yuletide glee.

You steel yourself because it’s time for the truly miserable task; the un-trimming of the tree.  Down come angels and glittering snowflakes.  The tree’s dried needles and branches scratch you; and you remember that no one has watered this spruce in a couple of weeks.  You take the fragile, beautiful ornaments and entomb them in white tissue paper.  They fit nicely in those same old boxes marked “Christmas” and covered in more than a decade of packing tape.

You find yourself offering morbid commentary, “That’s right boys; back into your Christmas coffins until next year.”  Then everything is stored neatly into the basement, to be forgotten for a year.  Those boxes will sit in storage unnoticed until you have to move them to find summer’s lawn chairs.

The dried out sappy tree is out at the curb and you start wondering why you didn’t ask Santa for a vacuum, because the tree’s needles are refusing to let go of the carpet.  Eventually, your determination pays off and the living room has returned to its pre-thanksgiving state.  Except there is that circle from the tree-stand imprinted in the carpet.  That will serve as a reminder that mirth once stood here.


At least, that’s how my January 2nd went.

So it’s time for coffee and maybe a look at those bills, but I am feeling pretty good about myself.  I’m thinking “it was a great holiday season but let’s get moving – it’s 2014.  There is a lot to get done this year.  I mean we can’t sit around partying all day long.  It’s time to get back to reality.”  I start to rationalize, “I’m actually glad the holiday season is over.  I mean it’s just too much!  In fact, it’s time to make a 2014 to-do list.”

So I walk into the kitchen and my wife hands me a piece of paper she found in the “junk drawer” on top of the pens.

“What’s this?” I ask as I take the folded up battered piece of notebook paper.

“Read it.”

I unfold it and it’s a note written in my daughter’s hand:

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

Thank you so much for all of my gifts!  You brought me almost everything I asked for.



P.S. Write back!

I love January 2nd.

-cj cheetham

Copyright © 2014 cjcheetham

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