Ken Martin

When I started writing these columns, the idea was to feature things that we don’t normally see or do in our everyday lives. It came into my mind that, using this criterion, the holiday season fit perfectly.

For a couple of weeks each year we scramble around engaging in activities that we usually don’t do for the rest of the year. We shop, we buy, we wrap, we cook, we sew, we make things, we party, we travel, frequently in excess. All this frantic action revolves around a holiday that celebrates the birth of a man who had a more profound impact on the history of mankind and on our lives that any single person before or since, and a holiday that is largely just a numerical happening, these being Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Christmas, on alternate, even-numbered years, is very exciting at our house. On these years, all of our scattered four children come to our house with all their various spouses, children, friends, and relatives. (The other years they celebrate in other places with all their various spouses, children, friends, and relatives.) This year the grand total was about two dozen spouses, children, etc.. While my wife, Patty, and I look forward to this bi-annual event, things do get a little hectic. But it’s good hectic, not bad hectic. Our Christmas this year was most enjoyable and certainly, as always, one of the highlights of our year.

However, as much as we enjoy it while it’s happening, we also enjoy the aftermath – peace and quiet! Now is the time to allow the house to recover and aid that recovery by dispatching the now-badly-damaged wrapping paper, ribbons, and boxes to the recycle can. Now is also the time to find places for the gifts received and wash a lot of dishes, pots, and pans! Christmas is over and we can move forward.

That forward move takes us to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. These events are passed over very lightly in our house. In the seven-plus decades of my life, I have not yet seen a year that was not followed by another year. Regardless of whether or not we engage in great celebration (which we used to do almost religiously some years ago), the calendar inexorably turns over. I finally realized that this was going to happen regardless of whether I supported it or opposed it so I have decided to direct my celebratory efforts elsewhere, like going to bed and getting some sleep. The next day will still be filled with football games.

With all of this merriment having subsided, other holiday activities emerged, like taking down the Christmas decorations. This task actually was started by our two cats, GB and Rosie, on the very day we put the Christmas tree up! For years we have had to use unbreakable plastic ornaments on the tree rather than the fragile glass balls because of their misguided attentions. These two furry miscreants instantly denuded the lower two levels of branches of every round shiny object they could reach! Daily replacement of these dislodged balls was only a temporary solution at best. Each day we would find nine or ten ornaments scattered around the family room. I guess we should be happy that they limited their raids to the lower branches and didn’t climb the tree. Ultimately their efforts were appreciated because Patty and I only had to remove ornaments from the upper part of the tree when the time came to put the tree away. (Since the tree has been gone, these marauders have transferred their affections to Patty’s jigsaw puzzle!)

Our house has a very large attic. It has almost the same floor space as the house itself and is high enough that I can walk upright through it. We store all of our various holiday decorations in the attic. The difficult part is that, while the attic is large, the pull-down access ladder is very narrow. The artificial tree we used this year comes apart in three sections, only one of which is narrower than the ladder. Getting the tree down is hard enough but gravity at least gives a little help. Putting it back up into the attic defies any word description I could give here and would probably require a home video tape to do this struggle justice.

Apparently the previous owners of our house were into stringing Christmas lights around the perimeter of the building. Conveniently for us, they left hooks under the eaves so all I had to do was put up the lights themselves. Now that we had removed the Christmas tree and various and sundry other Christmas decorations to their attic summer quarters, the last de-Christmasizing chore was to take down the outside  lights and cart them up to the attic to be stored with the tree and the other glittery things. The good side is that the lights easily fit up the skinny ladder!

Our holiday season, though somewhat stressful as usual, was great and the removal of the tree and lights is always done with a small note of sadness. It marks the end of a happy season for another year. Another sure indication that the holiday season has ended is the advertisements we are already getting for Valentine’s Day and Easter!! And this is only the second week of January!!

Patty and I want to wish all our readers a Happy and Healthy 2003 and the hope that this new year fares well.

“CV Side Trips” is always looking for interesting and unusual items in the Castro Valley area and can be contacted at (510) 727-9296 or