Retirement holidays: Practical antiques and diminished expectations


Clap on!. . . Clap off!

Someone used a clapper on my holiday brain.

The career-years mode always clapped things on about Thanksgiving. Like an automaton, I followed its ON button to get the first batch of fudge and cookies made and in the freezer, holiday decorating accomplished that first weekend (with at least a little touch in every room) and Christmas cards addressed and mailed no later than Dec. 17. Somewhere in that manic month I managed to work in some solitude and peace, since that was the guilt-inducing admonition hanging over my head and urging me to wrap things up so I could enjoy the fruits of all that labor.

Enter retirement and a new set of self-expectations. Yep, the clapper done clapped off.

Here it is December 4. No cookies or fudge can be found in their collector tins in the freezer. I may not send out any Christmas cards for the first time in my adult life. And the decorating so far is confined to a wreath at the door, a lesser wreath on the back porch, a holiday lava lamp on a what-not shelf and, horror-of-horrors, one of those ceramic lighted Christmas trees on a table in the foyer.

You know the kind I mean. The same tree that’s been making the rounds on Facebook. You’re supposed to click “Like” if you remember them.

Like? Heck! We have one and we treasure it. Lemonade Man, the in-house artist, made it in a ceramics class, way-back-when. It’s always the holiday item that brings the most enjoyment when we haul it out of the basement. Lemonade Man says, “Why don’t we use that for our only Christmas tree this year?” I’m tempted, but reply that any presents we wrap to put under it may result in totally hiding the thing.

The Schwan’s man deflated our ceramic tree holiday spirit today when he stepped in the door and said, “Wow!  I feel like I’m in my Grandma’s house. She has a tree just like this.” She made hers in a ceramics class too.

But we no longer care about being embarrassed by our holiday antiques or that we are living in the dark ages of holiday decorating. We’re actually in the same category when it comes to kitchen cookware. Not only do I member cooking in white pyrex dishes with a blue corn flower design, I still use those puppies every day. That’s another Facebook post that keeps taunting me to like it.

Since the clapper clapped off this year, there is no little elf on a shelf whispering me to get a move on. So instead of going downstairs for another load of Ho-Ho, I watch a movie on Netflix in the middle of the day. Shame on me.

Lemonade Man sits at the kitchen table and watches a neighbor put lights on the outside of his house. I casually mention that we have the same kind of lights in a locker in the basement, but then make no protest when he replies, “Well, that’s a good place for them.”

Retirement clapper victims morph into down-sizers. This means that a mountain of unused holiday decorations made a trip to the Goodwill store last spring. Excess items from the linen closet and some kitchen cabinets met the same fate. And when I put away the Thanksgiving decor this week, the ceramic turkey soup tureen and a matching, but chipped platter, got added to the pile of clothing and bedding at the City Union Mission drop-off.

And all those holiday shopping flyers and catalogs that get stuffed in the daily paper or through the mail slot? Don’t tell the statisticians and media folks, but they no longer hold any allure . . . no longer entice us with their promise of the latest must-haves. Whenever we buy anything these days, it’s because it’s a replacement for something that broke. And all purchases are screened with the question, “Is it something that will have to go in an estate sale?”

Christmas will still come to the house of New Retirement Grinches. But it will be more modest and subdued. My daughter-in-law made a pointed comment last weekend about her anticipation of my fudge. And the artificial tree will be brought upstairs on the electric stair-lift that takes away any excuses for not toting heavy things. But even before retirement we learned to keep the lights and the unbreakable ornaments on it, cover it with a plastic bag, and thus save ourselves hours of work each year.

Call us grumpy grinches, but we’re not stressed this year. I’ll go get the tree as soon as we finish this movie. The holiday clapper clapped off and it sure is a relief.