Now it is January

When I was a child, I loved the month of January.  I think this was because it is the month of my birth, and to children, a birthday is a day of enormous importance.  I would look forward to a card from my grandmother and a gift from my parents, as well as a cake my mother always made from scratch.  My family would sing “Happy Birthday,” the candles were blown out and the gift opened.  By the time the cake was served, the birthday was a memory, but the status of being a year older remained for the year. 

I do not celebrate birthdays any longer.  The years no longer give me a reason to boast and I would just as soon let the day slip by unnoticed.  Just the same, January is still a favorite month because it is…orderly.

December is a riot of Christmas color and sparkle.  Its days are strewn with wrapping paper, ribbons, and lists.  Trees glow red and gold.  Tables groan with platters laden with succulent savories and delectable desserts.  Carols create a backdrop for reunions with loved ones.  Parents whisper plans behind closed doors while their children dance with the anticipation of Santa’s appearance.  December is a cheery crescendo of the year’s hopes and dreams, spangled and glittering like the twinkling lights that herald the coming of the New Year.

As much as I love December, as soon as it passes I welcome the hush of January. In New England, January snows fall quickly and often, covering the gray streets and brown lawns in quiet blankets of alabaster.  Colors are faded and sounds are muted. Even the scraping of snowplows and shovels are muffled under January’s mantle of white. 

This year there is no snow, so the transition from December to January has been marked by what happened inside my apartment instead of outside my windows.  There have been no days of watching snowflakes drift lazily from the sky to the earth.  There has been no waking to a fresh coat of snow on my windshield.  There has been no crunch beneath my boots when I walk across Mother Nature’s spotless carpet.  There has been no stark white to reflect the blinding January sun shining against an azure sky. 

Despite the lack of precipitation, December has indeed given way to January, and although I hate the job of packing away Christmas, I love the peaceful organization that comes when all the tinsel and blown glass are tucked away in tissue paper and taken to the attic.  Putting away Christmas inspires me to set things in carefully categorized arrangement. Corners are scrubbed, furniture rearranged, shelves and drawers are straightened.   I evaluate the stuff that clutters my home, considering whether its worth equals the space it occupies. 

My need for order has been more pronounced this January.  In December, my little apartment was bursting at the seams, and there was more happy chaos than peace on Earth.  Gabe was home for the holidays.  Jennifer, a young family friend, visited from Japan.  Abby was in the midst of packing for her move to Nashville, and Elizabeth was still unpacking from her move from Florida.  There were cookies to bake, gifts to give and of course, there was THE WEDDING.

After weeks of preparation, Christmas Eve arrived and so did THE WEDDING, more beautiful than I had ever imagined.  But after THE WEDDING came THE MOVE, as the bride and groom made their way to their new home more than a thousand miles away.  The week Abby moved out, I made the drive to Logan airport twice; once to say “Sayonara” to Jennifer, and the next day to kiss Gabe goodbye.  When Abby and Johnny closed the door behind them, our home looked a lot like Whoville after the Grinch had stolen Christmas. 

Elizabeth and I sat in the living room in deafening silence, trying to swallow the lumps in our throats.  Gone were the gifts, the suitcases, the ornaments, the food.  Most of all, gone were the people we love most in this world.  December had exited, and taken our joy with it.  Most certainly, being left behind is far more difficult than moving away.  When loved ones depart there is always a footprint left behind; a stray blouse left on a hanger, a forgotten belt in a drawer.  The orphan items screamed in silent barrenness and tore at my lonely heart until my eyes stung and overflowed. 

But it is January and the way we cope with loss is we clean.  And reorganize. We categorize and sanitize.  So Elizabeth and I moved furniture and dusted and polished and redesigned. The washer and dryer hummed. The vacuum sang.  Our home took on a new look and a new sound.  And slowly, we readjusted our hearts to accept the emptiness of our apartment and find contentment in our new surroundings.

Just as I know December will return, I know that my loved ones will also be back.  When the summer sun blazes through my apartment window, they will reappear and our home will again be cluttered and chaotic.  But now it is January, and it is quiet and neat and orderly.  And I hear it is supposed to snow.

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