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Now it's back to plain living again, thank goodness.


The Christmas farewells started last Sunday morning when one holiday visitor boarded a crowded train and headed north.

Later that day, the last visitor pulled out of the driveway and headed south in a gray drizzle of sleet and rain.All over America such scenes were repeated last Sunday as Christmas weekend came to a gloomy close. Households that had bustled with family, animation and high cheer suddenly went silent.

The bleak weather befitted the farewells. The conclusion of Christmas is, after all, a downer. A holiday based on frenzied build-up must inevitably produce an emotional letdown.

After saying goodbyes, those left behind walked into an empty house, with its forlorn Christmas tree, and wondered what to do with themselves.

But not for long. Most people know the best antidote for post-Christmas doldrums is vigor, activity, busyness. Toward that end, I lurched into high gear.

My first inclination that desolate afternoon was to take a 100-mile walk. When you've spent Christmas holidays stuffing yourself with cookies, cakes, candy, pies, nuts and assorted junk, nothing less than 100 miles would peel off the pounds and sluggishness.

Instead of a marathon walk, however, I decided to purge the kitchen of offending food. Otherwise the nibbling would continue until the last fattening crumb was consumed.

The remains of a rich chocolate cake with a superb white icing (one of my best efforts in years) was the first target of assault. The cake (about a fourth of it left) was ceremoniously tossed out the back door for the birds to feast on.

I immediately felt better. Throwing things away has a cleansing effect on the psyche.

But the birds must have been stuffed, too. The cake sat on the grass like a brown blob for two days before a single sparrow sampled it.

Next on the purge list was the Christmas tree. I've never been one for keeping a tree past its prime. This one - we'd forgotten to water it - was carpeting the floor with needles. Definitely a fire hazard, I concluded.

There is nothing more festive than decorating a lovely green Christmas tree, and nothing more boring than taking the decorations off a browning one.

But if you do it to music - something bouncy and cheerful is preferred - the job goes faster. (By contrast, Handel's ``Messiah' is recommended for tree decorating.)

I denuded our Christmas tree in a snappy 20 minutes, then ceremoniously tossed it out the door.

I immediately felt better.

Next, the poinsettias. No, don't gasp. I did not toss them out in my post-Christmas cleansing fury.

I patiently wait until the poinsettias bloom themselves into exhaustion - usually in late January.

One year, however, the darn things wouldn't quit. In April, they were still as luxuriant as in December. I got so sick of them that I mercilessly placed them outdoors when the weatherman called for a cold night and let a late frost finish them off. There is a season for everything, and the poinsettias had exceeded their inning.

Within a few hours last Sunday, I had closed down Christmas and overcome the doldrums. In the days that followed, order and regimen would replace the happy, but disorderly, interlude of Christmas.

There would be a strict diet of salads and apples, an evening of pulling out the checkbook and paying stacks of Christmas bills, a week of going to work and getting back to plain living.

And that, of course, is what most of us do best: getting back to plain living.


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