‘Tis Not the Season

The children stared at her, uncomprehendingly.

“Did I stutter?”

The littlest, Kandace, smiled brightly, thinking it was some sort of joke.

“It’s time to take down the tree,” she repeated.

“Why?” Kayley, the middle child, asked.

“Because it’s the middle of January.”

“I don’t want to take it down,” said Kaiden, the oldest.

“Well, we’re taking it down anyway. And all the rest of the Christmas decorations.”

“What decorations?” Kayley asked. Kandace repeated “What derasion?” and wiggled.

“The paper snowflakes and the popcorn strands and–”

“Can I eat the popcorn?”

“No, Kaiden. It’s stale. It’ll taste like cardboard.”

“I like cardboard.”

“No. Okay? And all the lights need to come down out of your rooms, and–”

“Not the lights!” Kayley shouted. “I love the lights. It makes my room pretty.”

“Pretty lights! Pretty lights!” Kandace danced and looked to Kayley for approval.

“The lights are coming down, and that big candy cane you guys made out of the paper towel rolls, and the Nativity–Kaiden, did you ever find Baby Jesus?”

“He’s in my Ninjago lego, I think.”

“Why is he there?”

“I needed him for my movie.”

“Of course you did.”

“Baby Jesus!” Kandace screamed. “Baby Jesus coming!”

“Yes, Kandace, Christmas is about Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus came. Time to move on.”

Kandace frowned. “Baby Jesus?”

Kayley patted her sister on the head. “Don’t worry. He’s not a baby now. He’s two, just like you.” Then she looked seriously at her mother. “I don’t want Christmas to be over.”

“It was over like two weeks ago,” Kaiden lectured. “I’ll show you on the calendar.”

“That’s not what I mean!” Kayley pushed him.

“Don’t push your brother, Kayley. Kaiden, stop being a smart aleck.”

“Kandy smart, Kandy smart, Kandy smart,” Kandace repeated until mother acknowledged that she was.

“I love Christmas,” Kayley whined. “I don’t want to clean up.”

“Yeah, why can’t we keep the tree?” Kaiden said.

“All the needles are falling off.”

“I’ll clean it up. I’ll even water it.”

“You were supposed to be doing that anyway.”

“I forgot, okay? I’m not perfect.”

Kayley was close to crying. “I don’t want to put everything away. It’ll look ugly.”

“It’ll have to look ugly then.”

“Can’t we just keep it up till next Christmas,” Kayley asked. “Please?”

“Kayley, Christmas isn’t till next year,” Kaiden said.

“What? How long is that? How many days?”

“Like 600,” Kaiden said.

“One, two, twee, four…” Kandace started counting. Then she threw up her hands. “Hide-n-seek! Hide-n-seek!”

“Not right now, Kandy,” Mother said.

“You want to keep the tree up, don’t you, Kandy?” Kaiden said sweetly. “Tell Mommy you want to keep the tree up.”

“Tree up!” Kandace said.

“Enough! We’re taking down the tree and the lights and the decorations. Everything is coming down! Do you understand? It’s time to make the house clean.”

Kayley burst out crying. Kandace looked up at her sister and then hugged her leg. “Kaey sad.”

“Do we have to?” Kaiden said sullenly.

“Yes! Now!” As they moved off slowly, whining, she added, “Don’t look so excited.”

“What did you say?” Kaiden said.

“Never mind.”

As Kayley removed each ornament, she stared at it longingly. She held a heart ornament that held her name and the year of her birth for a long time. “Mommy, when’s Valentine’s Day?”

“Next month.”

“When we’re done, I’m going to cut out some hearts. I love hearts.”

“I’ll draw some pictures,” Kaiden said. “We can use them for Valentine’s.”

“I’ll put pink all over my room, ‘cause pink means love.”

“I’ll take the leftover candy from my stocking and make a candy store.”

“Me Kandy, Me Kandy!”

“Mom, can I have that candy cane we made?” Kaiden asked. “I need it for my candy store.”

“I need pink paper, Mommy. Where’s my pink paper?”

Mother sat on the couch with a sigh. “Mommy’s going to have her coffee. Then we’ll talk.”

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