Oh, the gloomy aftermath of Christmas. The tree
is dropping dry needles so rapidly it sounds
like raindrops on a tin roof. The eggnog has
gone over and has a peculiar smell and there are
chunks of something that look like pizza
floating around in it. I dare not inquire. The
cookies, fudge and divinity that we had hoped
would be all gone by now seem to be multiplying
like amorous rabbits, putting the kibosh on all
thoughts of fasting and losing weight in the New
Year. At the rate they’re multiplying, we’ll
be eating fruitcake cookies on July 4. I suspect
that our neighbors are sneaking into our house
at night and dumping their unwanted goodies.
I’m sure our two Great Danes would be
complicit, as long as they were properly bribed.
The kids are gone, leaving a mess that General
Sherman would’ve envied trashing his way
through Georgia. And there’s still all this
stuff to put away.
Stuff. As in Christmas ornaments and candles and
Santa Claus figurines and nutcrackers and a
hundred and eighty six strands of cheap, Chinese
made Christmas tree and yard lights, only about
a third of which are now functioning. And every
cussed bit of it has to go back in its own box
and back into its own place in its own attic –
which it reluctantly shares with us – and all
under the slightly obsessive-compulsive
supervision of my neatnik wife. Oh, why won’t
she just win a free weeklong trip for one to
Bermuda so I can just shove all this stuff up in
the attic and be done with it? Alas, she ain’t
going anywhere and so I’m tasked with helping
her box up everything and put it away. And she
makes fun of my old mama having been so finicky
about putting tinsel on the tree one … strand
… at … a … time. Bless her heart.
Boxing Day at our house has nothing to do with
the sweet British tradition in honor of St.
Stephen on the day after Christmas, where
charitable Brits of yore traditionally took
money they’d been stashing in little clay
boxes throughout the year and gave it to the
poor. If St. Stephen lived at our house on his
feast day, he wouldn’t be a saint. We don’t
exactly celebrate Boxing Day at our house. It
just sort of happens. Like a trip to the dentist
for a root canal. You know it’s coming and you
dread it. And sure enough, when you get there,
it’s as bad as you thought it would be.
Boxing Day at our home usually begins with me,
coffee in hand, eyes barely opened, asking my
wife something or another about her command to
box up some ornaments. Which triggers the
“Honey, where do these go?”
“In that green box over there,” she replies.
“What green box? I don’t see a green box.”
At this point, my wife sighs theatrically and
marches across the room with that
look on her face.
“That box right … Wait a minute. Where did
the box go that was sitting right here
“Oh,” I reply, sotto voce. “I thought you
wanted me to toss that one. The garbage man came
fifteen minutes ago.”
The scream that follows is loud, prolonged and
blood curdling because the green box, which my
color blind self thought was the blue box,
contained some of grandma’s antique Christmas
ornaments she brought over from the old country.
St. Stephen, please cover your ears.
A few minutes later, my wife sees me rooting
around in a pile of cast of wrapping paper and
boxes like a hog hunting truffles.
“Why are you wasting time dilly-dallying
around over there?” my still fuming spouse
wants to know.
“I’m looking for that little white
rectangular box,” I say, knees a-quaking and
bowels turning to water.
“Oh, the one your new tie was wrapped in? I
didn’t think you’d want to save it and I
“In the garbage?” I inquire, silently
invoking St. Stephen.
“Well, duh. Where else would I toss it?”
Can’t help you, son, I hear St. Stephen
whisper. You’re in Indian country now.
How do I tell her I already have the box my
necktie came in but that I can’t find the one
containing the new ruby bracelet I gave her for
Christmas and which is now on the way to the
country landfill? I naively decide that honesty
is the best policy. The sound that follows is
like something between an eardrum piercing
shriek, a jet breaking the sound barrier and a
tornado tearing the roof off the house. St.
Stephen completely abandons me to my wife’s
fury, that coward.
Why did I place the ruby bracelet back in the
box and leave it where it might accidentally get
tossed? I don’t know. I cannot say. I cannot
come up with a plausible explanation and so I
get my ears boxed. Which is another reason
it’s called Boxing Day. If you’re married,
gentlemen, sooner or later, you’re gonna
misplace a piece of jewelry you gave your wife
for Christmas whilst packing up stuff the next
day. And when you do, you’ll get your ears
boxed. Good and proper, as the Brits say. And
they should know. They invented Boxing Day,
By the time the day is done, each of us has
called our respective families’ legitimacy and
lineage into question on at least four
occasions. In despair, I threaten to hole up in
the attic until my wife cools off. The gleeful
look in her eye when she hisses, “Go ahead!”
is too diabolical for my comfort. I have visions
of being locked in there with all the Christmas
decorations until next year. At which point
I’ll be dried up and look like a lawn
ornament. My wife can tell the kids I ran off
with the red head from the bowling alley and
then she can plant me on the lawn with the rest
of the Nativity Scene figures. I’ll be the
only Unwise Man there. On Boxing Day, she can
wrap me in plastic and put me in a box with the
other stuff and toss me back in the attic for
I wonder if St. Stephen had a wife? No wonder
they made him a saint.
Copyright Joe Palmer