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Boxing Day Ain't for Sissies or Saints

By Joe Palmer



boxes,carts,chairs,couches,daughters,families,fathers,furnitures,households,lifters,lifting,mothers,movers,moving,moving day,new homes,packages,parents,people,persons,sofas,wagons

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 following scenario:

“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 I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-show-you-this-again look on her face.

“That box right … Wait a minute. Where did the box go that was sitting right here earlier?”


“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 tossed it?”

“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, after all.

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 another year.
I wonder if St. Stephen had a wife? No wonder they made him a saint.

Copyright Joe Palmer

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