Saying Goodbye to Santa

Carrie McConkey
5 min readJan 7


Decade N° 5: A Not-so-Average Blog on Middle Age

By Carrie McConkey

It was easier to put our Christmas decorations away this year.

Not because I’d just finished writing an article for a long-time client about how to organize seasonal décor, or thanks to the nifty compartmentalized storage boxes I bought a few years ago. This ease was of the emotional kind.

I typically stall when my husband John points out that the holidays have passed and it’s time to put our house back in order. I try to bargain for one more week, explaining how we are just too busy to stop and put everything away. Both he and I know the truth: I’ll never be ready, and after we do take everything down I’ll be moping around the house for a week.

It’s not the conclusion of the merry season that has me down, although we all can agree that it’s bittersweet… the excitement is over, but so is the cooking, cleaning, traveling, and frantic last-minute gift-buying trips in gridlocked holiday traffic.

In my case, it’s all about un-decking the halls.

A decade or two into our marriage I decided to donate all of the Christmas items we’d been gifted as a young couple. These were things that were lovely, useful, and thoughtfully proffered, but just not our style. Instead, we focused upon our growing trove of vintage Christmas decorations. Over the years we’d bought a box of glass ball ornaments here, a sweet-faced angel there, and had even scored a near-perfect mid-century aluminum tree still in its box. We realized we had the makings of a truly touching collection.

We were able to add a sprinkling of our own heirloom ornaments. My grandparents sent a child’s shoebox containing an assortment of delicate Pre-WWII trimmings with a note enclosed describing what they knew of their origins. Mom gave me two pairs of 70s elves that had been a part of our own family Christmases. I named one duo “Carrie and Paige” after myself and my sister. Their facial expressions were like ours in real life: one innocent, the other, impish.

Mixed in with the metallic balls, plastic mistletoe, and Christmas postcards from the 1920s are newer but still nostalgic items. A snowy white tree skirt made of soft fur, a gilded, foot-high papier-mâché angel my grandmother made for us the year John and I were married, and battery-powered candles for our windows. Set on a timer, their gentle flickering never failed to comfort me when they all popped on simultaneously, warming the long winter nights.

Every year when I unpack the decorations, I welcome them back like long lost friends. John caught me one night this year as I chatted with him on my Bluetooth headphones while unwrapping my beloved group of Santa Clauses. He and I were just ending our call as I pulled out one of my favorites. Wearing a suit made of pinwale red corduroy, muted with age, this Santa’s back was slightly humped to conceal a music box that played a tinkling version of “Jingle Bells”.

Thinking my husband had already hung up, I lovingly kissed Saint Nicholas on the head. “Precious,” I greeted him. I heard John say, “What?”

I’ve been attached to inanimate objects since childhood. When Mom tucked me in at night, it was alongside thirteen plush animals — two squeezed in the crook of each arm, several with assigned spots to the left and right of my pillow, and the rest sitting above my head.

My affinity toward my belongings might have been sparked from having moved several times in my early life. The new homes we lived in may not have seemed familiar, but all of my stuff was. And during the periods when I hadn’t yet made friends, I had my things to keep me company.

There was no reason for me to feel isolated; I had a loving and attentive family who made the best of each town. But in a new school, I cherished my school supplies, devastated one day in the fifth grade when I lost my pencil.

I’m not much different today, I suppose. John is incredulous when I, the girl who insists on washing her hands constantly (even before COVID), will rescue a penny from a grease-stained parking lot. I carry the lonely cent home, note his year of birth, and drop it in a special jar where he can be part of a thriving community of other transplanted coins. (Then I head straight to the sink to scrub my hands, of course.)

This year, as John and I put away my music box Santa Claus (along with fifteen others), took down the 4-foot tall light-up Frosty the Snowman that welcomes people on our front porch, and carefully wrapped the toy soldiers and Christmas mice, I was still wistful. Deep down, though, I knew I’d be okay. We filled our red and green plastic tubs with our treasures, and I realized that I was feeling better about where I am in life.

The New Year was looking bright. I didn’t have to pack John away, and he would be by my side as we shared new adventures. I was over the hump of turning 50, and have moved through menopause enough that my body and mind have finished roiling with the transition. Although workaholism is a constant struggle, I’ve been able to settle into my late-in-life writing career, concentrating less on transition and more on how to do my vocation well. I know now that while one’s profession is important, a happy life is even more so.

The night after John and I had stashed everything safely in the garage, I walked down our darkened driveway to retrieve our mail. As I returned to the house, I saw a single tiny, flickering flame. It was one overlooked Christmas candle. Even with his brothers disassembled and packed away, he valiantly glowed in the laundry room window. I went inside, carried the stowaway into the living room, and set him on a shelf.

I think I’ll leave him out until Spring.