Column, Movie Diary

And now, the end is near

By Dom Cioffi

I take great joy in decorating my house for the holidays. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when the lights are on, the tree is up, and the house is filled with Yuletide imagery.

I decorate early (usually the day after Thanksgiving) so I can enjoy the atmosphere I’ve created for several weeks. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to sit in front of my fireplace with holiday music playing, scented candles burning, and my surroundings awash in decorative lighting. Throw in a gingerbread cookie and some eggnog and I’m fully gratified.

But then, Dec. 25 rolls around and the reality of deconstructing my personal Christmas village seeps in. Setting everything up coincides with the excitement of the ensuing holiday season; tearing everything down coincides with the reality that a new year is about to start, and work with all of its pressures are about to kick in.

This year, I started breaking things down the day after Christmas. This was not my original plan. My wife initiated the process when she collected several holiday chachkas and set them on the stairs. She didn’t ask me to un-decorate, but her actions clearly pointed to her desire to put a fork in the season.

I took the bait and pulled out one of the containers in the attic. I was only going to put away the items on the stairs, but before I knew it, I was tearing apart the whole house. Four hours later and I had the majority of my inside decorations packed away and everything cleaned.

I will sheepishly admit to having an artificial Christmas tree. I grew up in a household that shunned anything but a real tree, but when I got cancer several years ago and couldn’t function, my wife made the decision to purchase a fake one, thinking it would be easier. And like everything my wife does, she spared no expense.

I have to admit, the tree she purchased is beautiful. It’s 8-feet tall and a beautiful replica of a balsam fir – the quintessential Christmas tree. It’s also loaded with white lights that are preinstalled and wired in such a way that if one bulb goes out, the rest of the strand stays lit.

Of course, there are downsides to artificial trees, namely, setting them up and putting them away. I revel in the memory of dragging my real trees outside and tossing them over the bank to naturally rot. Now, I have to break down my artificial tree and struggle to push the pieces inside the gigantic carrying bags. It sounds easy enough, but the fact is, it’s an exhausting activity.

And then I have to muscle the bags upstairs and into the attic. Inevitably, I will break a multitude of tree lights in the process, but I won’t have to deal with that until next November.

After I finished clearing out the interior of my house, I laid down and took a long, well deserved nap.

The next morning, I got up, had a cup of coffee, and then walked outside to look at my outdoor decorations. The thought about climbing up and down the ladder multiple times didn’t sit well with me, but I decided it had to be done.

I asked my son for some help and he obliged. Honestly, I don’t need any assistance with the task, but it gives me an excuse to have him around.

It took us a couple hours to get everything down and packed away. When the final container was stacked in our supply room, I went inside and took another nap. There’s something incredibly soothing about naps after you’ve completed manual labor. Maybe it’s just me, but those are the most restful breaks.

As I was dozing off, I reviewed the prior month. The holidays of 2020 will be long remembered given the influence of the Covid pandemic. In some ways it was actually easier this year, given the cessation of travel and the cancellation of countless holiday parties. It was also hard not being around family as much (but even that has its advantages).

Not being around family is one of the dominant themes of this week’s Netflix feature, “The Midnight Sky,” a sci-fi drama based on the 2016 novel, “Good Morning, Midnight,” by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Directed by and starring George Clooney, “The Midnight Sky” follows a terminally ill scientist who is stranded at a polar outpost while the rest of the planet suffers through an extinction level event. If the scientist can warn a returning space mission about the earth’s demise, humanity may have a chance of survival.

As is typical with any Clooney project, this is a well-acted and executed motion picture, delivering on a multitude of levels. Its crafty storyline will also offer up some interesting surprises at the conclusion.

Check this one out if you love sci-fi with a heady edge.

A chilling “B” for “The Midnight Sky.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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