Living Columns & Blogs

Holidays come and go, but the Christmas decorations remain

It’s almost spring, but Dorothy Wilhelm still hasn’t taken down her Christmas decorations.
It’s almost spring, but Dorothy Wilhelm still hasn’t taken down her Christmas decorations.

I’m really thinking about taking down my Christmas decorations. I certainly will miss them. I’ve always found it hard to part with the things that make the house so festive. In past years I left everything up until Valentine’s Day. The tree would usually turn red and that provided nice festive touch, but then the fire department and the condo resident association got testy about it, and now I take the tree down early – in January. This year, though, my collection of Santas has stayed on the mantel as a reminder of the happy season. For Valentine’s Day, I tucked stuffed hearts into their fat little arms, so the display is still very seasonal.

There’s a lot of talk lately about getting the clutter out of daily life and tidying up. This certainly doesn’t work out for me. It’s only my clutter that holds me together.

My family is constantly chiding me about my collections of worldly goods, but you can’t tell when you might need an original Howdy Doody puppet, or the operation manual for a 1943 Chevrolet Coupe. (My husband to be bought that car used, drove it through his college years and sold it to buy my engagement ring.) I’m not parting with that. One reason I like to keep all possibilities open and spread out in front of me is that I have a lot of trouble remembering dates and numbers. This is a lifelong thing and in my case inherited from my Dad. It even has a name. It’s a condition called dyscalculia, which means I can’t remember numbers or dates or do math, or remember formulas. Father Simoneau, my college algebra teacher, gave me a D- and ordered me never to take any math related subject again. I’m not even allowed to play tic tac toe. Dyscalculia was not even recognized until 1949. Before that they just thought you were dumb.

I celebrated my first daughter’s birthday on the wrong day for six years. She was quite upset when she found out. I said to my husband, “Why didn’t you say something?” This was long before the days when husbands were allowed near the delivery room. “Well, you were there and I wasn’t,” he said reasonably, “I thought you must know something.”

I once hired an expert to come in and help me organize my office. She lasted nearly 27 minutes. She wanted me to take things off my desk and put them where I couldn’t see them. That would never work for me. I want everything spread out in front of me where I can get my hands on it. You can’t trust a person with a neat desk top, is my belief.

Out for a walk by old Fort Nisqually last week, I met a small brown translucent salamander, plodding along on legs better suited for the water than the hardpacked trail. According to the Burke Museum, he was a Northwestern Salamander and spends most of his time underground or under rotting logs. I knew just how he felt. Clearly his in-laws nagged him to get out and get his walk in between rain showers. Probably they threw all of his treasures out while he was gone. He just kept plodding. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.

One of the things I certainly can’t throw away is the pile of genealogical charts of various branches of the family I’ve accumulated. Only last week, I heard from a niece and nephew of my father’s I had never known about. I had always thought that Dad’s parents came from Ireland at the end of World War I – but it turns out that in fact the Conways arrived sometime in the 1700’s and have fought in every war from the Revolution on. Apparently we can’t get along with anybody.

We all work it through our own way. My mother was on a first name basis with every policeman in Spokane. She was once stopped after some very creative driving on Riverside Avenue by an officer who said, “Now Marion, you must choose one side of the road or the other. You cannot drive on both.” But I understood. How do you know what road to choose if you don’t try both sides?

“If you keep trying,” my friend Byron Creuger says, “Good things are inevitable.”

Well, I should get to those Christmas decorations.

But wait! Maybe I can just give the Santas on the mantel shamrocks and that will hold them through St Patrick’s Day.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional writer, humorist and speaker. Her podcast, “Swimming Upstream,” is available 24 hours a day at Contact her at, P.O. Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327 or 1-800-548-9264

Book signings

Meet Dorothy and have her sign a copy of her new book, “True Tales of Puget Sound,” for you.

Sunday, March 3: Fox Island History Museum, 1-4 p.m.

Monday, March 4: Post Polio Group, TACID, Tacoma, 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 9: Steilacoom Tribal Museum, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sunday, March 24: Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, 2-4 p.m.

Wednesday, March 27: Widowed Information and Consulting Service (WICS),10:30 a.m.

Information:, phone 253-582-4565, email