As I write this, it’s the day after Epiphany, the day after I spent hours un-decorating the tree. The day that used to be the loneliest of the year: everyone else in the family made themselves scarce. This year, Teresa did stay around and help me, for at least as long as she helped me put the ornaments on the tree in December. That would be about 10 minutes, if anyone’s counting. Which is not too bad for a 3-year-old. This time around, I tried counting. Counting the ornaments, that is, taking them off in groups of 10, hanging them on my fingers before wrapping them in old newspapers and putting them back in the basement. I knew there were a lot, especially for the small trees that we tend to buy, having low ceilings and short people in our house. But I’d always wondered how many. The answer is something in the neighborhood of 396. I can’t say for absolutely sure, because we’ve had a few turn up since we took the tree down; Teresa had spread some of her favorites into different rooms. I also can’t be sure I didn’t count some groups of 10 twice, or not count some at all. I’m hoping any mistakes like that canceled each other out. The thing is, taking down the tree isn’t a sad thing for me. It’s a chance to look at all the ornaments again. I might not remember where all of them came from, or what year we got them, but put together, they tell lots of stories about our family. There’s an aluminum foil wreath and bell that I made when I was in preschool (yes, my mom saved them and gave them to me when I grew up). And there’s a construction paper wreath that Frank made in preschool, and an aluminum foil star that Caroline made in preschool. There are preschool or kindergarten pictures of all three kids, glued to foam shapes, sent home as Christmas gifts from their teachers on the last day before Christmas break, and at least one picture each of all three dogs we have had since we were married. There are ice skates and hockey players, Arthur and Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh and more Disney princesses and Barbies than I care to admit. There are dozens of angels — needlepoint, ceramic, crystal, paper, wooden — and an almost equal number of miniature nativities. There are stars and balls and snowflakes, birdhouses and miniature garden implements, St. Nicholas complete with miter and crozier and many, many Santa Clauses. Including one with a gold bowling ball, which, if memory serves, was a gift from my kindergarten teacher. Lots of crocheted green wreaths and miniature cross-stitched pictures in gold plastic frames came from my grandmother, who died last summer at age 95. Wrapping each of those offered another chance to remember her. All of them are gifts, gifts that remind us of the real meaning of Christmas and the greatest gift of all.