The ennui of Christmas afternoon has nothing to do with that famous American malady, Christmas depression.
It is not a rebellion against feeling the way you are told you must feel. It is simply that Christmas has come and gone and you don't feel a thing-except full.
You have had the presents, and you got most of what you had been hinting aout (the actuality never quite living up to your vision of it), and Aunt Plowdie has done her annual thing with the gentle limericks and the joke gifts.
She even played her traditional Chopin prelude on the Steinway, the one that she said was about a troop of soldiers marching over a hill and coming closer and closer and then going away. (This was the Steinway that when Pop tried to sell it and wrote to the company in New York, they telephoned to find out the serial number and when he told them they actually flew a man up to Clinton to look at it, but he had given the number wrong and there was a "B" in front of it so they turned the whole business over to a junior clerk. He never did sell it.)
Finally there was the dinner, with Aunt Grace, her voice sharpened somewhat by the Sherry, pronouncing the turkey the best she had ever had , though a bit dry, and Aunt Plowdie (we were never allowed to forget that we were descended from Sir Edmund Plowden, beheaded by Queen Elizabeth for a noble reason) as usual cracking all her walnuts at once and saving the meats in a pile to eat at the end.
Pop has carved the turkey and told his annual story about the pie, and bug-eyed Wanda has waddled in from the kitchen to take a bow for her superb butternut stuffing, giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, creamed onions, pumpkin chiffon pie, mincemeat pie, plum pudding with real suet and hard sauce.
Hard sauce! You never want to see another crumb of hard sauce as long as you live.
So. It is over. The living room is awash in gaudy wrappings. Pop has gone off with the aunts, driving them back to Utica. Ma is lying on her sofa with her tatty Persian silk over her legs while she reads "Cosmic Consciousness.c Wanda has finished the dishes and vanished into her suite. You have read your Dick Tracy Big Little Book and you're not in the mood for "Kidnapped" yet, and the airplane model looks hard. And you are full, full, full.
You trudge out to the porch which stretches halfway around the house. Napoleon (who believes he is a Scotch shepherd but, in fact, is a mere All American farm dog) jumps up and down. As you let him out the storm door he attacks it in his neurotic way (there is a neat half-moon gnawed out of it, two feet up).
The sky is oyster gray. It will snow soon: You can smell it. Already the first half-seen flakes drift down. You amble out the long driveway, banked on both sides by snow as high as your head and plow across Mr. Wester's corn-stubble.
Napoleon races crazily from one smell to another, hysterical oven the suspected presence of a field mouse. Dog track zigzag from midfield to the hedge.
Now you climb the sagging barbed wire fence (festooned already with Napoleon's black and white tufts) into Mr. Rogers' estate. The woods are thick with silence. Towering elms, bare and angular and gray as smoke. A crowd of tall pines
You stand in perfect stillness. A small bird cheeps. A winter bird. Cold branches creak. Ice groans on the brook. Your boots crunch like carrots in the snow. The dog sits politely beside you, patient, listening.
Imperceptibly the snowfall grows. Small flakes seem to come at you whichever way you walk. Your footprints on the field are almost gone when you start back. You can hardly see the farm even when you get to the drive. The light is tired, slategray, dying.
There will be a fire in the library when you get home, and Ma will read aloud from "Escape" by Ethel vance.
Then you will be scolded for leaving your mittens on the hall radiator to drip on the hardwood floor. A curious thought. You haven't even done it yet.
Later there will be cold turkey and leftover oyster soup and a bit of pumpkin pie and some truly exhausted stalks of celery. And the last spoonful of hard sauce, taken neat.
Hard sauce! You're hungry again! And there's still two weeks of vacation!