There is a lawless, anarchic time that immediately follows the holidays.
After a year of abiding by the rules of order, there is a fringe group, typically living on the outskirts of civilized society, waiting for their chance to show who they really are: Parents Who Detest Clutter.
It only happens once the tinsel has lost its sheen, and the tree starts shedding needles all over the carpet. When the leftover potatoes and green bean casseroles have been scraped from molding Tupperware into the garbage disposal, it begins. When Alexa starts to sound a bit weary and worn down from obeying endless requests for The Twelve Days of Christmas, it is time.
After the gift boxes are flattened and stacked in the garage. After you Google “Can Wrapping Paper be Recycled?” for the fifth year in a row. After the holiday is over, then comes The Purge.
Because Santa delivered enough toys to fill the Grand Canyon, yet somehow forgot to bring a larger house to store them in.
And because kids grow so fast and their interests pivot even quicker.
Because no child needs that much stuff.
Because little ears are just as deaf to the first plea to “CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” as they are the ninetieth.
The Purge is a parental day of reckoning.
The moment when they reclaim the house that used to be filled with unstained furniture and artwork created without crayons. They sneak out from the shadows to silently take an appraisal of their offspring. Peering over mugs of
hot lukewarm coffee, they survey the scene in the playroom, gauging the current level of distraction.
When the children are entirely preoccupied with their bountiful haul of new toys—batteries still at full power, board games without any missing pieces—that’s when The Purge begins.
Parents tiptoe from room to room, making their initial evaluations. Adrenaline pumps through their veins, pushing them through the exhaustion of staying up until the wee hours of the night Christmas Eve to assemble bikes and dollhouses and figure out just how the heck one is expected to wrap a sled.
Distraction is at its peak when Lego space ships piloted by Spiderman and The Hulk save the universe from a maniacal T-Rex. While Barbie in on her dream date, still in her original, couture gown, hair flawless and shiny, and tiny shoes yet to be lost under furniture, that’s when the parents sneak off to the garage for the extra-large, contractor-strength garbage bags.
There is an art to determining what can stay and what must go.
Any toy from the bottom of the toy box that has not seen the light of day since last Spring goes immediately into the donation bin. Dolls without clothes or arms or eyes are slipped clandestinely into the black hole of thick, opaque garbage bags. The LeapFrog gizmo that has never been opened? Donation! Remote control car with no batteries or remote or wheels? Garbage!
The Purge is unsanctioned by any official governing body, and yet it is nationally, nay, universally acknowledged by parents.
Just as a mom in Fairfield County is delightfully Marie Kondo-ing an Easter coloring book with bright pink scribbles on every page, a Martian mother on our neighboring planet is looking over her shoulder with an insuppressible, Grinch-like grin as she throws away the marbles she’s stepped on a hundred times even though no one seems to know how to play with them.
My own son has been dedicated to assembling one new Lego set after another. He has no idea there is a full bag of toys sitting in our garage. That is the glory of The Purge. If it’s done correctly, the children will never even realize that it has occurred.