Here are a few post-Christmas tips to get you to Jan. 1, conjured up over the last glass of eggnog.
Hold that smile. Stressed as we may be before Christmas, the spirit of the season inspires us to smile at strangers, and they usually smile back. That's a good thing. Let's keep the smile train rolling.
Let the other guy have the parking place. Remember when the malls were crowded the last days before Christmas and you graciously gave up a parking place you had been waiting for? No one said thank you, but you felt good inside.
Now that there seem to be as many gift certificates on the tree as there are wrapped packages, use them ASAP. Otherwise you may put the card where you can't find it, or the store or restaurant may go out of business. Times are tough.
Write thank-you notes or telephone out-of-town friends and family who didn't get to watch you open the gifts they mailed. Make a fuss over their selections, even if you will never wear the Evening in Paris perfume. You might also mention your appreciation for the work of wrapping and sending a package and the considerable cost of postage, which can be more than the cost of the gift.
Oh, those aching feet. Treat yourself to a pedicure and relaxation in the comfort of a salon. Chances are your toes will tingle so much you will dance right up until midnight on New Year's Eve.
What about all the Christmas photos that were taken? There's the family group shot, the children opening their gifts, the beautiful tree, the cook in the kitchen, the family around the table, and multiple snow scenes. They can be left in the camera until the Easter Sunday celebration, or processed now and put in small photo albums and mailed for everyone to enjoy. Check the stores for the best prices on digital photo processing and look for inexpensive albums at dollar stores. It's a thoughtful gift that keeps Christmas going until long after the snow melts.
Those leftovers. Why aren't we surprised that we cooked too much again? If you didn't send packages of food home with guests there's probably a lot left over that can be wrapped securely and frozen. You may even want to design a few TV dinners on divided plastic plates for future use. Home economists call them planned overs.
It's never too late to send greetings to people who are remembered for special reasons, even if you will never see them again. My list of special people includes people I met while traveling. Michelle, the maintenance girl at the motel on Jekyll Island, took Digby for a walk and helped tirelessly with the wireless Internet service. Jennifer, a waitress in Rock Hill, S.C., whose 3-month-old baby had died, poured out her heart and opened mine. Marvin, the maintenance man at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio, climbed down from a ladder and proudly took me on an hour-long tour of the historic place.
To the four Tampa school teachers who were vacationing in Savannah and welcomed me into their friendship circle, I say "Happy New Year" and happy travels. We met at a wine-and-cheese tasting at the Old Harbour Inn that set the tone for lots of laughs and a new friendship.
You can't have too many gifts of warm friendship, and you just never know when they may happen. Chances are they won't happen if you don't pay attention and return smiles. Isn't that where this column started? With a smile to stranger?