Taking down the Christmas tree

There is an elephant in our lounge room. A colourful one. The Christmas tree. My husband bought it on sale many years ago when he was working in the city. It was prior to the GFC. Before he lost his job as a result and didn’t have to travel there for employment.

None of us want to take the tree down. Not just yet. Christmas can’t be over. Surely. It all seems such a blur this year. Our reluctance is because the tree symbolizes good times, rest, catching up with family and friends and all those things we enjoy but can never seem to get enough of during the year.

It’s as if keeping the tree up gives us a sense of being in control of time, slowing it down.

We can’t pinpoint what year exactly it was that we purchased the tree. It is like a distant relative that you get in touch with once in a while, always in the background of our lives. We had always been sticklers for the real thing – trees that gave off a calming scent of pine throughout the house. But good specimens at an affordable price in our dry part of the world were becoming difficult to purchase. Then there was the practical aspect of messy pine needles and how to dispose of it when the festive season was over.

So we bit the bullet and bought a sturdy synthetic version that looks like it could survive a nuclear catastrophe. It changes colour when you plug it into the wall.

What softens this man made nylon creation is of course the decorations which have been accumulated over time.

There is the (inedible) biscuit, hastily painted, in the shape of a bell that my son made in primary school; pine cones that we collected on a walk through a pine forest that my husband painstakingly spray painted and drilled hooks into. There are an assortment of wooden characters – traditional snowmen, a skier, elves, clowns – that our old neighbours were throwing out and we fell in love with.

More recent additions include a farting Santa bottom (to the tune of Jingle Bells), some tongue-in-cheek novelties from in-laws in New Zealand: a barbecue, a sheep, a pair of jandals / thongs / flip flops (depending on what side of the world you live on). And don’t forget the rugby ball.

I look at this conglomeration of our family history haphazardly pieced together by my son and me – my husband put it up and we did the fun part – and think about what a marker of time this tree (and its ornaments) is. A sort of ‘show and tell’ of our years together. And how it will probably outlive us all. Though perhaps not its box which is being held together with masking tape in parts already.

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New Year’s Eve at Rozelle Bay

A troop of portaloos standing in a neat row (belying the slippery mess within).

A 10 year old vendor selling light sabres and fairy wands to drunk revellers from her flimsy stall (where are her minders?).

A security guard in a high visibility vest delicately picking his way through the chaos of picnickers.

A ribbon of entrepreneurial children threading through the crowd. Spruiking sea snails from an upturned hat.

Revellers huddled in groups on rugs over their smart phones in the approaching dark. Modern day nativity scenes.

A marriage proposal just out of ear shot and my line of sight. People getting to their feet and clapping and cheering.

Bats squeaking in the fig trees overhead; horns honking on the water; champagne corks popping; perfume, aftershave and body sweat being carried on the tiny breeze.

An impromptu game of soccer has started up out the back. The players have winning looks in their eyes.

The acrid smell of hot chips coming from the solitary vendor (we dined on Moet & Chandon and chicken burgers).

The embrace of a familiar friend; the hand shake of a new acquaintance.

A young mother with lines on her face looking for a lost child.

A whiff of gunpowder as the preliminary fireworks take us all by surprise (momentarily forgetting that this is why we all congregated here).

A silent tableau of hijab clad women on folding chairs under the canopy of a Port Jackson fig.

Knee high future politicians in tutus debating and skipping on our walk back to the car.

Another Happy New Year in Sydney.