Our Christmas tree sits in the corner like a big faithful Labrador.
She has been with us now for 17 years, replacing the towering real one we decorated Christmas after Christmas before that.
But babies learn to crawl, and mine wanted to feast on the tree’s needles as much as the packages underneath.
So the annual real Christmas tree went the same way as last-minute weekends away, late night outs, and the fried breakfasts that followed.
Each year, since then, new decorations feature on the tree’s branches.
Kindy creations. A hanging ballerina that ran parallel with dancing lessons. Cinderella standing in a snow dome. A pair of yellow plastic pineapples that no one can remember buying.
A bright red heart, with New York plastered all over it.
And the Empire State Building, painted red and silver. A cloth church, carried home from Europe two Christmases ago. An angel playing a tiny violin. A hanging ice skate. And a tiny gingerbread house.
A few angels hang from the plastic branches too, but our plan to buy a new one to sit atop the tree this year faltered. Never mind, that’s on the Christmas list for 2022.
Our decorations, like yours, are memories – of places and people and times in our own and our children’s lives.
But what if our trees were adorned with photos of those people and events that change our lives each year; what if we adorned our big faithful Labrador with good memories from our annus horribilis; the 19th-century expression modernised by Elizabeth ll and which we all can now call our own.
Lighting up our Christmas trees
Photographs of our children, not their questionable home-made trinkets, would take pride of place.
So would memories of our parents, dead or alive, and others we’ve loved and had to let go.
Perhaps they could take the top branches.
Friends too, because for many people, they are the family they choose.
I’d have my besties Sue and Cindy high up, looking down on the gifts they bestow each year, and a whole series of snow domes to capture the group of women my children affectionately term ‘the bad mums’.
But who else would you feature this Christmas?
Our nurses and medicos and allied health professionals who have stared this pandemic in the face and kept turning up to work, no matter what?
Perhaps after their welcome visit to our home a couple of times, paramedics would hold pride of place on our tree.
Women and men who have led from the front, navigating technology and curriculum hiccups and the escalating mental health challenges of the students who sit in front of them, remotely.
Our police officers.
Imagine a Christmas where not one of them had to knock on the door of a family home to tell a parent their child was never coming home. Now that would be a Christmas gift for the ages.
We have one, a nephew, staying at our home now. His gift to my children would be his commitment to what is right. Our defence personnel have had a bad rap over the past few years, but it’s a few in a sea of khaki.
This Christmas, instead of remembering them as baubles on our Christmas tree, we could pledge to take seriously this royal commission into defence and veterans suicide.
What a gift: For these men and women to grow old with the dignity and respect they deserve.
At Christmas, it’s impossible to forget our firefighters who each year take on fiery Goliaths in a bid to keep the rest of us safe. They deserve a string of baubles.
As do so many others.
Our local barista, who opens at 5am.
A pilates teacher, whose mindfulness does as much as the poses she teaches.
Our work colleagues. Those who pay it forward and those who pay it back.
2021 is a year that is lucky to get a Christmas tree in many homes. But what makes it worthwhile are those special people who adorn it.
My festive wish is that they get the Christmas they deserve.