She picks up the ornaments one by one, assessing them with her particular measures of success – that is – glittery-ness, pink in colour, or with an inbuilt twinkle light: Those ones get extra special points. Georgie is asleep, Billy is at daycare. I lie on the lounge watching her, grateful for the calm, grateful to spend one on one time. “Tell me the story of this one”, she says and I take in her missing front teeth, her lopsided pony tail, the way she looks big and small all at once. I tell her about the time she was three – how whenever we went for a walk, she’d stop at every dog, reach out and pat it. She’d make a bee-line for them, hunting them down with her animal-loving sixth-sense. She was never scared of dogs. She sought them out and she loved them intensely, and it was the first sense I got of how tender she was with animals, how much she just loved to nurture them, to the point that years later she’d smuggle next door’s cat inside our house – even though she wasn’t allowed to – just to cuddle it on the couch. Her eyes go how they always go when I tell her a story about herself of the past, she smiles at me, goes back to sorting ornaments into piles only she has distinction over. “This is fun, mum,” she says, and it’s a moment I experience as heavy with feeling. It’s December 1st, and we’re waiting for Billy and Joel to get home so we can decorate the tree together.
There is something about December, something about the way I find myself at this beautiful intersection of Motherhood and Tradition that makes me feel deeply sentimental. It just feels heavy with the recognition that I’m writing the story of their childhoods, of how they belong to this family, and of the memories they’re gathering I hope will cushion them when they are met with the challenges of growing up and adulthood later in life. I feel childhood should be protected, and these moments when I’m in the very thick of theirs just feel so important to me. That’s what all of December feels like to me, actually. One long month to connect them to that feeling of careless wonder, to that feeling of me and of us.
We’re six days in and thoroughly enjoying December things.
A few favourites:
December Eve Christmas Jammies + A Movie.
I lay their jammies on the bed in the morning, signalling the growing anticipation that something special is happening.
They feed off these rituals and they dive deep into excitement, mostly because they get to watch a Christmas movie on December eve, but also because they see how happy these little things make me, and they mirror the enthusiasm.
They have baths early and rush to get into their pjs, and the sight of them all cozy together makes me happy.
They know that when they wake up, the advent will start and Hiccup their cheeky elf will be back and we will all gather around the tree, decorating it.
And it’s these rituals that feel full of weight when I recognise that the efforts I go to shape stories they’ll tell themselves and each other of when they were young.
Decorating The Tree.
Our tree is not one you’ll find on Pinterest. It’s full of paddle pop stars my kids made in kindergarten and glittery, crumbling salt dough ornaments that remind me of missing teeth and lisps. It’s full of old, broken ornaments I won’t throw away because they are the first ornaments I ever got as an adult, making my own traditions in this world. It has stuffed toy ornaments and a haphazard approach to hanging. It has ornaments I get the kids each year that represents something they loved, or went through a phase of, and as such: Our tree tells the story of us. It’s messy and mis-matched, broken in some places and breaking in others. But when it’s all put together, it somehow works, and if you can’t see where I’m going with that one, may I simply say the moral of the story is this: Chuck twinkle lights on anything and you can turn any crap holy. Messy is beautiful, too!
I love our tree.
Billy’s garbage truck phase. God I love memories being triggered by their ornament of the year: How when Billy was nearly 2, he’d RUN to the front door when he heard the garbage truck pull around the corner and how we all had to drop what we were doing to follow after him. The garbage man would wave, and we’d all wave back and Billy would be beside himself with joy.
This year’s ornaments:
Georgie’s star from Paper Boat Press all my babies have. Ella’s glitter ball for her undying love of crafts. (Do you know why I got you a glitter ball this year, honey? UM, BECAUSE I LOVE CRATFS?) Billy’s crocodile for his huge Wild Kratz phase (pre-Batman) this year. I have watched the Crocadilla episode more times than is acceptable for any human being. Mine is the van to represent the hours I logged in our car this year getting Ella to and from her Montessori school – a 1.5 hour round trip EACH WAY, and the million moments I spent with a crying baby feeling like I actually might die in that car. And lastly: Joel. Bird feathers for Joel. If no one can find Joel, we head straight out to the chicken coop. There is actually a stool permanently in the chook pen for him to sit on, because – and I quote – “I just find the chickens so calming”.
We saved the tree decorating for the 1st – at night this year when Joel would be home with us.
And something about doing it at night, the glow of the lights, our baby’s first ever Christmas, made for my mother emotions to be out in full swing.
I’m just so glad she’s ours.
Look at my sister girls.
Seeing a childhood dream come true is hit-you-in-the-guts special.
Last day of school.
She’s growing up so fast. She lost both front teeth in the space of a week and I cannot cope with how adorable it looks. She’s moving up to second cycle next year, which – in Montessori terms – is a classroom ranging from 6-9 year olds. She’s so ready and so excited.
We have her for eight whole weeks and while I was initially nervous about having all three kids, all of the days, we’re a few days into holidays now and it’s already gotten into a beautiful slow paced groove of building forts and hide and seek, trampoline jumping and morning painting, lots of made up games and an instant boost in her and Billy’s relationship. Less fighting, more inclusion, LOTS of giggling. It’s so lovely to watch.
Watching our boy sing Christmas songs on “stage” and that familiar pull on my heart I get that says: “Soak it all up, love. These years are fleeting.”
As is my ability to dress him in tartan rompers. That shit is super fleeting.
One of Ella’s FAVOURITE Christmas traditions.
She got so into it this year, folding and cutting all by herself, so excited to see what pattern she’d made. What can I say? GLITTER BALL ORNAMENT: The girl loves her crafts.
Billy played trains in the safety of the kitchen where his view of us was blocked. Crafts is like a dirty word to him. He’ll do it, but only for a bit, and then he’ll wash straight after.
This year, I set the table for Joel’s work Christmas party and I loved the quiet couple of hours it granted me: making things beautiful, putting together the bits and bobs I had, the creative outlet of turning nothing into something. I’m a maker at heart, and these little things make me happy.
The magic really happened though when the sun waned and night time came.
This year we’re dealing with tattoos, body piercings and high heels.
(Note to American readers: BY THONGS SHE MEANS FLIP FLOPS. So help us God.)
In addition, I thought this would be the right moment to mention that the first item on Billy’s list is “shooter gun”.
It seems my kids turned into gang members this year.
Joel also contributed to letter writing this year.
But I have since told him that adults don’t get presents from Santa.
Still, he remains somewhat hopeful.
Happy December, friends. May you each be writing your own stories full of things that make you come alive – however that looks to you, however your days roll. It can be a strange time of year. We squeeze out the very last drips of joy we can find within our days. And we hold that stuff close.
More to come…