Deck the halls with boughs of folly, fa la la la la.....
With a six year old girl in the house, it's impossible to delay putting up the Christmas tree and any other decorations that take her fancy.
The Adelaide Pageant is to blame for us being pestered incessantly about christmas decorations, presents, cards, food and santa since the first week of November. The first week of November is far too early to be thinking about Christmas even though Coles had shortbreads, themed chocolates and tinsel in their stores from October. However, when the Norwood pageant was on the 26th of November, I knew that there was no way that our little Sapphire could possibly wait those extra few days until the 1st of December.
Therefore on Sunday I suggested, "How about we put up the Christmas tree?" and was nearly suffocated by her hugs of delight and had a toe squashed during her enthusiastic jumps of joy. She kept tapping my lower back as my bum stuck out unbecomingly in the air whilst ferreting around under the spare bed for the Christmas tree box. There was another surprise for her: I had bought her a Christmas tree of her own that she'd be able to decorate her way and have in her room.
All of a sudden the interest in decorating the family's tree evaporated like Gary Glitter returning home to the UK for Christmas. "Hey, come on, you've been asking me to set this up with you for ages. Where are you going?" To be fair, Sapphire wasn't looking at her own tree, but had found the little Santa hat we'd bought for Milly the dog last year. It was a credit to Milly that she didn't bite anyone who a) forced her to wear it, or b) laughed at her. The matching bib, on the other hand, she immediately and rather savagely tore off, and who could blame her?
She was rather interested in the decorations on the tree, however. Each of the blue and gold 'disco ball' decorations got a delicate lick or three and the tinsel was snuffled up several times. Love Chunks and I crossed our fingers that the tree would remain undamaged overnight seeing as Milly's beanbag was right next to it.
"Yes Carly, now it's time to do your tree. Why don't you go and undo the packets of decorations that go with it?" The accompanying instructions - from a tree purchased on special at Target - made me sit down on the bed feeling over-awed before we'd even started. There were dozens of branches scattered all over the mat, each with specific colours and letters on them to indicate where they were to be inserted on the six foot high tree. That's right, I didn't even realise that the tree was going to be this big. We wheeled out the dolls' house into the spare room in order to make space for this gargantuan fake pine.
An hour later, all branches were inserted in pretty much the right spots. My headache was in full swing but Sapphire had loved every second of it. As I sank back on her purple bed to rub my forehead, she happily got to work decorating the tree. At least, up to the five foot mark. Milly trotted in, decided she'd investigated all this stuff before in the lounge, and trotted back out again. Sapphire's tree was a vision in purple. Not everyone's taste admittedly, but a vision of beauty to a six year old girl. She grabbed her textas and set to work drawing a picture of it.
It led me to think (yes, it does happen sometimes) about what it was like for my mother and I at Christmas time. Did I drive her nuts asking "When.....when.....when.....?"
One thing I do remember when I was eight was that I accidentally smashed a shiny red bauble when we were taking down the tree. Mum had temporarily left the room, so only my smaller brother, Thumb, witnessed the destruction. "Don't tell Mum," I hissed menacingly, until I saw the smile of triumph on his too-smug-to-be-six-years-old face. "Look, PLEASE don't tell Mum!" I begged instead. I then ran outside and buried the shards near the nectarine tree.
That night I could barely sleep for guilt. It was I who had broken the bauble; it was beautiful and no doubt very precious and what if Mum noticed that there was one missing when we put up the tree next year?
My hell did not end with insomnia, unfortunately. Thumb saw his opportunity to blackmail me and was going to ride it like Paris Hilton thumbing through her little black book.
"Milly Moo, get me a glass of orange cordial will you?"
"Get it yourself, pipsqueak," was my automatic response until he wagged his finger in my face, saying "I'll tell Mum about you know what....."
Off I scooted into the kitchen, also grabbing a couple of scotch finger biscuits to butter the little bugger up.
This went on for over a week. "Let's ride over to the adventure playground," he'd ask.
"Nah, I want to stay here and finish the mud pies," I responded, eyes back to the brown gloop in the sandpit in front of me. "I think the cat's been in here so I've got to make sure there's no poos in any of 'em."
"I'll tell Mum about you know what....."
"Oh, OK," I sighed, wiping my muddy hands down the side of my shorts when what I really wanted to do was rub his face into the cat poo.
"Come outside Milly Moo. We need you to be wicket keeper."
No way. Why is it that sisters always have to be wicket keeper? "Get lost, I'm reading."
"I'll tell Mum about you know what....."
That was IT, I couldn't stand it anymore. I rushed into the kitchen, flung myself at Mum's feet and bawled, "Mum, it was ME. I broke one of your red Christmas tree baubles and didn't tell you. I buried it under the nectarine tree so that you wouldn't notice and so that I wouldn't get into trouble....I could save my 20c a week pocket money to buy you another one."
Mum was busy making her famous 'nipple cakes' (little cakes with white icing and red raspberry lollies stuck in the middle) and was distracted by the hum of the sunbeam mixmaster.
"Oh that's OK Milly Moo, they're only cheapies. I manage to crack at least a couple every year." She finished scraping down the side of the mixing bowl to see me still standing there, smiling. "Oh and I reckon it's your turn to lick the bowl today, too."
I can still remember how relieved and free I felt. I would also like to say that I was mature about taking revenge, but I was eight. As per an eight year old under blackmail for a week, I did the usual - gave Thumb a chinese burn, two dead legs and shoved him into the geraniums. I slept like a log that night.