A long time ago when I was young and impressionable and obviously had way too much time on my hands I watched an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where the whole gang gathered together to put up the Walsh family Christmas tree. There they all were: Tori Spelling in a cute little tartan pantsuit, Shannen Doherty uncharacteristically demure in a velvet headband, parents and children blissfully hanging baubles while singing carols, sipping eggnog and smiling beatifically at each other. I wish I’d never seen that episode, because now I think that’s how everyone does it.
In my family the reality is somewhat different. Husband does his back lugging overflowing box of decorations down from the furthest reaches of the tallest cupboard; daughter swoops on decorations and scatters them everywhere; son inadvertently steps on one of the few precious heirloom decorations and breaks it into a million pieces; mother yells at son to be more careful; son starts crying with the injustice of it all; daughter knocks over tree in her haste to join in chastising her brother; husband recovers from injury and slips out to cricket training while mother is blinded by fairy lights. Forget peace on earth and goodwill to all men- for once I’d just like to get the tree up without being tempted to throttle one of my kin.
Which is why, this year, I hatched a cunning plan. Instead of letting Cameron anywhere near the decorations I thought I would entrust her with the solemn task of unpacking and setting up the nativity scene, thereby leaving the rest of us more inclined to use the tinsel on the tree rather than to tie her up. At first my scheme worked well. Cameron was engrossed in unwrapping the figurines and deciding how they should be arranged… shepherds here, Gabriel holding the star… but then she came to a halt. “Mum,” she called out, “there’s something missing!”
I glanced over while wrestling with a particularly recalcitrant candy cane. Cameron was right. There was something missing. Something fairly central to the whole endeavour in fact… but then she was suddenly distracted by the realisation that the nativity figures were exactly the same size as her beloved Polly Pocket dolls. For anyone not familiar with them, Polly Pockets are a series of small plastic dolls that come with a range of accessories that would make Barbie green. And like Barbie, these girls do it all: they’re investment bankers and dressage instructors by day, rock stars by night, and no doubt run Medecins Sans Frontieres in their spare time. I’ve noticed they can also be a useful psychotherapeutic tool, with Cam using them (when she thinks I’m not watching, of course) to act out ideas or events that are bothering her. Recently, after my mother fell down the stairs, went through a window and sliced off her ear (God, I have to get that in a novel) Polly games featured more ear loss than Van Gogh going head to head with Mike Tyson.