Deck the halls with dolls called Polly.

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.


So I shouldn’t have been surprised when within seconds the Pollies were fetched to take part in the nativity scene, Cam desperate to explore the dramatic potential of the Holy Family and some mixed farmyard animals. For twenty minutes all we heard was murmuring as Purple Polly was taken for a ride on a camel or White Polly was made to dance with a Wise Man. Then, fortuitously, Cameron decided that four of the Pollies wanted to go and sit in the big box of decorations and pretend it was their carriage. Eager to maintain the unfamiliar Yuletide peace, I agreed.  As she placed them inside Cameron called out again, only this time with more excitement. “Mum!” she hollered, holding up the missing nativity piece- the swaddled baby lying in a manger. “Look what the Pollies discovered! I think he’ll fit in the rollercoaster!”

There was no stopping her after that. Having exhausted the stable/manger/camel possibilities, Cam decided to move the nativity cast into Pollyworld, territory previously known as her bedroom. Mary looked surprisingly at home riding around in the Polly disco convertible with hot tub, while I’m sure her donkey was glad of a day off to attend the Polly grooming parlour.  Meanwhile, Joseph and the Wise Men were chilling out on the Polly cruise ship, drinking at the bar, whopping it up on the waterslide while they waited their turn to go parasailing…

You think I’m making this all up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. We really do own all that Polly stuff, and I haven’t even got started on the Polly stylin’ amusement park, the Polly groovin’ quick-change rock-chick stage, the Polly hip-and-happenin’ hotel and the Polly splashin’ dolphin wonderland, complete with multicoloured waterfall. Blame the grandmother who fell down the stairs… she’ll probably be even less restrained with her purchases now she’s had a concussion. Still, though I do worry  about where we’re going to fit the Polly Jet no doubt flying in on December 25, and do get tired of retrieving the Polly shoes that are always getting sucked up by the vacuum, I can’t complain too much. My daughter loves the Pollies, and they’re now a part of our Christmas. If it wasn’t for them none of us would ever have found Jesus.

Kylie Ladd is a novelist, freelance writer and neuropsychologist. Her first novel, After The Fall, was recently released in the US , and her second novel, Last Summer, has just been published.

You can read some of Kylie’s other Mamamia posts here, here, here and  here.

What are your family Christmas traditions and rituals? How do you prepare for the festive season?

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