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‘What is this, anyway?”

The teen was standing tree-side, an ornament dangling from her pointer.

“It is a purple fish covered in glitter,” I said.

“Yes, but why do we have it?” she pressed.

I opened my mouth and then closed it again, much like the purple glitter fish with red pursed lips, mascara lashes and pearl earrings would do, I imagine, if asked how it came to hang on our Christmas tree.

“No idea,” I said.

“Who gave it to us?”

“Again, no idea,” I said, wishing she’d just enjoy the holiday magic and hang the stupid thing.

We had to get a bigger tree last year. Our old one couldn’t fit all the trimmings, something that happens when you have children busting out homemade baubles like the fate of the world rests in their gluey fists.

And while reliving the memories associated with each ornament, both the homemade and, in the case of the fish, store-bought, is what makes the whole operation special, it becomes rather less so when you have no idea how it got there or why.

As is the case with our Blitzen reindeer dressed like a stripper. Yeah, we seem to have managed to get both sexy fish and sexy reindeer on our Christmas tree. All we need is Mrs. Claus in stilettos and we will have a curious trifecta.

“What about this one?” asked my daughter, pointing to a bundle of pipe cleaners in the shape of … well, nothing.

“That is something your brother made, I think.”

Or it could just be something leftover from a craft project that got shoved among the boughs because my Christmas angels were too lazy to clean it up. This would explain the socks I found in the tree.

“And what about this weird seashell,” she asked.

“Whoa, whoa!” I snapped. “That is the seashell I made in kindergarten. I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”

I went on to explain that I took the ornament from my own childhood tree when I moved out, just as she will one day wish to pilfer the tree she was currently scrutinizing.

It is the Circle of Life, Christmas version.

Yup, I like to think years from now there will be a purple fish with pursed red lips, mascara lashes and pearl earrings hanging on her tree.

People will know it is a special fish, and to her it will be, because it hung on her childhood tree, even if none of us can recall why.

That is the beauty of tradition.

As well as the beauty of being the oldest. You get first dibs.

Because while a reindeer in fishnets can still be special too, it is a lot harder to explain to guests. But that will be her younger brother’s problem, not hers.


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