The Eucalyptus Branch That Turned Into A Christmas Tree

“So, are you ready for Christmas?” a patient asked me. One of those friendly small talks you get to indulge in while waiting for their Propofol levels to taper off in Recovery and you’re there serving them their sandwich and cuppa of choice.

Some people prepare for Christmas like it’s a marathon you gotta warm up for. Said patient declared she had been making jams/pickles/whatever since September as I stood there admiring her level of dedication for the holiday.

I’m not really a big fan of Christmas. I mean, sure, I like it, but I’m not exactly crazy about it. The only reason I put up a tree is because of Raven. And it wasn’t even a tree tree. More like a branch that Raven and I found on the nature strip that I thought — given the colorful baubles — would make a brilliant DIY Christmas tree.

It was. And it couldn’t have been any more perfect. I thank the strong winds that blew that eucalyptus branch into our path on that day. In the same light, I honor the tree that lost a part of itself so it can grace our home with a fraction of its beauty.

“Mama, Aurora said it’s not a real Christmas tree because it’s not big,” she told me one day after spending an afternoon with her 7-year old cousin.

“Yes, it is!” I exclaimed. “And you know what makes it even more special? Because you and I made it together.”

And that’s exactly the kind of message I want to send to my kid. That Christmas isn’t all about fancy trees or lots of presents.

“Do you want lots of love or lots of presents?” I often ask her, hoping to put things into perspective.

“Lots of love,” she’d answer.

Right from the get-go, I want her to know what matters more in life. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get any presents from her family. Quite the contrary. Our gifts to her are mere expressions of our love for the wonderful spirit that she is and the absolute joy she brings us.

I was still working until the 24th but managed to grab lunch with them at the Dandenong Market after. We shared barbecue and dumplings and you know what, for something so simple, I was ridiculously happy. My standards have hit rock bottom and I couldn’t care less.

Since my dad’s death, I feel like I’ve changed a lot. It’s like I grew out of and into my real self. I don’t know where this transformation will take me but I’m loving the person I am now. Sometimes I wish my dad was here to see the me that I’ve become. I reckon I’d do him proud. I’m in no way perfect but I’m alright. Better than I ever was.

On Christmas Eve, Raven wrote a list for Santa. Kept asking me how to spell teddy bear and toy fairy, diligently writing each letter with her tiny hand.

“I’m only writing two because I already have a lot of presents under the tree,” she explained. Melted my heart right then and there.

The next morning, she squealed in delight that the reindeers ate two of the carrots and drank all of the water she left for them the night before.

“Mama, Santa didn’t eat the crackers,” she observed, a tinge of disappointment in her voice.

“Maybe he wasn’t hungry?” I offered.

The rest of the morning was spent watching her tear open her presents with her face beaming with delight over Legos and Barbies and kinetic sand and whatnot. I caught Jeff’s eye and we both smiled. No words necessary.

Christmas dinner at Krisfaye’s later that night. Or should I say, early afternoon. Had me munching on nuts, cheese, and pretzels and drinking wine from 5PM before devouring the main course.

See, that’s my problem. I’m a social eater. I love good food that comes with even better conversations, laughing and talking in my dialect that only a Bisaya can appreciate.

These people feel like home to me.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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