What (Aussie) Christmas means to me, my love

Sunny days and leafy trees

sprawled out in the yard on lounge chairs

squeals of laughter from the park children

the squeak of Mum and Dad’s backyard swing.

Prawn platters, Fruit pavlova

three courses and constant food in between

Ham is not the star – everything is

and it all goes down well with a glass (or few) of champers.

Flowy dresses and bows in tresses

the kids run barefoot on the grass

we can show some leg and we don’t care

Summer, holidays, carefree, go together.

Annoying things too, like crawling ants and invading-space flies

tightly-wound presents with ribbon, all screwed up

but this is the miniscule list I hold

for this oh-so-Merry day.

Balmy nights, revved up cars

light until past 9pm

cannot sleep, but not just for Santa

for waiting ain’t easy when it’s pushing 20 at midnight.

Eating drinking memory making

What do you talk about with those you love?

Why everything! And now let’s make some plans

about how we’ll take on the world together.

 

Hot sand replaces stinging ice

sunnies sit meandering instead of wrapped-around scarves

we still rug up on Christmas Eve

to our loved ones for warmth, but not heat.

Carols may sing of snow,

Santa may be in his jolly suit,

cards will show reindeer, eggnog, fireplaces

and the pine trees are not native at this time of year.

But those are idealistic visions

of a Faraway Place

a dream where one day I will be, and see, and touch

and live in reality.

My memories here are of sun, of outdoor fun,

sitting outside and making memories with loved ones

My Aussie Christmas

is the one I love the most.

 

(The above was inspired by a conversation I had with a work colleague about our different Christmas memories, since his ones stem from living in the UK. He found it odd that the Christmas we celebrate is so different from the one depicted in the songs we sing and the cards we send out. But like I said, faraway place 🙂 )

 

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Meeting Santa

This is the tale, of a little girl who met Santa.

My little girl. My baby girl, in fact.

She had actually ‘met’ him at the photo op during last year’s Christmas lead-up, when coming up to the big festive day I had popped her on his knee and stood back to grin at the stunned expression on her face as the camera went snap snap snap.

She was 4 months old then. She didn’t really know what was going on, let’s be honest.

Over a week ago we went to the same shopping centre, to see the same Santa. This year baby girl is grabbing at the Christmas tree and baubles we have at home, running into the presents underneath, and currently she will not, EVER go into the arms of someone she doesn’t see often, as unbelievably friendly as this girl is. Bar my Mum and MIL, it’s a no-go for her.

These thoughts were all going through my head as we stood in line to meet the man in red. I picked her up and told her to wave at Santa, telling her that he’s the guy that brings her presents. But presents, to a 16-month old? The thing she loves about presents is ripping the paper, that’s about the best present in the world for a 16-month old. She watched though, and listened. She looked at Santa, and pointed to the huge Christmas tree behind him. She gave me hope.

When it finally came our turn to go over and meet Santa, I was feeling really anxious. “Say ‘hi Santa! Wave to Santa!'” I said with as much excitement I could muster, trying to swallow my nerves.

We inched closer and Santa said hi to her. Now that we were within a metre of him, her eyes widened. She really stared at him, hard. And as I wondered, how the hell am I going to get her on his knee, she grabbed at me, turning her head towards me and clutching at my shoulders for dear life.

I said to Santa “I think she’s going to cry.”

And Santa said “well Mum the only way to do it is for you to get in the photo with her.”

As I went to sit beside him, baby girl started to wail. Like a real decent cry out.

Silence across the room. Time hung in the air as I plastered a smile on my face.

“Hey, baby girl, it’s ok,” I said, trying to soothe her, not daring to look up and see the pitying faces around me. I shifted her from arm to arm, finally positioning her so she was farthest away from Santa as possible, and amazingly, she calmed for a fairly decent photo.

We actually came up good.

As we walked off Santa gave baby girl an Elf hat with pointy ears on the side. As we were waiting in line to pay, I popped it on her head and she promptly ripped it off, and one of the pointy ears as well.

So that’s our second Christmas.

O Come, All Ye Thickened Cream

I came home from work yesterday, to the beautiful smile of baby girl and the expectant and relieved glances of my parents. They love their bonding times with her when they babysit, but after entertaining baby girl for 11 hours, I know they need to just go home and relax.

I quickly went into the kitchen to drop off my stuff and organise a few things, to find a container of thickened cream sitting on the bench. I touched it, and it was still cold.

I asked my parents about it, and Mum said she’d been walking up and down the street with baby girl when an older woman caught up to her carrying her groceries. She told my Mum she’d bought an extra lot of thickened cream, and offered it to my Mum. In my Mum’s humorous words, she just wanted “to be rid of the woman,” looking after baby girl and all, so she took it.

I could see it definitely hadn’t been opened: it still had that ring part fastened underneath the lid. But still, I said to them “don’t use it.”

My Mum had wanted to see if I in fact wanted it, even though she was going to advise me of the same thing – not to use it. We had a brief to-and-fro about how it’s best to not take things from strangers, and how it’s better not to risk your health than save $2 before I promptly threw the entire thing in the bin.

This however, made me sad. Maybe 20, 30 years ago, you would have trusted the woman walking down the street who offered you an extra item from her grocery bag. You wouldn’t have questioned its authenticity, or her motive. It would have been a thoughtful and kind gesture from a neighbour, a generous and impromptu token absent of any ill intentions or malice.

Instead. Instead we’re living in a world where you could go into a coffee shop to buy your daily caffeine fix in between work, and suddenly be in the middle of a hostage situation, with the eyes of the world fixed intently on the café you are in waiting to see if you’re going to come out alive.

That was the terrible reality of yesterday. A man, a lone wolf, using God’s name to justify his unearthly and inhumane actions to hold many people hostage in a cafe on a beautiful Monday morning in Sydney. I, as many others, was glued to the screen, watching the rolling coverage unfolding in Martin Place live on TV. I kept it on up until midnight, in the meantime thinking of how fortunate I was to be safe and warm, in my home, with Hubbie and baby girl sleeping peacefully upstairs. I knew where they were and they, in their dreams, knew where I was.

I thought of the poor hostages. They were not safe. They were not in their homes. While I was getting ready for bed, they were experiencing anxiety and terror like never before. They were wondering if they were going to ever see their families again. I put myself in their shoes for a moment, and felt the stark horror of their situation. I thought briefly, of how horrible it would be, to wonder if I were ever going to see my husband or daughter again. It made me feel so, so sad, and also so sick. I hoped there was not a Mother being held hostage. Not to say that a Mother was any more worthy than another individual, more underserving of being a hostage, but I could only think that, because I could relate. Someone to separate a Mother from her children… it just breaks my heart.

I went to bed, praying that when I woke up, they would have captured the selfish bastard keeping these innocent people hostage.

As soon as I got up this morning, I got baby girl, and I carried her downstairs. I turned on the TV immediately. I gasped at the headline I saw: “Three dead as siege ends.”

I almost cried. I did, when I heard one of the victims was a Mother, of three young children. The other victim was the café manager, and the third was not a victim. He had brought it all on himself, so that was expected.

How was this incident, any different to any other that had befallen innocent victims? Why was I hurting so much? Why did the thought of going out and doing my weekly grocery shop with baby girl make me feel sick? Why did the thought of finishing up my Christmas shopping this week suddenly seem so insignificant?

There had been fear and terror in other parts of the world. People being held hostage, acts of terrorism, and I can’t believe this word is even in existence in our day and age, but, beheadings. I had felt sadness, and anger, and bewilderment when these things had happened, but not like I experienced today. Was it because it was happening on our front door? Our neighbour, Sydney, being rocked by such tragic events? Was it the simple act of going into a café that threw me? A simple task so known to me, so familiar, a part of my routine while out and about and at work… to think, something you do so, so often, could become the last thing you do. Was it all of these things? The patriotism I felt ran deep. I think to live in Australia, being of such easy-going and friendly nature, all of this just didn’t feel right. This wasn’t meant to happen. It was never meant to happen, anywhere, but here in Aus it felt truly out of place.

I went and I did my grocery shopping. And at the beginning of my trip, I went past the Santa photo set-up where kids line-up excitedly to tell Santa what presents they want this year before smiling happily before the camera.

Instead, I found a primary school choir setting up, their teacher coaching them while Santa ran around passing gifts out to the children watching on the sidelines with their parents. I did my usual bit with baby girl, exclaiming excitedly “look, there’s Santa! Can you see who that is? Wave!” Santa spotted us and a few others as newbies to the scene and came and gave us a gift. I was so happy, watching baby girl receive the present and smile shyly at Santa. Meanwhile the choir started up their rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” to photo flashes going off in front of them, Santa continuing her trek through the crowd,
spreading joy with her generosity and also by posing for photos and chatting to people.

I watched the scene, and listened to the school kids (their correct pronouncement of “Sing in Exultation”), getting very teary eyed. While Sydney mourned, here we all were getting into the festive spirit. Santa was in full swing attending to every single child and baby there, carols were in the air, and everyone was smiling and laughing. It was a beautiful sight that I had unexpectedly walked into.

We soon walked off, and I had to pull over to the side and gather myself. I felt like crying my eyes out, sobbing in fact. I was overwhelmed. I was so touched by the display I had come across, and yet was sad for the victims and their grieving families in Sydney. More than anything, I was happy that my faith and hope, though not absent had been wavering, was now fully restored. Australians are a beautiful people, and we have an unwavering, fighting spirit. Terror may try to come here, but anything that tries to shake us will only make us stronger.

I am so proud to live in this lucky country. I am so, so inspired by the genuine reaching out of humanity I have witnessed recently. Yes, there is bad in this world. But there will always be more good. The willingness to keep going and keep up, keeping positive and helping out your fellow human, will always win out.

I hope, that one day soon, we can accept some thickened cream from our neighbours. Just because.

R.I.P. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.