Friday, December 23, 2011

Remembering Christmas

Like a general preparing for some epic battle, I like to have Christmas Day mapped out to military precision… but unlike a general I usually leave it to the last possible moment and then call upon the powers of unbridled panic to get me over the line. Three weeks ago the only Christmas shopping I had completed was ordering a red-gum smoked ham from Barham Meats. Fortunately I have since purchased some gifts for the family, a suitably large frozen turkey and I am now attempting to connect with my inner domestic goddess… and the vacuum cleaner…
Christmas Day for me is all about family and food and spending time with people you love. The day can also conjure up feelings of sadness for family members that are no longer here and life paths that haven’t always headed where you thought they would.
I have fond childhood memories of Christmas Day. One not so fond memory is the feeling of frustration that used to envelope me on Christmas Eve when I was unable to fall asleep due to excitement-induced insomnia. One year I remember counting sheep out aloud in earnest, I so wanted to be asleep so the morning would come quicker.
Christmas was without a doubt the most magical day of the whole year. Tom, Rachel, Bruce and I would all scamper as quietly as we could in the early light of Christmas morning to see what treasures had been left under the tree during the night. Our parents would (finally) appear around 7am and then Father Bill would be in charge of reading the cards on each gift and distributing them to all of us. Following on from the present frenzy we would enjoy a breakfast around the kitchen table of ham, boiled eggs, freshly sliced tomatoes and Mother’s delicious tomato & apple chutney.
As a family we either celebrated Christmas at Red Hill Station out on the Hay Plains with ourselves and Gran and the withering heat of summer or every two to three years we made the pilgrimage to my Mother’s family farm in New Zealand where we marvelled at the green grass, white sheep and absence of flies and dust. We would celebrate with Granny Olga and Grandfather and a multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Whether the dinner was at Hay or Halcombe we always sat down to a magnificent traditional hot meal prepared with pride by my Mother or if we were across the Tasman, by my Grandmother. Our plates would be piled with roast turkey, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast pumpkin, boiled baby potatoes and steamed green beans. At the conclusion of the main course the curtains would be drawn and the lights switched off as the very impressive Christmas pudding entered the dining room alight, a mass of blue gassy flames fuelled by a half bottle of cheap brandy. By about 4pm on Christmas day most of us were vowing never to eat again and rallying ourselves for a game of backyard cricket.
This year is the “away Christmas” with my siblings celebrating at their respective in-law’s homes and the boys and I will be celebrating in Barham with Granny and Grandfather Bill. I am visualising a beautiful 26 degree sunny day so we can dine out on the riverbank… not sure how well my powers of manifestation are going having just had a quick look at the Elders weather site...
Wherever you are I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Behind the Barr in 2011 and wish you all a very happy and joy-filled Christmas and an excellent year ahead in 2012.

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