Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Sometime around mid October mum starts getting ideas. We all know what’s coming when mum gets ideas.
First, all the old magazines come out, and there are plenty of those. The bumper Christmas issue, the super Christmas special, the best Christmas edition. Over the tea table we trawl and wade through the decoration tips and hints, the 5 minute fix and the Christmas co-ordinated looks. Mum loves the up-market tips that end up looking like a department store.
After about a week or so she decides, and we all gather around for this year’s look. "Christmas isn’t Christmas" she would say, "Without a co-ordinated look" Last year everything was gold and white. We twisted and twined gold cord over anything that didn’t move. Come to think of it the dog had gold braid too. The house had a real fairyland look with gold card shapes and a door wreath of gun nuts and twigs sprayed gold. By the time mum finished the house could have been straight out of a magazine. The neighbors that came over for a little Christmas cheer said we’d one the best job yet. They say that every year. Mum gets a kick out of that. It’s almost a tradition in our street. The Hollingsworths always have the best yet.
Mum decided we were going back to traditional this year. Red and green with a hint of white. We like that look. One; because the shops are brimming with red and green and two; we have left overs from previous years.
Around about the beginning of November we start to get in the mood. Mum makes up a ‘to do’ list. It’s sometimes as long as Santas list. It’s not a shopping list just a to do decorations list. We go through the old decorations about this time and see what can be fixed up for mum’s scheme. There is always a good laugh to be had when we revisit the preschool and kindergarten decorations. Reindeers from clothes pegs, bells from plaster, pipe cleaners by the dozen and old Christmas cards with ribbon threaded through them. The all get saved for the tree. We untangle the lights and test them, replacing globes and making sure they are all in tip top condition. One year Uncle Ralph tripped over the light cord and he had more lights on him than on the tree. Dad took a photo, and mum had it blown up. Now it comes out every Christmas and we still laugh.
By mid November the garden ornaments come out. Dad gives them a brush off and a hose down and we stand them up on the front lawn. There is a reindeer and Santa on a sleigh. Mum made them straight out of a magazine. A few years ago we decorated the house with lights but someone overloaded the switch and we blew the lot. So now we just have ornaments. The pet galah didn’t like them either. He squawked away and sulked for days. "No sulking over Christmas," my mum said but it didn’t make a difference.
Things really hot up when the advents calendar comes out. It’s like a countdown. Mum does our own. I remember one particularly. It had photos of when we were babies and toddlers. You couldn’t see them until the flap was lifted. That was dad’s favorite.
As the days get ticked off we wait. Some time in the first week of December mum will tell us at the tea table. We don’t know which day so it’s a bit exciting. Then she will say, "Lets go shopping" We love that bit. Mum will put on her Christmas earrings and we all pile in the car to go to town. We don’t go to town very often, because it’s a 3 hour trip both ways. Out come the Christmas cassettes and we all have a turn at singing along. No-one can miss out. Dad’s favorite is Jingle bells cause he only had to sing it once.
Then when we get to town we just go wild. Everyone makes excuses to go off on their own to buy presents, and we meet back at the department store cafeteria for lunch. When we were little mum would pretend to be tired and dad would take us away so mum could have a rest. He’d be winking at us and we would all go to Woolworths to buy mum a present. We never figured out how she bought our presents because she never had any bags. Only later did we realize she had already put them in the boot of the car and returned to the cafeteria to keep the charade going. Mum and dad always share a meal at the cafeteria, usually fish and chips. Mum says we can have anything we want. It’s magic. I get something different every year. I’m working my way through the menu. John my older brother goes for anything with chips and Helen my younger sister usually has chicken. One year I had tongue and salad. Dad said if you don’t try it you will never know. John said I would be talking twice as fast with two tongues. I’m looking forward to next year because I’m up to the desserts. After lunch we go in search of extra decorations. Mum usually brings her decoration list and we all have one or two items to find. In the gold year I had to find two sheets of gold tin foil. Dad got gold candles. "Too easy" he said.
We always leave the food until last. One; because a lot of it is frozen and two; because at the end of the day it’s reduced. Mum can make the money stretch a mile dad says. We love shopping for food. They have decorations all over the shops and music and all the extras. Helen always picks dad’s walnuts. Dad reckons she can pick a good walnut a mile away. Mum gets John to take one trolley and I take the other. When we are finished we are loaded with food. It all goes in the eski with ice and covered with the tarp. Then dad reckons we need a drink and so we all go to the beer garden at the Queen Victoria pub. They have live music at night and it’s great fun. Mum and dad usually have a quick dance.
After a day like that we are dog-tired and sleep in the car on the way home. Once, dad hit a kangaroo. He picked it up and we packed ice around its leg and took it home. It stayed ‘till Christmas.
The next two weeks are full on for mum. She goes to town decorating the house. Mum loves doing that bit. It always looks great and we all help with the tree. The star doesn’t go on until everyone is home and we have had our tea. Then mum brings out the star that’s been in her family for ages. Dad usually takes a photo as mum puts it on top. We had a look at those photos last year and were laughing so hard dad fell off his chair. Mum had on every fashion through the years. 60s pants suits, 70s kaftans, 80 frills. After the star we all have an eggnog or beer. Mum lets us have the one drink then and another at Christmas lunch.
Christmas Eve is really special. We get dressed up and drive to church, then afterwards nearly everyone in the street comes back to our house for ‘Christmas cheer’ as mum call it. They all bring nibbles and supper so we have a good feed. Eventually dad sends them home laughing all the way down the street.
Christmas day for us starts about 6am. Mum is up first to ‘start the bird’ she says. Then we all gather around the tree, which is just loaded with presents. Mum and dad always know just what we wanted and no-one is disappointed. One year dad was trying on a new t-shirt and he said it was a bit tight, until mum explained he had it on back to front.
Mum is usually popping in and out of the kitchen all morning ‘till our relatives arrive. Then I don’t know how she does it but she changes into her nice clothes and the dinner cooks itself. We have a ding-dong slap up meal. The table looks right out of a magazine. Dad always carves and the dog gets the parson’s nose. After pudding we are all stuffed. Dad, Uncle Ralph, John and I do the washing up. It’s a tradition. Then we all go out to the back veranda and just sit. Dad says each Christmas and we all believe him "It doesn’t get any better than this"

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