Press play below for a little theme music.
Christmas has always been a magical time of the year in our family ever since iDad was a baby himself. As soon as God Sakes learned to talk Bynel and Mynel became Gam-pa and Gam-mar, which made my mother very happy, and for as far back as I can remember their house has always been a Christmas wonderland. Tinsel hung from every corner of the ceiling while festoons of multicoloured fairy lights twinkled inside and out. The tree was never shorter than six foot two and adorned with baubles, candy canes (fake and real), glass ornaments and an old family heirloom angel on top. Lunch consisted of roasted turkey and pork with crunchy crackling. We had home made Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, baked vegetables, peas, beans and a big fat leg of ham. I’ve never seen such a stupendous spread as the one Gam-mar and Gam-pa dished out every 25th of December. How my mum managed to slave it out in the kitchen during those notoriously hot Christmas days I’ll never know.
There were always presents as far as the eye could see. No one who visited their home missed out on a gift, nor did many of their neighbours. Bing Crosby crooned about chestnuts roasting on an open fire before taking us all to Ireland to experience a Christmas in Killarney. After a massive feast for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon in the swimming pool before the extended family descended upon us and we ate and drank all over again.
Competing with the Griswolds was going to be tough 😉
God Sakes, Granny and No.1 are excitable enough at the best of times, but with the promise of the fat bearded fellow in the bright red suit squeezing down the imaginary chimney with a sack full of happiness…. well I’m sure you can understand why December in our house was the longest month of the year.
‘Is it Christmas yet?’ [Excitable chatter from one little boy.]
‘Not yet sweety.’ [Kind and loving answer from a weary mother.]
‘Will it be Christmas tomorrow?’ [Equally enthused enquiry from same little boy.]
‘No honey.’ [Audible sigh.]
‘But I want it to be Christmas noooow!’ [Dejected whine from disappointed little boy.]
‘Don’t wish your life away darling.’ [Typical grown up answer that kids don’t understand.]
Gloomy little trooper leaves the room and is replaced by another hyperactive tyke with similar questions. Thus the Christmas circle of life continues to spin.
Poor Blue Eyes had to deal with this every single day from December first until Christmas Eve and each visit to the North Pole (Gam-mar and Gam-pa’s house) only made matters worse.
By and large, the present shopping for little boys is very easy. Trust me when I tell you that you cannot go wrong with Tonka trucks and toy dinosaurs. Living within a meager budget, though, meant that Blue Eyes and I had to be creative with our purchases. A twenty-four pack of Matchbox cards could be split evenly amongst three children, as could a bag full of dinosaurs, and this trick served to really pad out the Christmas stocking. Kids don’t care if their T-Rex is made in Taiwan.
Special Christmas Tip 1: Substituting monsters from old Japanese horror films does not work. Any five-year-old boy can tell the difference between an Allosaur and Godzilla.
Wrapping on the other hand was an untidy mess. Carefully folding coloured paper over tiny individual odd-shaped items can be a frustrating experience filled with paper cuts and misplaced sticky tape. Did you know that children do not care about the paper you use? In fact, I have serious doubts that they even notice what images are printed on it. Its true! One year we ran out of Santa wrapping and had to use some old birthday paper to finish off. Granny’s rampage didn’t miss a beat regardless of whether the wrapping had Rudolph or birthday cake.
Finally the 24th arrives, the last window in the Advent calendar has been opened and excitement reaches fever pitch. Trying to get overly animated children to sit still in Church the night before all their dreams come true is hard enough. Getting them to go to bed is nigh on impossible. My boys were like sweaty pink pinballs ricocheting off invisible flippers, careening around the house, bouncing off the walls and crashing into the furniture, all without the aid of red cordial, Coca Cola or any other sugary stimulant. Like the energizer bunny they were wound up and without an ‘off switch’. Blue Eyes would manage to get one of them into bed but as soon as she left to grab another, the first child was up, out and wreaking havoc. It was a futile effort that soon gave way to a glass of Chardonnay as we watched God Sakes push Granny into the tree. Eventually they wore themselves out and we were able to corral our two-legged horses.
In spite of the shenanigans, Blue Eyes and I always enjoyed the manic antics of our boys. There is something absolutely beautiful in the look a child has when he or she is deliriously happy. Its the kind of joy that stays on their faces long after they have collapsed into unconsciousness and reminds you that even if you are unsure what you are doing, and lets face it most of us are not given a parenting manual on the day you conceive, today you got it right.
One more quick check to make sure they are still asleep and its time to go up into the attic to retrieve the presents from iSanta.
Special Christmas Tip 2: Attics have spiders – that’s a fact of life. So if a dirty great huntsman the size of a Landcruiser crawls over your hand try not to squeal like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert and definitely do NOT hurl the gift you are holding across the room, especially if it is made of glass.
Click here for more theme music:
Monster arachnids aside, the only real problems I ever encountered at Christmas began with those infamous words, ‘Some Assembly Required’.
One year Blue Eyes decided that we would get the boys an outdoor swing set. Auntie Pedie and Uncle Bop had come over for ‘dinner and and a show’ so after the circus had left town for the night we pulled the pieces of my dark green nemesis out of the garage and got started. Blue Eyes and I had never been good at building things together. All our Ikea constructions ended up with her laughing and iDad spitting the dummy, usually after a bashed finger or cut hand. I remember the day we built a wardrobe. In the kit was a bag of approximately 900 panel pins. I made sure that I used absolutely every single one of them and they were all perfectly spaced apart. Moving the unit a few years later I spent three hours cursing the ‘idiot who put so many bloody nails in the back’. Some days you’re the rider, other days you’re the horse.
Wisely Blue Eyes suggested that Bop the BMW mechanic should help me. With his technical skills and my managerial abilities we should be done in time, right? WRONG!
It was a particularly hot Christmas Eve that eventually turned into a thunder storm and by the time we got the boys to bed it was still drizzling.
‘No problem’ says iDad, ‘the sliding back doors will be wide enough to get the swing set out. Let’s build it inside.’
Special Christmas Tip 3: Beer may be nice to drink on a hot day but you can be sure that it will also impede your motor skills and capacity for logical thought.
Two and a half hours later and without referring to the instructions, Bop and iDad stood proudly in the living room inspecting our Colosseum. It was a grand design with a single swing on the right, a two person swing on the left and an enclosed swing seat for Granny in the middle. To top it all off, there was a shiny slippery dip bolted to the right hand side. Sheer beauty.
‘That’s not going out the back door, you know.’
Bop was right.
Thankfully the ales we had consumed had kept us in good humour so the concept of pulling apart our masterpiece and reassembling it in the backyard was not a huge worry. With the last of the libations in the Esky iDad and Bop stood in the dimly lit courtyard being eaten alive by mosquitoes and cursing the fact that Santa would be getting all the credit.
Some time after three a.m., I crawled in between the sheets. Luckily, the boys let me sleep until it was almost six. We had a rule in our house that if you woke up and the sun wasn’t shining, then you couldn’t get out of bed. Foolishly I had hoped that the storm clouds would still be present and I would get a little lie in. The Southerly buster that arrived just before dawn cooled the city down and blew away the grey skies. It was bright and sunny and the frenzied pinball machines were dancing on my head.
Aside from the exhaustion it was a perfect Christmas morning. The boys rode the swing set whilst iDad cooked ham and eggs on the BBQ. Afterwards we had ‘Jurassic Park’ in the lounge room complete with Velociraptors, plastic soldiers and a bright red Ferrari that God Sakes refused to let No.1’s Spinosaurus step on. Granny was lying in the remnants of the wrapping with a gold bow stuck in his hair trying desperately not to fall asleep. Every so often one of his brothers would throw a dinosaur at him and he would climb out of the detritus so his Brontosaurus could munch on a plastic Marine.
Blue Eyes and I would sit with a cup of coffee and watch our little angels play. We’ve been doing this for seventeen years now and for me, these are the memories that make Christmas special.
Mele Kalikimaka everybody.
iDad © Matthew Green 2010