Sunday, December 25, 2011

NewStyle Christmas

It’s a different kind of Christmas morning in the Tivey house.  I woke up early, and listened to the silence in the house. Inevitably, that very silence brought back memories of the crazed tumult of the years of Christmases when the children barely waited until daybreak before the frantic stocking opening began. I always loved it so much, and I was determined to perpetuate all the magic as long as I could. Santa’s wrapping paper was different from our tree gifts, he had a fat and sprawling handwriting that couldn’t possibly have been mine! The moment of the transfer of the Santa gifts into the living room late, late on Christmas Eve was always a terrifying moment for me. Imagine if one of the children had chosen that moment to come wandering out of the bedroom!  It never happened, but truth be told, I was prepared for that too, and always had my cover story ready, just in case! Whether they really believed in it all as long as they seemed to, I’m not so sure. But I presume they loved the magic enough to pretend – and perhaps they didn’t want me to be upset!!  Ha. How the child becomes the parent!!
This morning, with no tumult at all, Mike and I made super strong coffee and monkey bread for brekkie, and exchanged a few little gifts. It was unusual but cozy, and I was surprisingly cheerful about this first ever Christmas morning with no children at all in the house.  They’re on their way, of course, which is the thing that makes it all ok. And by mid-afternoon, this quiet house will be bursting at the seams with most of the people who we love most in the world, and Christmas will be Christmas again.
Yesterday, we were not feeling particularly festive.  I was trying to fight off a cold, and Mike was trying to straighten up after throwing his back out at work the day before.  As I was lazing about feeling mildly miserable, my Christmas miracle arrived!  Danny called ME to wish us all a merry Christmas, and discuss some plans, which will include him sitting at my Christmas table next year!!   Oh, I will die happy if we can make that happen!!
For now, that magical and unexpected phone call will suffice, and adding it to family Christmas later today, I feel thoroughly festive and joyful.  Santa has sneaked in and left stockings for children who are probably too old for them. (HA!) I notice the old bastard unexpectedly still has that same sprawling handwriting … old habits die hard, eh?!
Merry, merry Christmas to Danny, Melanie, Steven and Rachel, the four lights of my life, and all the members of my American family, who have further illuminated my wonderful world! 
I love you all. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stars of Wonder

It’s early Sunday morning, a week before Christmas. Mike is still sleeping, the dogs haven’t yet begun the morning clamor to be fed and walked, Tipsy the cat is curled up next to me and the silence is broken only by the row of hanging Santa stars gently clinking together as the heat powers up and forces them to dance about. It draws my attention each time it happens, and I glance at them and feel a fondness in my heart for traditions that form almost inadvertently and become imperative, as if they’d been there forever.
In my house, it becomes Christmas only when the Santa stars are hung. They have a new spot this year, as we settle into our new apartment, and now they smile down at me from above our big new living room window. They make me feel settled and grounded and festive, and they are more important to me than anyone could ever know, as they tell the living, breathing story of our family and of people who come and stay awhile, leaving some kind of mark on us before they leave.
Each hand-painted Santa has a wide black belt, and on each belt, written in gold ink, is the name of everyone who ever spends Christmas with us, the regulars, the visitors and the pets!  How my old memories leap up, as I hang the stars, and I let each memory stretch as it comes. By the time I read that last name, my mind and heart are filled with the stories of Christmases past, and the Christmas spirit has arrived in abundance.  How strange that in all the kerfuffle of Christmas, all of the money spent and the gifts bought and the food planned, that this is what it is truly all about.
 Each year, life surprises us in some way, and new stars are added. An Aussie relative might come for a visit, a new friend or partner of one of the kids might join us or, as is the case this year, a new baby comes and the Santas scooch up, jockeying for position as a new star is joyfully added.    No-one can really know how I love adding new stars to the string, how it gives me a feeling of the continuity of life, how it helps to make me feel grounded again, especially if I feel lost or alone, as if I could fly away ….
The heat has kicked in again, and the Santas are dancing again already as I write. It must be extra cold out today. Or perhaps they are dancing just for me, knowing that I’m feeling particularly fond of them today. I see my children dancing around Granny, who’s dancing next to Tipsy. And our newest star, Troy, is dancing next to Twinkie, the well-travelled guinea pig, who hung out with us through an amazing six Christmases! 
Here’s to the string of Santa stars expanding for years to come, painting new little scenes into our family portrait as time goes by. And here’s to Christmas 2011, where more people than ever before will crowd around my kitchen table. As the sun struggles to warm this frigid morning, I am here filled with warmth and good cheer, watching and feeling the joyous dance of the past, present and future.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Out on the plain the brolgas are dancing, lifting their feet like war horses prancing. . .

I have Christmas carols playing in my house today, and I’m making sausage rolls, a family Christmas tradition for generations, and it got me thinking fondly of Christmases past. Today I feel a wave of nostalgia for those sweltering Aussie Christmas days, where the temperature topped 100 degrees, and yet my scarlet-faced mother somehow produced that  giant Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, followed by the traditional English Christmas pudding,  doused with brandy and set aflame before being brought to the table amid oohs and aahs of delight. A heavy winter meal on a day only fit for a light snack and a dip in the pool, and yet we ate and ate and ate!  Here, where the icy, silent beauty of the snow gives Christmas an ethereal beauty,  it is easy to follow the traditions, although the turkey has become beef, and my mother’s sublime Christmas pudding recipe somehow doesn’t work when I get my hands on it, so I buy what I can from the European supermarket, but it still arrives at the table with blue flames dancing, and my adult children still ooh and aah as if it were magic, perhaps not knowing, as I know now, that it really is.  I close my eyes and I am miles and years away, clinking a glass with my Mum, sipping her one glass a year of green ginger wine, and my dear, departed Dad, sipping  his one glass a year of exquisite Para port and holding rigidly to the old traditions.  Bless him – they’re my traditions now, and I am quietly fierce about them too. I reluctantly accept some little changes, because that’s what happens when kids grow and go, but Christmas must be Christmas, with all its funny little moments, and I hold on tenaciously.  
In honor of Aussie Christmases, where Santa still inexplicably wears that ridiculous suit, and isn’t really supposed to say “Ho, Ho, Ho” in malls since someone decided it was derogatory to women. ;0)   In honor of the families who finally figured out that a barbie on the beach with prawns, salad, too much beer, and pavlova to follow, is a smarter way to go; and in honor of the traditionalists who faint with heat exhaustion as they finally get that damn turkey on the Christmas table, I say Merry Christmas and I feel an odd longing to be wilting through summer Christmas with you this year.

And Danny…I miss you so, and I want you at my Christmas table next year, laughing with your siblings and completing a picture that always has one empty space in it. We should make that magic happen. We can.

Winter Christmas preparations resume now, and I truly am joyful as I go, but today I am singing a little Aussie Christmas song called “Carol of the Birds” and feeling the heat and the haze and the humidity of all my Christmases past.