December 2011 archive

Goodbye Christmas

When the rain came crashing down on Christmas afternoon, gate crashing Christmas, we all scurried indoors taking with us the perishables, the things that could not stand a downpour, including the flowers that stood in a line in small bottles in the middle of the table.

We took in the last of the corn bread, the butter the open wine bottles the condiments but left out half empty wine glasses, the water pitchers, serviettes and the rest.

I visited my mother on Christmas day night and drove through more storms, scary in places where I had to slow down to sixty kilometres an hour in otherwise one hundred kilometre zones for fear of what might happen, but I got there, sobolened my mother’s legs and wished her a happy Christmas.

My mother was surprised that I had come thinking the storms would keep me away but I had been determined to get there after our Christmas day visitors, family and friends had gone.

I had done a basic clean up before I left to see my mother but could not get outside to do the outdoor table for the rain. I planned to leave it to the next day. But after I arrived home from my mother’s the rain had stopped, for a while at least, and I took out an empty tray determined to do as much as I could then and there.

I loaded the tray which I had set at one end of the table with glasses, a plate and a bowl, and the left over knives and forks. Before I took the tray inside I began to tip over the outdoor chairs which were filled with puddles and twigs and leaves and the like.

I did not see it coming. The chair closest to the head of the table had supported the tray on which I had placed all the glasses. I whipped it out and watched as the tray turned over and crashed onto the bricks.

It did not have far to fall but the result was spectacular, shattered glass spread over the bricks and into the flower beds nearby.

There was nothing to do for it, no one to whom I might complain. The rest of my tribe were sleeping, collapsed after Christmas festivities or out visiting friends, and so I cleaned it all up then and there. The dust pan soon became mud covered through the cracks between the bricks. Glass splinters everywhere.

It seemed a strange ending to Christmas and as I cleaned I wondered whether at the moment of the crash someone somewhere had died and someone somewhere else had been born. The crash had to mark something I thought. It could not be so random as to mean nothing.

This chook, a Christmas present from one daughter to my husband, looked on unblinking. It is made of metal and did not feel a thing.

The rebel in me

I pulled a muscle this morning somewhere near my heart and my left eye lid is twitching in that awful involuntary way, the way it does when I am over wrought.

Let me not complain too loudly of exhaustion, let me instead remark on a headline I read a couple of days ago. I did not have time or make time to read the article but the headline rang out to me in words to the effect, ‘Why Christmas should only happen in winter’, as if Christmas in the southern hemisphere in the heat and humidity is an aberration, at least that is how I read it.

A christmas tradition in our house, last years Christmas prawns on the barbeque:

The journalist may have written tongue in cheek but it annoyed me nevertheless.

Christmas is a human construction that began way back, presumably celebrated in places where it is cold in December and yet the nativity setting in Bethlehem has never struck me as particularly cold, at least not by day.

I cannot help myself, I keep rehearsing the days after Christmas, the days when I can settle into a constructive use of my time. Clean out my writing room and the spare room, sort out my tax for the year. Clear the decks in order to leave a space for writing.

For the past couple of weeks all eyes are directed towards Christmas and then in a blink it’s over for another year. Even now I feel pressure to go through the ritual of wishing everyone a happy Christmas, seasons greetings and all of those obligatory gestures, and yet inside something rails against this.

It’s not that I dislike Christmas. It’s not that I do not share in the customs. It’s more the sameness of it all, and yet it’s the sameness, the fact that most of us are busily launching ourselves into a state of frenzy in readiness for Christmas day that makes me want to rebel.

I have known people who refuse to participate. I imagine myself as one of them. I imagine myself into what it might be like during those several hours on Christmas day when the world, at least here in my part of suburban Melbourne, seems to come to a sort of standstill, especially throughout the prolonged lunch when people gather together every ten houses or so with others from their respective clans or friendship groups to celebrate in traditional and non-traditional ways. Here in Australia to be traditional – turkey plum pudding and the like – is to go against the temperature which begs for salads and cold cuts, but everyone, or nearly everyone is at it.

In my imagination I’m one of those who avoids Christmas, whether by choice or circumstance or through something imposed by others. What must it be like?

I wander through the streets alone, aimless. The shops are shut as if it were midnight. Even the twenty-four-hours-a-day supermarkets are closed. There’s only a skeleton staff at hospitals and in places where systems must keep on grinding in spite of Christmas cheer.

It offers an odd pleasure this opportunity to stand outside and look in, bitter sweet in some ways, for as much as in my imagination I miss out on the joys of Christmas and there are many, I am also spared the horrors, the tensions, the conflict.

Despite the journalist’s quip that Christmas should only happen in winter, Christmas happens in spite of the physical world in which we live and it will go on or not according to the dictates of people, not the weather.

And in spite of the rebel in me, I wish you all the best of the season, including a happy Christmas, if that feels right for you.

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