The last time I was home for Christmas was in 1999, along with my ex and Zach who was only 10 months old at the time, and Sam wasn’t born yet. Since then I’ve been home to Australia many times, but that was the last time I was home for Christmas…such a long time ago!
Prior to that visit it was all the way back to 1986, the year after I got back from my backpacking adventures. At the time I was living in Darwin, and had made no plans to be home for Christmas as I was still short of cash after my year away. I still remember the call I got from my dad, which unto itself was a rarity.
In his matter of fact voice he said “you better come home this Christmas, this may be mum’s last”. And so, this simple statement set into a motion a trip for the ages.
As you can imagine trying to leave Darwin at the height of the “wet” (monsoon season – yes, Darwin is way north and closer to Indonesia and Asia than any other Australian city) was a tricky maneuver to pull off given that most people leave to visit family down south.
With limited flights and availability I found that I could fly to Alice Springs some 1600 kms south, then onto Adelaide. After that my only choice was an overnight bus from Adelaide to Melbourne which was able to drop me off at Ballarat on the way.
It was a gruelling and exhausting 48 hour journey that saw me arrive home a couple of days before Christmas. It was nice to be home after being away so long… Dad was absolutely right, mum was poorly and sinking fast. The worst part was that there wasn’t a thing that any of us could do to change the inevitable .
Christmas day arrived with everyone trying to keep their spirits up, but it was a ruse and we all knew it. Putting on a brave face was the best we could do, but in reality our Christmas day was met with an underlying sense of foreboding and loss…we just didn’t know when.
So to help lighten the mood one of us suggested that we paint the house…in the hopes that it might brighten mum up a little. Now, although our house was relatively tiny it still required a lot of wire brush treatment and undercoating to prepare it for a final coat of paint. It wasn’t just the exterior walls, nope we decided to do the roof as well. My job was to tackle the double pitched tin roof in the middle of the summer. Luckily I already was deeply tanned from living in the tropics. 🙂
Boxing day dawned sunny and warm and we set about the task of painting the house from top to bottom in a day. Trust me there, was a lot of paint spilt over the course of the day, and it did seem to brighten mum’s spirits a little so it was all good.
As we all left to return to our lives after Christmas it was more than an emotional departure, knowing deep in our hearts what the future was going to bring…
To our great sadness mum passed away in April 1987 just before my birthday. At least now she was able to rest, it had been a long and bitter fight over the final few years of her life with her deteriorating health.
It’s hard to believe that that Christmas was 32 years ago.
I guess my biggest regret is that I wish mum could of met and enjoyed time with Zach and Sam. To see what incredible human beings they are, and to witness their successes and the life before them.
The other, more personal regret I have is that I wished mum could have seen how my life turned out and that I made something of myself. The wonderful life that I have today, the beautiful family that I’ve raised and more importantly how happy and contented I am. No small feat considering where I started…
Clearly, this Christmas will be different as I’ll have both Zach and Sam with me as we celebrate an Australia Christmas for the very first time. The beauty is that they will also get to experience their large and boisterous family…aren’t they in for a treat! 🙂
The plan is to go to my niece and her husband’s place just outside Ballarat for Christmas lunch with my sister Glenda and brother in law Max. Marnie and Cameron live in an idyllic setting, up on a hill in a gorgeous house that Cameron designed and built, with their three adorable kids and four Alpaca’s that roam their plot of land. Should be an awesome time!
Dinner will be a cold buffet back at Glenda and Max’s, not that we’ll likely need any more to eat. Christmas in Australia is a bit like Thanksgiving in Canada…too much yummy food!
Then Boxing day we’re driving out to Clunes (the town I was born) to my brother Laurie’s house. He’s recently retired and bought a house there.
On the way Zach, Sam and I will take flowers to the cemetery to visit mum and dad. Spend a little time, say a little prayer and leave a small stone on the headstone as a Jewish (yes, my ex was Jewish and so both the kids are by birth) symbol of remembrance.
I’m sure anyone who visits the grave after us will wonder how those three little stones made it up on top of the headstone. We will leave them guessing! 🙂
By the time you’re reading this we will be in Australia and enjoying the summer warmth…well, that is the plan at least!
May we wish you a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones – enjoy every moment.
Until next week