Border Mail Column Wednesday 22 December 2010
I am grateful to have this time and space this morning to write this column. Typically I have left the getting organised for Christmas until the last minute and writing this gives me the opportunity to take a breath and reflect on this season and its meaning to me.
There are so many things I could write about, because I am one of the fortunate people for whom Christmas is a happy time; I have a lifetime of Christmas memories ranging from being a new parent with a five week old baby sleeping peacefully under the tree to boisterous gatherings of family and friends.
As children, because we lived away from extended family, travel was often part of our Christmas experience.
Without DVDs, iPods or any distraction apart from singing and I Spy, which was hard to play in the dark, we drove more than 800 kilometres to visit with my dad’s family arriving at my grandparents in time for breakfast.
As we wandered in bleary eyed from the long journey the smell of freshly cooked toast mingled with the scent of pine from the Christmas tree is still strong in my memory.
On Christmas Eve, on a bed out on the veranda with the canvas blinds rolled up to reveal the summer sky, I would look up searching for Santa’s sleigh and the star which I believed guided the three wise men to the sleeping baby in Bethlehem.
Christmas Day started with church, then back to finish preparing Christmas dinner including making the fruit salad with cherries which were the plumpest and sweetest I have ever eaten.
After lunch we’d sit or lie on the lawn and the boys would christen new cricket sets with howls going out from the lounging rellies if the ball happened to land in their midst.
We’d stay out until the sun dropped from the sky and the air cooled, finally wandering in for a tea of leftovers.
For many years work commitments meant smaller family Christmases, but the preparation was always important including the decorating of the tree.
Ornaments and tinsel in place, one of the boys would perch on his dad’s shoulders and place the star on the tree top. Now both over six feet tall it’s an easy reach for them.
This Christmas will be the first in 26 years where I won’t see my sons during the Christmas period, but know they will think of me, especially when they take a mouthful of the Christmas puddings I’ve made for them.
I will be spending Christmas with my sister and her family and look forward to the noise and bustle of her household where, no matter what the temperature, Christmas dinner will be traditional fare including another homemade pudding.
We will attend church together, and for me it is this which makes Christmas complete, because as a Christian Christ’s birth is the reason for the season.
I love to hear the story retold or see it re-enacted by children in a nativity play; there is something mystical about attending a midnight church service where I can almost smell the hay of the humble stable and remember that feeling of holding a new baby in my arms.
As I walk out into the night I will look to the sky and know I will feel a great sense of peace and renewal.
I do know that for some, Christmas and the memories of the season are not easy and through circumstance or choice they will spend this time alone.
So, whether your Christmas gathering is large or small I wish you peace, joy and hope.