Monday, December 19, 2011
OF CHRISTMAS PAST
With Christmas just around the corner I couldn’t help comparing now with Christmas Days long gone...
Time travelling back to a time when I was very small, living in Sydney during the war years...madly excited, dancing about with presents from a strange old gentleman whose knee I didn’t really want to perch on, Santa Claus.
That first Xmas Day I can actually remember, I was given a tram conductors kit and cap, complete with ticket bag to sling over my tiny shoulder and a supply of brightly coloured tickets to punch as ‘customers’ handed over their money.
Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? But I do remember spending the day shouting ‘All Aboard’ and then wandering around the lounge room collecting pennies from uncles, aunts and cousins for their tram trip to nowhere. Can’t remember if I got to keep the dosh. Probably did and spent it next day on humbugs, our favourites, for my Grandfather and me to munch on.
After a while I graduated to dolls, and then to books. I was especially besotted with Elsie Oxenham’s stories about the Girls from the Abbey, placing orders in advance for both Christmas and Birthday pressies. I was never disappointed.
When my own children arrived, the presents kept pace with our current economical situation, usually dodgy. It was eerie how we always seemed to suffer a resources crisis right on the festive season. The kids still received their fair share of brand new bikes, or climbing frames, dolls or Lego sets, so somehow or other my Reluctant Traveller must have found a way to make ends not only meet but stretch as well.
As you can see Jenny and Steve weren’t all together too enraptured with the bearded bloke hogging the camera....later Steve’s children, our three little tadpoles will show the same uneasy reservation. Maybe the beard tickled.
Fast forward to grown up son Steve, seen in the next photo serenading a Christmas party with brother in law, Chris, Jenny’s husband. Super slim Chris in the Santa suit thought he had the little kids fooled, but the grandchildren figured it out very quickly.
Later years I was mildly horrified at the no expense barred avalanche of toys and gear those three grandchildren of ours received from their parents...their house littered with gaudy wrapping paper as the little loves tore into strangely shaped parcels. One bright eyed glance, one intake of breath and then they were off to the next mystery parcel, and so their Christmas morning continued with barely a pause even to take in sustenance..The house struggled to recover, strewn with abandoned presents.
I opted not to join the spoiling session and instead my contribution to the day became the tried and true Christmas Stocking, enlarged to contain small oddities I found during the year, stuff they could rampage about the house with. Destroy in a moment if they wanted to. Cheap and nasty, but hugely popular.
Strangely, nearly always these were the items they kept returning to, year after year.
I wonder if grandson Ben will think back to this early Christmas morning, remembering a particular present in the stocking, a tiny kid size watch, one that strangely enough didn’t make the tick tock sound.
Christmas now is a commercial bonanza; to a large extent religion and goodwill has been extracted. Modern communication with mobile phones and computers has even seen the decline of the once obligatory Christmas card.
No longer is every shelf and surface of living rooms around the world festooned with envelope sized images of Santa, snow covered sleighs or the Three Wise Men. Where once a friend, some even living close by, across a street even, mailed a Xmas card through the post, because that is what one did back then, some are lucky now to receive even a smile and a nod much less a written greeting.
I’ve no doubt there are families who still continue the habits of childhood when their parents dragged them off to midnight mass, but I know few today who do, including me, in my immediate group of friends.
The world has changed, and not entirely for the better.
So it’s wonderful and warming to see a small clutch of Straddie Islanders continue their tradition, decorating their homes with a fairyland of Christmas Pageant lights.
Thank you, especially to the wonderful folk of Amity Point who year after year keep alight the spirit of Christmas.
Dear Readers, may your Christmas, wherever you are, be a peaceful and joyous one.
Very best wishes from My Reluctant Traveller and me.
Robyn Mortimer 2011