The Christmas Star

Last year our seven-year-old grandson gave us a beautiful ornate glass star that looks like crystals in a chandelier if you focus your eyes correctly. This year I asked Chris to hang it above the tree.

Beginning with the ruler, measuring meticulously in one direction and then the other, he proceeded to find a spot in the high raked ceiling for the hook.

Fighting to penetrate the hard wood, finally the hook was in place.
Climbing down the ladder, Chris heard his father’s voice in his head say, ‘Don’t worry sport, you can move the tree!’

This is exactly what he would have said.

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Jack’s Present

This is a revised Christmas story written a few years ago.

Jack’s Present

Emily’s mum had helped her stir the special ingredients of oats and sparkling gold glitter and measured them into 15 envelopes.
On the front of each envelope were the instructions:

‘Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight.
The moonlight will make it sparkle bright.

Millie as a puppy

Millie as a puppy

As the reindeer fly and roam,
this will guide them to your home.’

Emily had signed each one ‘Love Emily’.
She proudly gave them to her friends at Day Care.
Jack put his away safely.

Jack and his brother, Mackenzie, watched Mum pack their case. Jack made sure that his envelope from Emily was in his bag. They were driving to their grandparents and Millie’s house for Christmas. Santa must know where to find them.

Christmas Eve, Jack and Mackenzie left out a bottle of beer and some biscuits for Santa. Then they sprinkled Jack’s reindeer food outside before hopping into bed to have a story.

Whilst the children slept, Millie, the puppy, thought the reindeer food was put out in the courtyard for her, so she ate it all up.

Luckily Santa still managed to find his way.

The next morning Jack and Mackenzie discovered their bulging stockings and ran to show their parents.

Everyone decided to take Millie for her walk before breakfast.

They had to wait while she searched for a special spot under a callistemon tree.

‘How come Millie’s poo is glittering?’ asked Jack.

‘Wow, you’re right,’ chuckled Grandpa, as he scooped it into a bag.

‘It’s her way of wishing everyone a happy Christmas!’

Mackenzie laughed. ‘Millie’s a clever dog!’

‘What a treat! But remember, my treasures,

all that glitters is not gold!’ said Grandpa.

Mackenzie and Jack

Mackenzie and Jack

Christmas, past and present

Christmas, past and present

Singing carols in church began the day, then breakfast. Presents under the tree remained unopened until everyone had finished their bacon and eggs. My father always took so long, chewing every mouthful thirty times.

My grandmother and grandfather’s Christmas dinner included everyone, usually their four children and families, plus. Memories of great aunts and uncles, three great grandparents and Miss Benjifield. The films of these joyful celebrations, that my Uncle Henry took, show the oldest generation gradually diminishing with the next generation expanding, so we continued to fill the large T shaped tables.

My grandfather carved the turkey. My grandmother divvied out baked vegetables, gravy and succulent new peas from the garden. An enormous Christmas pudding then arrived with much, ‘Oohing and Aahing.’ Homemade ice cream, whipped cream and fresh strawberries and raspberries accompanied it. Finding a sixpence in our pudding was exciting, even if we weren’t keen on eating it. Uncle John, a baptist minister, was insistent he didn’t get a coin, so my grandmother would inform him he must have swallowed it, as she had seen to it that he’d had one. My grandmother was presbyterian, so no alcohol was consumed at her house.

After dinner other relatives and friends came for afternoon tea. This was set up out in the garden where folding chairs were placed under the decorated jacaranda tree. The oldest generation sat ensconced in their semicircle watching. Reflected light lit their soft white wrinkled faces, shadowed by their sunhats and veils.

How I took so much for granted, accepting the traditions as if food appeared by magic.

In the nineteen seventies my mother took over the Christmas Day preparations when my widowed, arthritic grandma became too old and infirmed. Mum managed seamlessly. Having five children who multiplied with eleven grandchildren, plus some waifs and strays, the laden table seemed limitless. Miss Nichols replaced Miss Benjifield. My father included alcohol in to the festivities.

We continued the traditions. My father was reluctant to go to church, though he always joined us on Christmas Day. One year the whole family sat in our usual pew. On the way out the minister said to my father, ‘And who are you?’

He replied,

‘I’ll give you three guesses,’ and walked on, grinning at mum.

My enchanted childhood invigorates me to try harder. Christopher and I have five children between us. They each have partners and children. Nobody lives locally. Families from afar must stay. Two boys live in the city, an hour away, which means they come for the day. Others live further afield so it is special when we all gather to catch up on all those stories that haven’t been shared due to the business of modern living.

Love remains the kernel of this sacred day. We try to minimise the commercial hype and have time to listen and talk to one another and enjoy the children’s excitement. Mobile phones and ipads have become unnecessary distractions.

Customs remain, such as: food preparations, weeding and cleaning. I think of my mother and my grandmother. How could they remain so calm and tolerant, never complaining? Were they like me? I gather my thoughts and hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Christopher has repaired two woodworm eaten legs of the outdoor table. Visualising poinsettias as the centerpiece on the table, I pretend nil desperandum and try to remain serene. Traditions change gradually and will continue to change. We shall make the most of our time and attempt to create happy memories for the next generation.

I realize that we are privileged to have grandchildren and to have family around us. Blessings and love to all of you who have had the stamina to read this and may you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

Bayside Local Author Expo: Victoria, Australia

Free program for writers at the Beaumaris Library, Victoria, to be held on Sunday 29th May 2016, 1-5pm.

Having joined the Sandy Beach writer’s group, I am now tiptoeing out of my comfort zone to join in this Bayside Local Author Expo. It would be great if any of you are able to come along. There will be many authors selling books, plus the program below that looks quite interesting.

It will also be children’s book illustrator- friend, Andrew McLean’s 70th birthday that day, so there should be some great celebrations as well. Please introduce yourself if you do manage to come along.

Beaumaris Large Hall
1.30 – 2.15 Writing and marketing Children’s Literature
Panel Discussion
MC Kieran Carroll George Ivanoff
Annie White
Jacqui Grantford
Leanne Vernon
2.30 – 3.15 Developing a non-fiction book that will appeal to agents and readers alike
Panel Discussion
MC Kieran Carroll Graeme & Elsie Johnston
Krissy Nicholson
Vikki Petraitis
Susan Moore
3.30 – 4.15 Challenges in writing and publishing Fiction
Panel Discussion
MC – Kieran Carroll Anna George
Sally Hepworth
Elise McCune
Leigh redhead
Beaumaris Small Hall
1.30 – 2.15 Get a publisher or self publish?
Panel Discussion
Facilitator: Vikki Petraitis Martin Playne
Olga Lorenzo
Suzanne McCourt
Suzy J Brown
2.30 – 3.15 Promotion is not a dirty word! The art of marketing your book
Panel Discussion
Facilitator: Rochelle Jackson Lorraine Campbell
Jane Sullivan
Olga Lorenzo
Jenny Ackland
3.30 – 4.15 Past & present Bayside Writers in Residence: where are they now?
Panel Discussion/Readings
Facilitator: Mark Potter Dick Gross
Pauline Luke
Gillian Barnett
Christine Rogers

Looking back:

Have begun writing some of my memoir into short stories. This is one example:
Empire Day
I watched my mother make toffee apples. The sweet smell of sugar melting, bubbling fast with the bright red cochineal added. No stirring allowed as the sugar became toffee. The dimpled, large tin tray was filled with skewered toffee dipped apples left to set.

The year was 1956, May school holidays. The neighbourhood kids, my brothers and I had scoured the bush on the parade for dead branches and trees. We’d collected anything flammable. Old tyres were a prized find, though previously these had to be hidden from a rival arsonist gang, who had burnt our bonfire down the year before.

This year we joined forces with the rival gang and invited them to help build our bonfire and share the night. They were not so scary, once we got to know them. Two of them, the Stone twins, led a tough life, having to milk the cows each morning and night, helping their mother after their father had died. We all had fun dragging dead branches and piling them up until the bonfire was huge.

Cold winter darkness descended. Dressed warmly in our woolen coats and full of anticipation, we all went to the paddock opposite where the bonfire was ready to be lit. My mother waddled carrying enough toffee apples for everyone, the tray resting on her extended stomach. After distributing them, mother collected everyone’s crackers and put them onto another large tray to prevent them being lit at the same time so that it would extend the fireworks display.

Dad lit the fire illuminating excited faces. Flowerpots disgorged their red and yellow sprays of colour from the fence post. A few tom thumbs ignited, popping here and there, with penny bungers and Jumping Jacks being thrown, scaring the unwary. Catherine wheels spun skewered to fence posts. Rockets soared out of beer bottles, spraying red, green and white stars.

Suddenly there was a ruckus. Someone had thrown a large cracker onto the tray, which started igniting the rest. My mother dropped the tray, jumping back as crackers went off in every direction. A rocket whizzed between her legs as she hopped and danced. Disappointed, without understanding why, my brothers and I were quickly gathered together and taken home.

It wasn’t until the next morning that we were told our brother, Angus, was born on Empire Day. He came into the world with a bang and inherited a crackerjack personality.

Computer troubles overcome:

Having been off the air for some time, I forgot to mention that my beloved contacted a firm to help me resolve my computer problems.

MacKeepers are a firm who assist Apple owners resolve their problems remotely. I had lost use of my iPhotos and not being resourceful and wanting to go out of my way, instead found other things to keep me occupied, rather than fix the problem. The first man to help lived in the Ukraine. By paying rather a lot, I now have oversight of my computer without having to worry about new bugs invading. The first help took 13 hours to rectify the 2052 problems and freed up some GBs. It is now in the regular helpful hands of MacKeepers who are also at the end of the telephone if I have questions or problems. This is a wonderful service and I really am grateful to have the computer back. Of course there are lessons for me to learn to help keep my computer healthy. I have utilised this telephone service once and the man was very patient and talked me through, seeing what was on my screen he could see what the problem was.

The relief is enormous. I hadn’t realised just how much it was bothering me subconsciously.

Here are a few more photos, left over from my last post of our visit to Arthurs Seat, Mornington Peninsula.

Tree surfing

Tree surfing

One of the Mazes at Enchanted Adventure Garden

One of the Mazes at Enchanted Adventure Garden

The Fairy Garden

The Fairy Garden

Cherio from M & J

Cherio from M & J

Easter holidays over:

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safety instructions

safety instructions

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These holidays coincided with our grandson’s 8th birthday. Jack and Mackenzie really enjoyed the water park, and on Jack’s birthday we went to Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula. Here they have lots of child friendly activities. It was the first time we’d been. Tree surfing for nippers included being suspended in the trees with a harness with many challenging obstacle courses ending with a wonderful zip, or flying fox after each course. There were three courses for the young nippers and it took about an hour. The adult course looks very hairy and that takes two hours, though that wasn’t for us.
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After a picnic lunch we then discovered the many mazes and some slides that were in constant use. Carrying the blowup tubes to the top of the hill was part of the experience. Exhausting grandparents who just gazed and children who climbed again and again.
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The gardens were beautifully maintained and my favourite part was the Japanese garden. My photos don’t do it justice. Having our grandchildren over to stay makes us realize why people have children when they are young.