Five a.m. Christmas morning, and the sun is barely
peeking it's way into my bedroom window. In the gum
trees, the Kookaburras are laughing loudly, as if to
herald the magical day to come. In a far field, the
sheep on our farm are baaing softly and in unison...
or is it flies buzzing in the distance? Already the
summer heat has seeped its way in to create a film of
sweat over my body. The sheets are tangled over and
over, they are knotted up in the intricate way that
tends to occur after a nights excited "trying-to-get-a-glimpse-of-Santa"
tossing and turning.
But now, it's come. Five a.m. It's light. And it's
finally Christmas!! Before my eyes have even opened,
I know. Christmas. Santa. Presents. PRESENTS!! Aiiii!
I sit up, and jump out of bed in a gargantuan leap!!
And I'm jumping on mum and dads bed and shaking them
awake. "Mum! Dad! It's Christmas!!" I'm shouting with
excitement. My voice sounds really high and loud. I
like it, so I do it again. "Mum, dad, it's Christmas!"
Dad grunts. Dad groans. With his eyes still closed,
he mops his sweaty brow before he sits up and gasps,
and cups his hand over his forehead. "Ouch," dad mutters.
We left a bottle of Glen Fiddoch Whisky out with a slice
of Christmas pudding for "Santa" last night. Dad moans,
and flops back into bed. "Not now, sweetie. Dad needs
a bit more rest." "But Dad, please, oh PLEEEEASE!!"
My shriek fills the room. Dad grabs his forehead again.
He shows signs of physical agony. My shreiks grow louder,
and are soon joined by my brother's. He has woken up
too now. Dad splutters and sputters. He grumbles incoherently.
He grasps his forehead. "Oh, okay, you kids. Just let
me have a coffee and wake up." Mum sits up. She looks
slightly amused. "Why don't you go and have a look at
the tree, kids? Dad's just got to wake up," she says.
The door is slightly ajar. Surely there can be no moment
so magical than the moment the presents are seen unopened
under the tree. In our family, no presents went under
the tree until Christmas day. There's nothing, and then
suddenly, as if by magic, there they are -- the presents!!
We poke and prod and shake a little. The wait for our
parents is barely tolerable. Santa has done it again.
Some of the kids at school say that Santa isn't real,
but my brother and I know better. We saw him in the
weather report on the news last night. He was flying
over the weather map in his sleigh. We were decorating
the tree when we saw him. Mum was looking on shelling
peas. "Look, it's Santa!!" "Mum, why does Santa ride
a sleigh? Why doesn't he get a jet?" Dad grins. "It's
too cold to start a jet engine in the North Pole. The
motor siezed up on his jet last week. He couldn't afford
to get it repaired. So he went to a used jet dealer.
But all he could afford was a rickety old sleigh and
a bunch of old reindeer. He nearly had to call the whole
"Why doesn't Cliff Wright Motors in town have sleds?"
Mum changes the subject. "In some parts of the world,
it snows on Christmas day. They have a big hot baked
lunch and go ice-skating. And they make snowmen!"
"Yes, that's what all the books at school say about
Christmas. Why don't we ever have Christmases like that?"
"All those books at school are from the other side
of the world. In Italy, Santa is called St Nicholas,
and he gives naughty children coal for Christmas." Mum
and dad are smiling. Dad says, "I guess that's better
than Santa. If you're naughty, you get squat diddly
from Santa." Mum flicks dad with a tea towel. They're
off on one of their adults tangents again. "Kids you
better tell your dad to watch his mouth or he won't
be getting anything from Santa this year."
The presents sit under the tree. The wait is barely
tolerable. Mum calls out from their bedroom. Hey, maybe
you should go out and look where you left the straw
for the reindeer. You can see if they came or not."
My brother and I go outside. Other than a few tufts
lying about here and there, the straw we left for the
reindeer is gone. There are muddy hoof prints, and a
trail of poo on the concrete drive. I start giggling.
"Mum, that's sheep poo!!" Mum is laughing too. "Reindeer
poo looks just the same!" There is a trail of it all
up the driveway.
Mum and dad emerge squinting onto the verandah. Mum
is still in her cotton floral nightie. Her hair sprawls
out in all different directions. The chooks squawk and
peck the ground about mum's feet wanting their Chrissie
dinner early. "Ok, you chooks, lets get you some laying
mash." She goes in and soon emerges with some old vegie
scraps, potato peelings and the like. They follow mum
eagerly. A few days ago, I tried to tie a Christmas
bell necklace with tinsel around one of the chooks necks.
Mum explained that it is cruel to tie things around
animals necks. "They like to be free," she explained.
Mum doesn't believe in eating animals. The neighbours
come over every so often and peek at the curried lentils
in mums cooking pots. Not many people eat lentils that
I know of. Some people in this town think my mum and
dad are weird but that has never bothered my mum. "Baby
Jesus was born in a stable with all the other animals,"
she says. "He loved animals too." My mum knows all kinds
of interesting things.
The chooks are now fed, and Mum turns her attention
to the rest of her brood. "We'd better have breakfast
before Aunt Joyce arrives and we open the presents."
"But Muuuuuum, can't we open them now, oh pleeeease,
Dad hands them out in turn. It's always been that
way. I get a bath set with soaps and talcum powder (as
is the ritual), and some clothes and toys. But by far
the best present is a blue and yellow rubber blow up
boat!!! "A boaty!" I yell, "a boaty, boaty, boaty, boaty!"
My brother gets a remote control car. But it's a special
one, it makes noises, you can make engine revving sounds
and press a button to beep the horn.
He takes it onto the verandah, and soon the air is
abuzz with sounds of beeping and revving engines. My
brother shrieks with delight.
"Can we go somewhere and row my boaty?" Mum looks at
dad, "Why not?" So mum grabs a basket. We pack the Christmas
pudding and the salads we made last night. And some
lemonade and fruit salad. And some lollies and bon bons.
It's so hot that even as mum crams ice into the esky
it's already melting. Mum flaps her dress so we can
see her cotton undies. "I can see your undies Mum!"
My brother and I are laughing at Mum's undies.
Our ute is old and rusty. Dad reckons it's from the
sixties! It's too old to go anywhere but our farm. It's
got lots of rust, and the seats have lots of holes where
the springs stick through. Dad makes us kids sit on
the really springy bits because Mum doesn't like it.
The ute creaks and croaks. Sometimes it coughs and splutters
like dad does when he first wakes up in the morning.
My brother and me laugh. "It's farting dad! The utes
farting!" We keep squealing. We keep saying "farty farty
bang bang! Farty farty bang bang!" It's funny! And we're
getting louder. Dad runs over a rock and Mum yelps.
She looks funny!
"FARTY FARTY BANG BANG!" My brother is howling with
laughter. Dad tells us to stop making such a racket
and looks very cross, but a few seconds later he starts
coughing in that way he does when he's pretending not
to laugh. Dad lets me sit on his lap and move the steering
wheel. It doesn't matter if I go wonky because we're
not on a paddock. But then I hit too many rocks and
Mum gets cross and I have to let dad drive again.
And then we're there, the creek! Our creek is great.
There's even a rope you can swing into the water hanging
from a branch. But you have to climb a tree first. And
when your skin is all wet you get lots of cuts because
the bark on the tree is all rough. We eat lots of salad,
and cold chicken. But Mum doesn't. I don't want to either,
but dad thinks it might be bad for me. Mum tells me
that when I'm older I can not eat chicken too. I've
always hated it, since I saw our neighbour, John breaking
one of our chooks necks. I was so mad, and wouldn't
eat anything for a week, but then I started again because
I got too hungry.
Dad blows up the boat, but it takes ages, and we're
all hot! Dad puffs and pants, and he looks kind of cranky,
but then he gets a grin on his face. "You kids jump
in and it'll be ready soon." But mum makes us put on
yucky sunscreen first. I hate sunscreen! It stinks!
And then we jump in! Mum climbs the tree and swings
out in the water -- wheeeeee!!! She splashes us and
we're all laughing and splashing about. We dog paddle
around. "I'm a doggy!! Yap Yap!" Me and my brother are
playing dogs, and mum and dad chuck us sticks to swim
out and collect. It's great!
Soon we're covered in leeches. Mum once showed me a
special way to pull them off so it doesn't hurt them.
I quite like pulling them off, but then my skin gets
all itchy, so I try not to get them on me for too long.
The boat is great! My brother and me row right up the
creek. Mum taught us to swim when we were really little.
But my brother is not very good at it yet so he has
to wear a life jacket and she tells us not to go too
far. We see lots of dragonflies, and a great big lizard!
In a shallow part, we find lots of guppies! "Lets start
an aquarium!" I say. My brother agrees with me, he always
likes my ideas. We get glass jars and we lie in our
boat collecting them and talking. The bottom of the
creek is sandy. There are flecks of shiny bits in it.
Mum says its fools gold, but I wonder if some of it
might be real gold. Once my brother and me went panning
for gold like they used to do in the olden days. But
we didn't find any gold. Mum and dad sit under a tree
reading a book while we splash in the boat. Then she
tells us to get out because the sun is going down.
When she sees all the fish we have collected, she tells
us to put them back. I'm really mad! And I tell mum
I don't want to! My brother is mad too! Mum makes us
sit down. She chucks a towel over us. She stuffs lollies
in our mouths, the great big caramel ones that fill
your whole mouth up. "Here eat these, they will keep
you quiet for a bit." She laughs. "Now listen to mum
for a minute, you rascals, ok? You know today is a special
day. Today is a special day because we show others that
we care about them. We do things for them. That's why
we bought you a boat and took you to the creek because
we knew you kids would like it. We have to show everybody
we care about them today, even little fishes. Those
little fish like swimming in the creek just like you
do. It's too hot for them in those jars, and they like
eating bugs in the creek. So today is a special day
where you should show them you care about them. They're
much happier in the water."
I'm not too sure about this. Mum says, "we can come
to the creek again soon, sweetheart, and look at them
swimming here where they like it." I finish chewing
my lolly. "Promise, mum?" "I promise, poppit. They'll
grow much faster in the water too. You can row out in
your boat and watch them!!"
Mum sticks my finger in the water. "See how warm the
water is? Fish like the water nice and cool because
they have cold blood. And they like the water moving
around in the creek. You don't want them to feel all
hot and sad do you?"
So we take them down to the creek. I'm sad, but it's
nice to watch them swim out into the water like that.
And I think mums right about them liking the creek best.
"See how fast they swim out? That's because they love
the nice cool water." Mum explains. "You were very brave
and kind to let them go. It's what Christmas is all
about. Don't you forget that." Then dad says its time
to go home. We pick up all our rubbish while dad lets
the air out of our boats. Mum makes sure there's nothing
left, not even a bottle top!
Then we get in the farty old ute and peel our sunburned
skin off our arms while sweaty dad drives home.
"Guess what, mum?" I say, "I like Christmas."
Mum smiles at me. "So do I, poppit."
a b l e o f c
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