Written December 24, 2020.
If we were miserable as we left for the river – and we were a little, for not only was the virus raging again in the city – laughable by world standards for it’s only 68 today in Sydney (compared to 228,000 in the US and 46, 696 in Brazil)not only had our Christmas reunion with dear ones in Melbourne been cancelled (we’re not allowed into Victoria), but I must admit that for me it’s hard work to confect a Christmas. We’re such a little family of three. Christmas needs to my mind a raucous crowd, arguing, getting drunk ,over-eating, praying, being silly, being spiritual. I struggle to confect it, for GG is reluctant, feeling it’s all a lot of commercial and religious cant, and K follows him. It’s a labour I keep putting off, only running up to the letter box to post Christmas cards as GG was packing the car with K’s thousand and one bags- she’s coming to stay at the river again, to our great joy…putting off making the cakes- hard because K is allergic to everything, including dried fruit (the sugar).
But if we were subdued, not admitting to misery, the river this afternoon was at its most glorious, the mountains of the National park folding into mountains as if they were all covered by a rich velvet cloth, the sandstone cliffs glowing as gold as any Turkish chapel, the water bluer than the sky.
In the morning, I told GG I dreaded not making a good Christmas for them. When I first left home at 17, my Dad had gone to live with the woman who became his third wife, and my mother was so scarily demented, even her neighbours hid from her. I couldn’t go to her, Dad’s mistress didn’t want me- for very good reasons, since I wanted him to go back home to Mum- my bothers had disappeared into their own lives, I didn’t know any relatives, and I hadn’t a clue how to make friends. In those years, I didn’t know what friendship was. So I spent Christmas for several years pacing the empty streets. When I got married at 20 – men seemed easier than girls to get to know- marriage helped, for e’d go to the country and stay with his relatives but we’d split up in four years and then I was back to street pacing. Mum by then had a lover of her own who didn’t seem to notice her.. When I was about 23, one of my brothers admitted he was at a loose end too, so at least we kept each other miserable company. Finally I found out about friendship , and then I discovered the comfort of giving and receiving Orphans’ Christmases. But I feel so ill-equipped.
Gg told me he’d always had lonely Christmases too.
I”m very glad i’ve got you and K to have Christmas with.
Such kind words. Maybe I can pull it off, now he’s said that.
But the car was too full of k’s bags to fit in the shopping as well, so we headed straight to the boat. Gg had hurt his back loading it all. Dave Brown appeared with his huge smile and wheelbarrows and piled mountains of bags into his, down his long jetty, clambering on the boat in breaking feet and helping me load. Then we had to drive back to Berowra for food.
We’ll have to load this lot on our own, I warned them. We can’t think that Dave will appear again..
I was wrong. Dave good-humouredly a second time did most of the work. I’m gobsmacked at such kindness. I simply don’t understand it. i try to be kind, but I don’t expect it from others.
And our arrival in our bay was wonderful. When Tripi realised it was us, he leapt from this verandah and ran up and down the jetty in wild circles, jumping into the boat as we berthed and leaping out again and in again, unable to contain himself, yapping and rolling on his back and then leaping up again and into my arms. Dee followed him and helped carry up the 42 steps K’s heaviest bags, And S shyly and apologetically suddenly appearing on the jetty:
Forgive me for breaking a convention, not letting you settle in before I come to say hello
And shouldering, while he spoke, more heavy bags and then the big heavy gas bottle, always the bugbear of our lives.
K ran up and down the steps, carting her bags. I stopped her, took her hand and took her to the pergola, now cleared of rubbish, and straightened up by Ian the builder with gold streaks in his grey hair who has no immunity at all and mustn’t get the virus but is still untouched by it, and I showed her the decks I’d guernyed so they glowed golden, and the chairs and table I’d painted with white undercoat to hide the doleful black.
Do you like it?
It makes me want to stay here.
I turned my head to hide my tears. I just might be able to get this Christmas thing right.