Is it a good idea to spend a family Christmas together?
|It’s that time of the year again when thoughts turn to traditions such as the ‘Family Christmas’. Time together as a family. Sounds great doesn’t it? Yet the reality of this situation can be fraught with danger.
Who are these people who imagine they’ll be able to enjoy being closeted together in a confined space and still get a thrill out of each other’s company?
They are the same people who disliked each other over thirty or forty years ago when they were kids. The squabbles, tantrums and unfairness will be no different when they spend time together as adults, but this time they each bring others into the mix. Different styles of parenting, criticisms of behaviours and tittle-tattle on an adult theme, it will be a disaster.
Let’s look closer at this family of whom I speak. The cast is large, so bear with me whilst I run through the main characters.
First, the grandparents aged in their seventies, Doris and James, their adult daughter Sally, her husband Darryl and their three children, teenagers Jamie, Brenda and their married daughter Skye. Skye is married to Justin, they have a two-year-old child, Tilly.
Doris and Jame’s second daughter is Emily, with spouse Jim they also have two two teenage children, Marnie and Joe.
The scene is set at a seaside resort a few hours from the Australian city where they all live, although doing their best to avoid each other most of the year.
Doris and James love them all, but it seems their role in life is to visit and interact with everyone, passing on information about siblings, nieces and nephews and to listen to criticisms and judgements without comment.
Anyhow they all somehow agree, each having a similar loss of reality, that it would be wonderful to have a “Family Christmas” this year, they’d split the cost and rent a house by the sea for a few days.
Day two of the four-day holiday dawned brightly, the sun sparkled off the blue sea visible from the balcony of the old fibro-clad holiday house.
It was Christmas Day, the younger members of the household were excited, looking forward to opening their presents piled under the Christmas tree. A tree painstakingly brought and erected by Doris.
In fact, they had left most of the arrangements to “Grandma” as the rest of the family were too busy with work or family commitments. They'd all agreed that as she had nothing else to do, being retired, she should purchase the food and organise everything else they may need for their stay.
The day started well; the teenagers raced off to the surf with their boards after demolishing the big breakfast cooked by Doris; the others relaxed around the dining table on the balcony, catching up. The men chatting about work, each secretly thinking the others had it easy. The sisters were enjoying each other’s company for a change as they compared news about their kids and the problems they’d had during the year.
The sun rose high in the sky and the day grew hotter.
“Turn the air- con on Doris, it's stifling in here,” Darryl called to his mother-in-law as she sat watching the Queen’s speech.
“There’s no air conditioning, toughen up, turn the fans on, we don’t need air-con this close to the ocean!” Doris laughed at her son-in-law’s ruddy face.
“Shit, you’re joking!” He glared at Doris. “You booked a place with no air-con?”
“Well, you should have organised it yourself if you think you could have done better?” Doris marched off to her room, upset by Darryl’s criticism.
There came a shout from outside in the backyard, “You bastard! Who brought this sodding dog anyway?” Jim came flying into the increasingly hot house, holding his hand, blood trickling through his fingers.
“What’s up with you Jim?” Skye looked up from the floor where she was playing with Tilly, “What did you do to my dog?”
“The bloody thing bit me! You shouldn’t have a dog like that. It needs putting down!”
“You must have kicked him or something, he never bites, he loves everyone!” Skye stormed off to tend to her dog, leaving Jim rinsing his hand under the kitchen tap.
Just then the back door flew open and three of the four cousins came crashing into the lounge room. "Quick Mum, Jamie’s been bitten by a shark, someone’s called the ambulance, they’re on the beach!” Brenda yelled breathlessly.
Sally and Darryl’s car sped down the empty street towards the beach to rescue their injured son, praying he had sustained nothing life threatening. The rest of the family stood in shock watching as the car disappeared from sight.
Eventually they all traipsed back into the now unbearably hot house.
“It’s too hot to cook Christmas dinner,” Doris whispered. Feeling sick with the heat and the worry of her grandson’s injury she fainted onto the kitchen floor.
“This isn’t what I expected this holiday to be like,” Skye petulantly looked at her husband Justin, who hadn’t wanted to spend Christmas with Skye’s family anyway, " let's go home shall we?”
“Yeah, sounds good to me, then I can watch the Boxing Day test tomorrow in air-conditioned comfort,” he smiled at the thought.
“I’m taking your Mother home,” Grandad James said to anyone who’d listen, " as soon as we find out how young Jamie is we’re off, we’re getting too old for all this family drama!”
Young Jamie only had a few minor puncture wounds which entailed him spending three days in hospital. By then the holiday house was empty, everyone had gone back to their lives for another year, until someone suggests, " Why not get together this Christmas?”