A family Christmas
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 enjoy being closeted together in a confined space and still enjoy each other’s company? They are the same people who over thirty or forty years ago disliked each other 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 and tittle-tattle on an adult scale. It will be a disaster.
Let’s look a little closer at this family of whom I speak. The cast is large, so bear with me whilst I run through the principal characters.
First we have the grandparents, Doris and James. Their eldest daughter is Sally, with husband Darryl and their three children, the twins Jamie and Brenda and their married daughter Skye. Skye is accompanied by husband Justin and baby Tilly.
Doris and James’ second daughter is Emily. She and her spouse, Jim, also have two teenage children, Marnie and Joe.
We set the scene at a coastal resort a few hours from Perth, where they all live, although managing to avoid each other for most of the year.
Doris and James love them all, but it seems their role in life is to keep the peace. They are the conduit, passing on information about siblings, nieces and nephews and listening 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 would share 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 thoughtfully 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 boiling in here,” Darryl called to his mother-in-law as she sat watching the Queen’s speech.
“There’s no air conditioning, Darryl. Turn the ceiling fan on. We don’t need air-con this close to the ocean!” Doris laughed at her son-in-law’s ruddy face.
“Really? You must be joking!” He glared at Doris. “You booked a place with no air-con?”
“Well, you could 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, “Who brought this sodding dog?” 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 upset 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. “Come quick, Mum. Jamie’s been bitten by a shark! Someone has called the ambulance. They are on the beach!” Brenda yelled breathlessly.
Sally and Darryl drove off to the beach to rescue their injured son, praying he had sustained nothing life threatening. The rest of the family waited for news in 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 and 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!”
Everyone was thankful Jamie luckily suffered just a few minor puncture wounds, which entailed him spending three days in hospital.
Soon the holiday house was empty. Everyone returned to their lives for another year, until someone suggests, “Why don’t we all get together this Christmas?”