Ghosts of Christmas Past

Okay, I have to confess upfront that I love the lead up to Christmas. I love thinking about what gifts to buy each special person in my life. I love pouring over my recipes deciding on the Christmas menu. I make detailed lists of ingredients, timing, order of service and carry said lists around for weeks. I love chatting to the butcher at the market about my ham, what glaze I will use and how I going to do the turkey (this year we are experimenting with a butterflied turkey on the barbie, with a chilli, lime and coriander butter). I love getting the decorations out from storage – each bauble has a story to tell as family tradition dictates we are given a new decoration each year. Not for us the coordinated Christmas tree – ours sport an eccentric variety of decorations, dating back decades. We still hang out our stockings, as well as have a present under the tree. I even love Christmas carols. And, I just adore Christmas lights.

It is rather unfortunate then that I am married to the Grinch, who approaches Christmas with gritted teeth, which get grittier as each December day passes. I take it as a testament of his love for me that he endures my Christmas frenzy with something approaching good humour, and even indulges me in the search for the perfect Christmas tree. Although his only other contribution to the Christmas festivities is his treasured Bob Dylan Sings Christmas Carols album!

I get my love of Christmas from my Mum, Molly, and this will be the first Christmas we celebrate without her, so I sit here thinking of Christmases past.  I am an airforce child, which means that we moved houses, cities, states and even countries quite a lot. It was during our two year tenure in America that Mum fully embraced the excesses of a Christmas celebration and it was also in America where my obsession with finding  the perfect Christmas tree fully blossomed.

In America you could go to the tree farm and walk the rows to choose your tree, then it would be cut down for you. It was always Dad who accompanied me on this important mission, and to this day Dad still doesn’t quite understand why we had to walk up every single row of trees before the right one was chosen. Upon returning to Australia this ritual was replaced by the drive to the charity Christmas tree seller, whereupon Dad was required to hold up every tree until I finally made my selection. This, as you can imagine, could take some time, but my dear father would patiently hold each one as I circled around, inspecting it from all angles. I must say that my husband has not embraced this important duty with as much dedication as my Dad, but he does his best in the Grinch like circumstances.

I have however managed to pass the love of Christmas preparations on to our daughter, so the spirit of Molly will live on through her. Decorating the tree is a joint activity, and I now need her memories to determine which are my decorations and which are hers (the crunch will come when she has her own Christmas tree and we have to divide the decorations – it may come to blows).

This year the tree is small but well shaped, with no bald patches – both crucial criteria in the tree selection. But, the smaller stature meant careful selection and debate about which decorations would be used.

And tonight, the daughter and I shall pile into the car and trawl the streets in search of the most over-the-top Christmas lights. Thanks to Time Out’s Christmas lights guide we are making a bee line for Beaumaris, but as luck would have it there is also a strong contender just around the corner.

As we via with each other to spot the lights, and when the actual day arrives, I know that Mum is with us in spirit and will be raising her annual glass of bubbles to cheer us on. It won’t be quite the same without her.


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