Holiday Short from Susan Horsnell

A Typical Christmas Downunder
The sun glows hot on the horizon with a promise of what is to come.

While the Northern Hemisphere shivers, Australia traditionally swelters. The temperature consistently soars to 100 degrees at this time of year.

A typical lunch is meat cooked on the barbie, lots of fresh seafood, salad, various desserts and lots of cold drinks.

Christmases past, when our children were young. We usually gathered at my Mum and Dad’s home.

While Dad scraped and cleaned, Mum chopped and peeled. All this was done in the cool of the morning, before chaos descended in the form of their children and grandchildren. Once we all arrived, presents were shared and cold drinks poured.

The men congregated around the barbie, cold beer in hand. What is it about men and barbie’s? Meat sizzled and the dogs hung around waiting patiently for forthcoming tidbits. They have learned from the past.

Mum is determined our lunch will not be shared with the flies and the table inside sits ready and waiting.

Kids would run around the back yard, oblivious to the already uncomfortable heat, throwing balls. New remote control toys whizzed past in every direction.

There was always laughter and loud conversation. We competed to be heard, in such a large family this honor went to the one who spoke the loudest. I’m sure our neighbours, 2 blocks away, were also privy to our discussions.

The men finally wander inside. Dad would proudly lower the meat tray, with what could only be described as burnt offerings, to the table. He liked to ensure what he cooked was well and truly dead. Over the years we have come to accept this.

Everyone would scramble up to the table and dive in. More conversation and more cold drinks.

At the completion of lunch, bellies filled to bursting, we would retire to the living room. It could be guaranteed at least half of our gathering would be asleep within minutes. The other half would watch Christmas movies and reflect on the past year.

This was our Christmas in years gone by.

Our sons are now adults with children of their own and our family is scattered from the east coast to the west coast, the north coast to the far south of this vast country. No longer do we gather as a family. We are unable to be in multiple places at once and financial constraints for many prevent us from all gathering in one place.

This Christmas will be spent at a holiday home, me, my husband, our 2 dogs and 3 birds. It is our new little family. We will give thanks that our family is safe, happy and healthy and, grateful that unlike many, although separated by distance; we will have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

Christmas is a time for reflection, peace and thanks for my family here downunder.

Susan Horsnell grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney in the 50's and 60's. She was a Nurse for more than 35 years. Now retired, she finally has time to write. Since she is fascinated with 19th Century Texas, her books are set in the old west.

Twitter: @susanhorsnell