Making Christmas Memories…

As a kid growing up in country NSW, we would spend Christmas at either my paternal grandparent’s house in Tumbarumba (in southern NSW) or in Sydney with my mother’s family.

Mum would pile all four kids, two dogs, the cat, the expertly hidden Christmas presents, a couple of loaves of white bread she’d made up into devon and tomato sauce sandwiches, ice cream containers for when the middle sister got sick, and one of those foam flasks made up with cordial into the station wagon. Once Dad was on the road, he didn’t stop – except for petrol.

When we were living in Merriwa (in the Hunter Valley), the hot ten-hour drive to Tumbarumba was dreaded, while the Sydney run on the alternate year was less daunting. When we were in Bombala (in Southern NSW), it was the opposite.

I don’t remember much about the Christmases we spent in Sydney. As a kid I was asthmatic and my throat would seize up from all the cigarette smoke in Nan’s house. We slept on the floor and I would spend most of the visit wheezing and struggling for breath. I loved Nan and my Sydney family but grew to dread those visits because of the asthma.

The Tumba years I’m clearer on and have much fonder memories of. I remember the dry heat, afternoons at the town pool and the Boxing Day cricket test on the ABC as the portable air cooler tried vainly to do something other than making a noise. I remember the year a cold snap came through and it snowed at Laurel Hill just outside town. It was the closest to a White Christmas I’ve ever had.

I remember the ham salad suppers, and the time all my illusions were shattered when I saw that the trout that Poppa had said he hit over the head with a piece of 4 b 2 when it came up for air in the Tumbarumba River, had actually been purchased from Snowy River Fisheries.

On the way home, we’d buy boxes of cherries at Young and spit the seeds out the window, red cherry juice dripping down our chins. Dad would warn us not to get the juice on the fabric seats. When we got home we’d have to help Mum pit and bottle the rest so we could enjoy preserved cherries all year round.

There was no air conditioning in the car, so the windows would be wide open and we’d argue about who got to sit next to one. Inevitably someone would throw up – usually the middle sister. Then we’d all get in trouble because Dad couldn’t hear the cricket on the radio.

Regardless of where we spent Christmas, the Christmas morning ritual remained the same.

We’d go to bed early, with a red plastic hessian Santa sack on the bottom of the bed. Sometime in the middle of the night we’d wake and feel the weight on our legs as Santa had crept in while we were asleep and filled the bags.

Dad would start patrolling the hallway from about 5 am looking for the first sign that one of us might be waking. Mum would tell us not to eat any of the chocolate before breakfast because apparently, that’s how you get worms.

These days we’re all partnered or kidded up, but Santa still brings a stocking of chocolates for each of us – four get left at the front door of Mum and Dad’s Sydney home.

For many years after we as a family moved back to Sydney – the year I was in Year 12 – Christmas lunch would be at Mum and Dad’s for whoever didn’t have to spend it with in-laws. For the last few years, it’s been at my sister’s with everyone pitching in and bringing something. My husband is in charge of the trifle. As the kids got more numerous, bigger, and noisier it made sense.

Our day would start with potato scones, champagne and carols at our house as we opened pressies. We’d then head over for Christmas lunch, returning late in the afternoon for prawns and more bubbles on the deck with our next-door neighbours. Round two we used to call it.

This year it’s different. We’ve moved to Queensland and want our first Christmas here to be here. I’m looking forward to the preparations and the cooking. I’m even looking forward to lining up just after midnight on Christmas Eve morning to get the prawns and smoked salmon. We have friends over from NZ to spend it with us and while I’ll miss family, it’s exciting to be doing something different in a place we love with people we love.

And I guess that’s the whole point of it – spending time with people you love.

What about you? What are your Christmas memories?


12 Replies to “Making Christmas Memories…”

  1. Aren’t Christmas Memories beautiful, Jo. I wrote about mine last week and really enjoyed indulging in reflecting on how lucky I was to have such lovely memories. It is the simple things that mean so much really. Have a beautiful Christmas in your new home and a wonderful 2018. It has been great to connect this year and I look forward to our next catchup. At least you have France to look forward to!

    1. It’s been a lovely year all round – thanks for being part of it – & yes, I’m so looking forward to France.

  2. Jo, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas & a happy new year. Like you, this will be the first Christmas in our new home. We enjoy a low key Christmas, with the three of us. The morning is spent at the beach watching a one man play about a typical NZ Christmas that is centered around the beach. This year the 18yr old has baked the Christmas cake and will also be doing the mince pies and the xmas pudding and the rest of the food is light easy prep stuff.

  3. Oh wow. So much nodding of the head here with your reminiscing. We (as adults) would take off from whichever of the country places we were living and teaching as soon as 3 pm came…and drive (I would have packed the car ready) until we stopped off. Sometimes we drove all the way through. Our daughter was little a great car-sleeper. But when we lived waaaaay out beyond Bourke the first stop (after spending 2 hours on dirt roads) was at Dubbo. Ah, air con and take away tea. We would do the same at the end of the school hols in reverse and include a large grocery shop as where we lived there was no shop. Coming back to Mum and Dad’s was being spoiled at Christmas but sometimes we also went to my hub’s large catholic household where spoiled was not understood but devotion to church was. I felt very much ill at ease. Hub soon got that message and we would visit them rather than stay as they too lived in Sydney. I remembered those flasks too! Gosh your memory is amazing. Happy times ahead in your new home and state! Enjoy. Thank you for linking up for the LAST #lifethisweek in 2017. I look forward to seeing you back linking up when you can, and 2018 prompts kick off on 1.1.18 and are already on the home page. Sending all festive wishes to you, Denyse xx

    1. It’s funny, I was talking to Mum & Dad this morning because one of Dad’s brother’s had seen this post & was like “Joanne’s written about Tumbarumba.” My memory of those days is pretty strong – I suspect it’s also, though, selective. Happy Christmas & see you virtually in 2018.

  4. Oh goodness – that was a trip down memory lane – the polony and tomato sauce white bread sandwiches, the red plastic hessian santa sacks, no aircon in the car, and the sibling who gets carsick – yep all of that but no 10hr trip thank goodness (half an hour to our grandmother’s house was enough!) Thanks for the nostalgia Jo and happy Christmas from WA to Qld!

    1. aaah the kids of today don’t know how easy they have it with their ipads and air-conditioning & the like….lol. Happy Christmas to you too.

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