Friday, December 30, 2011

It was Christmas - but not as I knew it!

 As as 2011 draws to an end, I thought it was timely to take time out from our school holiday slumbers to post about our Christmas.

How was yours?

Truly, I was kind of dreading mine.

It was the first since having my children, that I've spent without them.

The lead-up was probably the worst.

The weeks before Christmas have always, like travel, been about the journey: Getting there. 

The baking of festive treats; visiting Santa; buying and making of gifts for family and friends; buying, making, wrapping and hiding gifts for each other; visiting the Christmas lights, especially the wonderful award-winning one our school janitor Mr Kelly puts on every year.

I missed all that, because taking the kids to Western Australia to visit my brother and his family, meant the kids' father got extra time with them when we returned - and fair enough too.

But that meant I missed out on special pre-Christmas time with the ankle-biters. I didn't even get to take them to get their pre-Christmas Santa photo because I'd assumed we'd get to do it in Albany, WA. But at the shopping centres we visited, Santa was never there. Must have been busy with his Reindeer I guess, or perhaps southern WA may have been a bit too far off the radar for pre-Christmas photos!

Thankfully, we'd put up and decorated the tree; and the kids had chosen and wrapped their presents for each other, their Dad, his partner, and his mother, before we went to WA. 

But I still felt like I'd lost a part of myself as I drove up on my lonesome to my family's home in Wondai, southeast Queensland, where we traditionally celebrate Christmas. Except this year, it was without my children.

I'd wondered, on my first Christmas 'on my own' - how I dislike that self-pitying phrase! - should I have done something else? Taken off to a far-flung destination. Visited with friends. I have many who live around the globe who entreated me to come and visit. Or I could stay at home, but help out at a local mission or visit those without family at the nearby aged care home. You know, just to get my head out of my own arse, and realise I have a lot to be thankful for.

But Mum and Dad are getting on in years, and although my brother and family from WA couldn't make it this year, many of the rest of the family could travel to the traditional family celebration venue. And I felt it was important to be there. Because - well, you know why. Without revealing too much of my parents' personal health, things can change in the blink of the eye. And even though they longed to see the kids, me on my own was better than not at all.

As it happened, being with my other family, was the best thing I could have done.

I stayed with my sister and her hubby at their lovely farm and spent my days at my parents'.

There was comfort in being with loved ones and the familiarity of times gone by.

In the past, being with family and friends has made me feel more aware of my single mum status - not that there is anything wrong with that! But this time it didn't seem to bother me.

Perhaps that comes with acceptance and time. Certainly, it's never been something my loved ones have put onto me. It's just been something within me. A feeling of being the 'odd one out', with all the baggage.  

And perhaps it was that this time, there was no need to explain to those who hadn't seen me in a while that yes, my marriage had hit the skids.

"You don't pick men well, do you?," marvelled a well-meaning family friend outside church last year, when Mr then 9 had triumphantly showed her my ring finger, and Miss then 7 had chimed in: 'Mumma happy now'.

(Trust me, there are not secrets in a small town when you have small children!)


As usual, there was the traditional Wondai Christmas Eve Festival, which has been held every year for as long as I can remember. Except for last year when the Queensland flood rains meant it had to be cancelled for the first time in history.

The festival hasn't changed much, except that the infamous sleigh rides - where kids used to ride around on the back of trucks, often shooting from water pistols and climbing on and off as the trucks were in motion - are no longer offered. For obvious reasons. 

The Hotel Cecil, attracting patrons since 1911
The always popular Merry Go Round. There are always popular turkey and ham wheels also, and there used to be a fabbo train ride for the little ones.
Possibly the world's smallest sideshow alley...
The traditional barbecue. Though the Marquardt family and extended loved ones usually opt for the air-conditioned comfort of the RSL. I really wish I had thought to take photos. I enjoyed possibly Australia's cheapest seafood basket at $12, a tasty concoction of fish, scallops, prawns, calamari and chips. And you help yourself to a vegie and salad buffet. Cannot beat it. I think the most expensive meal is a steak at $13. My parents opted for roast turkey, and again, all meals come with the self-service buffet.
The next morning, despite no kids in the house, my sister, her hubby and I rose early for church with the family. We followed that up with breakfast at my nephew and his wife's 'Love Shack', where their spoilt furry baby Reggie loved showing off his pressies, including his Fox.
Later, Christmas afternoon and dinner was held at my sister and brother-in-law's farm. It was the first time the family pool hasn't been used on Christmas day, probably because children did not arrive until much later in the evening. (And my kids did not arrive at all. Sob.)
A table set for Christmas dinner

O Christmas Tree ... at my sister's house!

Dinner included crispy duck, cooked by my nephew and his lovely wife ...

Crispy potatoes

Assorted roast vegies - purple carrots, normal carrots, parsnips, garlic, pumpkin

Brussel sprouts.
Not pictured: duck fat gravy, Yorkshire puddings
Later, there was Nigella Lawson's caramel croissant pudding, Auntie Bel's Famous Trifle, and Nana Doris's Plum Pudding and Custard
(Yes, I know. A heart attack in a meal!)

The main reasons for the effort: Mum and Dad

The next day, I was up at 4.30 to drive back to Brisbane to pick up the kids for our own Christmas on Boxing Day. We were straight over to my place, where they discovered that Santa (and Mumma) had visited. They were so quick, this is about my own usable photo!

After lunch, we walked to the park, all the better to test out some of their new Christmas presents, but Missy's face says it all: It was far too hot!

Par for the course in southeast Queensland Australia.

We spent the rest of the day in and out of the pool (where I nearly passed out blowing up their new pool toys), and I cooked them a roast dinner for our 'second Christmas'.

So Christmas turned out to be lovely after all. (Despite the heat.)

Hot, tiring, and messy; but still full of love, food, and cuddles.

Next: A Happy New Year to us all!


Marg said...

I'm so pleased you had a nice time with your family. I still remember my first Christmas away from my daughter. It was very hard.
It's lovely that you were able to have a great day on Boxing Day.

Cathy said...

Can't imagine Christmas without my kids...glad to hear you got through it and that you weren't alone xx

Lisa H said...

Being divorced for several years, I've spent a few Christmas Days without my kids. I don't mind so much, especially now they are older.

Over the years I have enjoyed Christmas lunch with family, dear friends, as a volunteer at a lunch for those with no where else to go, and my fave... a quiet Christmas at the beach with my mum.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the time with your family, and I'm sure Boxing Day was a fab stand-in for Chrissy with your kiddies.

Ms_MotorbikeNut said...

Our family must be the odd ones out we love both being just by ourselves on Christmas (no rushing here or there to be with family)

Having said that we also love it when we do rush around to family/friends.

That's why we are happy that one year we have A for Xmas and next year her mum has her.

A loves (or use to till ex stopped access) it as well as she gets to spend one year with a big family reunion (when with us) & the following year with just her mum (so low key xmas for her)

(((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm glad to hear that your Christmas turned out well Bronnie! And a very Happy New Year to you and your lovely family too! :D

Mum on the Run said...

It sounds like you made the most of your situation this year.
I commend you on not lying down for a big day long sook (as I might have).
Your parents would have treasured you being with them, I'm sure.

Hotly Spiced said...

That must have been very hard for you facing Christmas without your children and I agree, the lead-up to Christmas Day with all the things you do with your children like visiting Santa is a huge part of the event. I'm so pleased you got to have a second Christmas with your children, albeit a day late. Happy New Year and may your 2012 Christmas be different!