I’ve been watching the weather forecast for the last few days and this year’s Christmas day looks good. December in Melbourne. It could be 40 degrees and a stinker or 16 and pelting down.

Mince pies and choccy balls (Melinda Pankhurst via Flickr)

As boys, Christmas was the same ritual each year. The youngest would wake us all up to go get mum and dad and we’d all congregate bleary-eyed in the lounge room. We’d have left pillow slips out with our names pinned to them and they’d have been stuffed with presents. Dad and mum would exchange gifts. Some years we’d have cinnamon and sugar on toast as a special treat.

Well-dressed, we’d jump into our Kingswood (or Urvan later on – early betrayers of local industry) and drive up to church. We’d be late and have to sit in the foyer where they’d put extra seats. Ceiling fans, 60s organ, and self-conscious congregation singing.

Then it’d be straight to Nana and Grandad’s. We’d sit in their lounge room eating chips and Loy’s soft drink. Grandad would disappear and miss Santa arriving – an over-acting Santa – who handed us more presents. A hot meal of turkey, ham, beef, and chicken would follow. Pulling crackers. Wearing paper crowns. Nana would pour brandy (with a little sugar) on her plum pudding and Grandad would try and walk it in before the flame went out. There would be coins hidden in the pudding. Amazingly no one ever choked on one. I think I was the only one who liked the taste. Others had cream sponge, lemon meringue pie and ice cream.

With bellies full we’d play backyard cricket. Two of us were around the same skill-level would hurl balls at the youngest. He’d have to score 100 before we got him out 10 times. In later years the sledging and pitch tampering escalated as the bodies matured.

And later in the day, exhausted we would visit dad’s side of the family. Everyone would be ratty and tired but it would be fun to watch dad’s brothers wind him up and see him laugh away his worries.

The first Christmas without Grandad was a confusing affair. We tried to cover over his absence, but that only made it more obvious. It was good to celebrate all those Christmas days that had come before though.

Time passes and has passed.

Careers and girls and travel. Wives. Children. Businesses. Deeper Water.

Each year we still come together. The strands of divergent lives wound back together for 25th December. We slip back into our roles, painfully resigning to the occasion. You are a part of family and alive. You can pretend you are that son and that brother for one day.

The real excitement now is being a father. Seeing the excitement and joy on children’s faces. Winding them up with amazing stories and sugar and letting them run wild.

To sit back with full bellies and watch. And remember Christmas’s past. And keep the good times rolling.


All that is the rose is in the seed. Tilled in dark soil, cared and observed, now filling with colour. Beauty from plainness. Reds, Pinks, Yellows and Blacks.

A boy, not unlike me, perches against the seat-belt, waiting for the plane to bounce against the runway. It feels strange and exciting that first flight. The banking of the plane and tilting of the horizon. Like those TAA ads, but from the inside.

Passing warmth (Seth Rader via Flickr)

The garden delights. The family takes the station wagon to Queensland. Weeds grow and the ground bakes. The flowers brown. Bees linger then move on. Undergrowth climbs and strangles.

Egged on by friends, he watches films about toxic avengers. School bus conversations about this “real world”. Trying to be serious like dad and watch David Johnston and Jana Wendt at Eyewitness news. A friend’s dad’s porn stash. A fist to the face. Rooted. Untended and wild. Scrub.

A tip truck lands a metre of tan bark on the nature strip. The boy ponders how you measure a metre of the stuff. Soil is turned. Browned branches are secateured. Thorns punish the perpetrators.

Abandoned as complete, he pretends. His first job excites all. Females confound. New days are work. Lying in fresh grass staring at the blue sky is his happiest memory. He can’t feel. Obscured and alone. Fading.

Buds pop secretly overnight on old stems. The skeletal spaces dotted with new green. Patient tending. Blood and bone. The rose bush returns not to its youth. Odd bends and scars mark bad seasons. Perhaps it is, or adds, character.

Lost but for chance. An elder. A friend’s advice. A new age guru. Tony Robbins or something. Someone who sees a rose where he sees shit. Or nothing. A clearing of space. An uncrowded hour. More hacking at the muck, scouring of plaque.

Clearing. Empty and fragile. Porcelain brave. Shafts of light through lines. Hacked pure but returning. Enduring.

Salvation makes him beautiful.

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