Now that Christmas is upon us and the TV ads are full of joyful times, I am finding it more and more difficult to embrace the same passions I once had. As I get older, I find it increasingly difficult to get excited and need to seek out what makes me happy at Christmas. I ask myself, is this an age thing now I’m in my seventies, or is it because I’ve lost so many loved ones and the scars are thick? Maybe it’s both? So I reflect on what was and what is.
Once upon a time when my children were young, after Santa’s visit, I took such delight in watching the happy expressions on their faces and listening to their excited gasps when they opened their gifts. That was my gift. Unfortunately, though, they only had a brief moment to play with their new toys, before we would all race off to the airport to fly Tassie and join my parents and siblings.
It was special seeing family members waiting for us at the small airport. I would see my mum and dad’s smiling faces through the glass as we disembarked from the plane before they eagerly greeted us with overdue hugs and kisses.
It was only a 15-minute drive to my old home and the best part was walking into the family kitchen to the mouth-watering aromas of cooked chicken, turkey, and honey-glazed ham. Mum’s family plum pudding recipe would soon be boiling away in its tightly wrapped shroud of unbleached muslin cloth and her homemade strawberry wine was on the ready. We would eye off the tightly sealed jars of homemade macadamia biscuits eager to jump as soon as mum gave the word.
I always smile when I think of mum’s huge cream, jelly, and strawberry-topped trifle. I think there was a silent trifle competition between mum’s sister’s trifle (my auntie) whose cake base was saturated with dry sherry to the point our mother thought it illegal to drink from a cake! Oh, those were the days.
Understandably my parents loved us being there for the opening of presents. It was utter chaos as ripped Christmas paper was pitched around the room, mum trying to clear the floor by attempting to shove it into garbage bags. All the immediate family members would unite and it was special.
There were times I felt selfish for taking my children away from their new Santa toys on Christmas Day to catch a plane. But in hindsight, I have no regrets, only gratefulness, as those moments don’t last forever. They are now beautiful memories that thousands of people would never have experienced.
Eventually, life’s course of events changes, as does our direction. Our family unit has slowly thinned like a piece of worn-out fabric. But with children came grandchildren.
The tables have turned and every Christmas it is me jumping on a plane to fly to Melbourne, at times with my son, to join my daughter and her family. My joy has shifted and is different and I have moments of sadness, but once again I am grateful for what I have. After the birth of my grandsons, I could relive my memories as two eager young boys ripped open their presents grateful that Santa read their letters posted in his trusty North Pole post box. Today, as teenagers, it’s about organising their Nanny Babe to drive them to the latest Boxing Day sale in search of a bargain from their trendy outlet.
As much as I miss the fun of putting up my own Christmas tree, and hooking my global collection of Christmas decorations on each branch, I can embrace other family Christmas trees. My grandsons help my daughter decorate their tree and when I calculate how much time it has taken for them to get it just right. I am grateful I can walk into their living room and admire their artwork and I haven’t lifted a finger. Mmm sounds a little selfish, doesn’t it? That’s being grateful.
Although officially, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, we also use it as a time of celebration with family and friends. Realistically though this is not possible for everyone and in modern society, the definition of family has changed dramatically and seems to be more about the gathering of people.
For me, Christmas is not about the instant gratification of gift-giving and the expected outcome of joy and happiness. It is about memories, gratefulness, and giving yourself time to reflect on what we once had and what we have now as another new year edges in.
I hope our Starts At 60 readers find their moments of comfort at Christmas, whether alone or with family and friends, as we wonder and wait to see what 2023 brings to us all.