Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Upside Down

Here it is hot as hot, which is just how a Christmas should be.  Mr Tabubil is is languishing and complains that he can't take the season seriously, but my earliest Christmas memories are of Dad taking my sister and I swimming in a jungle creek while Mum got Christmas dinner sorted without two overexcited children underfoot.  
            And what Christmas dinners!  Christmas was a hot and stodgy English dinner (roast chicken, creamed potatoes, doughy puddings and dense fruit cake) eaten on a hot and sticky verandah, with ceiling fans pushing the heat around and driving rich smells into your face, and afterwards, afternoons spent on the cool grass of the lawn, and children running around with sparklers in the long summer twilight. 
            Over the years we replaced the hot English food with a menu less colonial and more suited to the southern climate, but we embraced all of the other northern Christmas trimmings as a matter of course.  Our Christmas cards showed snowfalls and lantern-light, glittering with sugar frost.  Our dads Ho-Ho-Ho’d in full Santa fig – sweltering under polyester beards and sofa cushion bellies.  Our heads and ears dripped and clinked with tinkling jingle-bells – we, who had never seen a sleigh. We cut Eucalyptus trees and planted them in plastic buckets, raised trees of plastic tinsel, and sniffed the eucalyptus and plastic scents, and satisfied,  called them firs.  When I moved north, a northern Christmas was easy for me. I’d been mentally living one all my life. 
            Mr Tabubil never had the pop-culture guides to tell him what to do with seafood BBQs and carols that, like Australia and Chile, are upside down –
            “The North Wind is tossing the leaves

            The red dust is over the town            
            The sparrows are under the eaves –“             
            “Red dust?” He shouts. “Red dust?  It’s blizzards! Blizzards and wooly sweaters and ice-skating and hot chocolate and fir-cones and fireplaces-”
            I try for something colder.
            The tree-ferns in green gullies sway             

            The cool stream flows silently by             
            The joy bells are greeting the day            
             And the chimes are adrift in the sky-”
            Mr Tabubil stamps off into the kitchen to stuff his head into the freezer. And sighs. 
            Merry Christmas, you-all.

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