Flying with my wife to spend Christmas with our daughter, I found myself in a rather thoughtful, contemplative mood. Must have been the average cheese sandwich and the turbulence.
I love Christmas.
Somewhere between the peanuts and the second average cheese sandwich, I got to thinking of Christmasses past, and yes, there are a few ghosts who won't be around this year, including Oscar the cat who didn't "help" us put up the tree this year.
In no particular order, here are a few very random Christmas flashbacks.
*Spending a large proportion of Christmas Day in the car... whether as a kid driving up the Hume Highway from Goulburn to spend Christmas with the grandparents and family in Sydney, or in later years doing lunch at my wife's parents' place, then dinner with my parents, pretending you were hungry. We eventually came to our senses -- Christmas Day at one place, then Boxing Day at the other.
*The itchiness of those crap party hats you get in Christmas crackers. At least it detracts from the crap jokes and crap toys. But it must be done.
*Not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve as a kid, knowing you had to, or a certain bloke in red wouldn't visit, then that sheer all-encompassing, totally indescribable magical feeling of running out at ridiculously early o'clock and realising SANTA'S BEEN! SANTA'S BEEN!
*Receiving my first album as a Christmas present, the incomparable "On The Level" by Status Quo. The album contains the track "Down Down" which I consider a true Christmas song, not a bloody Coles jingle.
*The no joy to the world of wrapping Christmas presents. My end result is usually a mummified offering wrapped more in sticky tape than paper. I have the utmost admiration for the brave souls who man and woman the gift wrapping stations in department stores and malls.
*My dad making me a fantastic wooden cowboys and indians fort when I was a kid, complete with guard towers and gates that opened. It was so cool. Many a battle was fought in that fort, with the indians usually having the edge over the cowboys.
*Experiencing a real white Christmas in Europe. Okay, so it was Boxing Day. Growing up in Australia, the Christmas cards are all European scenes of snow capped, thatch-roofed villages with streetlights aglow and wisps of smoke rising from roaring open fires. Then there's the fake snow you spray on windows. Quite a paradox when it can be a swelteringly hot on Christmas Day in Australia and bizarrely some foolhardy types still endure sauna-like conditions in the kitchen slaving over a huge roast lunch or dinner with (cliche alert) "all the trimmings". Never quite got that. It's not like Londoners serve up salads, cold cuts of leg ham, prawns and mangoes as a festive feast.
*That sad time when the Christmas tree is packed up / thrown away. Still gets me.
*Those small Christmas stockings -- red plastic back, mesh on the front like an orange bag -- filled with a hyperactive-tantrum-inducing overdose of sugary lollies and crap plastic toys (proudly brought to you by the makers of the crap Christmas cracker toys).
*Receiving a tennis racquet as a very junior player, the same brand -- Donnay-- as used by my hero Bjorn Borg. We were on holidays and couldn't find a tennis court, so the racquet made its first outing on Centre Court of a nearby supermarket carpark.
*Hearing / singing / then getting nauseatingly sick of Christmas carols that pervade, well, everywhere. The religious ones would mean more to others than me, but I'm not shy in belting out "Joy To The World". Hypocritical? Sue me. Though I must say I won't be overly upset if I never hear Mariah warbling "All I Want For Christmas Is Youuuuuuuuuuu" again.
To you and yours, condiments of the season.