Christmas Day With the T-Team 1978
Why 1978? Nostalgia for one. Some snapshot of the past for future generations. And, well…I do wish I could share the shenanigans of current family, but I think that would leave me Christmas card less and spending the next 40 years on my own at Christmas sipping some sort of spirits to drown my sorrows, forget my regrets and missing all the entertainment Christmas in Australia brings. So, what harm would be done to reminisce about one warm Christmas Day when life was simple, and the stars of this show are now twinkling in the sky of remembrance. Needless to say, similar to Mr B, in my series of posts, “ The T-Team with Mr B”, I will not use their real names to protect the not-so innocent, and the little bit affected.
Christmas to a T
The sun filtered through the dusty window golden and warm. I flung off my sheet and raced to the Christmas tree; a real one that filled the lounge room with the scent of pine.
Mum, still in her nightie, watched me as I opened my presents: two skirts and a pair of scuffs.
I hugged her. ‘Thank you, Mummy.’
‘So, what church do you think we should go to, today?’
‘I was thinking Maughan Church in the city.’
‘Excellent, I like that church.’
‘Well, then,’ Mum glanced down the passage way, ‘you better get ready.’
I hurried to my room and changed into my new Christmas skirt, relishing the T-female tradition of new clothes for Christmas. Even better, home sewn by Mum, so no one would have the same dress as me.
[Photo 1: The T-Female Tradition; new dresses © C.D. Trudinger 1975]
Mum called out from the kitchen, ‘Hurry, we have to get there by half-past nine.’
‘Alright.’ Easy for her to say, but the challenge was my Dad and brother, Rick. How to wake the men who lay in their bed-tombs asleep?
Mum had an idea. ‘Why don’t you put the radio on? Make it loud. Really loud.’
I followed Mum’s suggestion and tuned the radio to 5KA and turned up the volume dial until it would turn no more.
Boney-Em blasted out a Christmas carol causing Mum to jump. ‘Not that loud,’ she cried through a mouth full of milk and Weeties.
An unimpressed and bleary-eyed Rick and Dad joined us on our jaunt into the city to celebrate Christmas Uniting Church style; not much different from the Lutheran Church service. Rick nodded off during the sermon all the same.
[Photo 2: Grandma’s house and a much younger me escaping it © C.D. Trudinger 1965]
Then, the highlight of our year, Christmas at Grandma’s. Always a spread, but as it was simmering around 35-degrees Celsius, cold chicken and ham, for meat, and potato salad, coleslaw, tomato and onion salad, cucumber and beans from Dad’s garden, and for our serve of greens a bowl of iceberg lettuce.
The food was only second to the company. Grandma, with her G (she wasn’t a T) gifting of hospitality, had invited some friends from church. My uncle and aunty from the inner suburbs of Adelaide also came to complete the gathering around the old oak extendable table. That year, the numbers being not large, I sat with the adults. Other years children were relegated out in the passageway or exiled to the back garden to sit at the “kindertisch”. Anyway, at 15, I was almost an adult.
[Photo 3: In another “Christmas” Dress, this time a bought one. In later years, Mum reckoned she couldn’t sew one as the cost of dresses were so cheap. © C.D.. Trudinger 1979]
After lunch, we lingered at Grandma’s all afternoon, waiting for the second wave of visitors to arrive. I flicked through Grandma’s photo albums and then read some of her books from the bookshelf in the spare room. Actually, that’s what I did, after helping Grandma and Mum wash and wipe the dishes while the others lazed around chatting and playing cards.
I’d started on The Coles Funny Picture Book when called to bid one of Grandma’s friends, my uncle and aunty goodbye. Within minutes, the next influx of relatives rolled up the gravel drive. Aunt Wilma and her husband Jack stepped from their yellow Volkswagen Passat. The couple impressed me; so striking with Aunt Wilma’s elegance, matching her husband’s movie star looks and Scottish wit.
Sidling up to Mum, I asked, ‘Why didn’t the others stay?’
Mum mumbled something I didn’t quite catch before rushing up to her sister and hugging her. I followed mum with the greeting rituals of hug and kiss my aunt and uncle. Then, while the adults engaged in honey biscuits, tea and banter, I resumed my perusal of The Coles Funny Picture Book.
[Photo 4: You must read the Coles Funny Picture Book © Coles Funny Picture Book circa 1900]
Dinner was left-overs from lunch. Sorry Wilma and Jack, but that’s the tradition. Waste not, want not, my Grandma used to say. She was a parson’s daughter and married a parson, not just any old parson, but a missionary one, during the Depression. And, she and her missionary husband moved up to Hermannsburg at the start of World War 2. I was convinced that she still had rusty tins of food mouldering at the back of her cupboard from the “Dark Ages”.
Uncle Jack was in fine form—they’d obviously had a merry time at the last Christmas appointment. True to form, he kept us entertained with his brogue accent and humour, repeating variations of the Wattle ditty. Here’s how it goes with his accent:
“This ‘ere is a wat’le,
The emblem of our land,
You can stick it in a bot’le,
Or ‘old it in your ‘and.’
Jack performed this with variations, and some subtle actions that at fifteen, I was a tad too innocent to “get”, but we all laughed anyway.
As the night progressed, the bolder Uncle Jack’s jokes grew and the more most of us laughed. Perhaps not Grandma’s friends who had dared to stay on; they kept glancing at Grandma, the expression on their faces reading, “Pull your son-in-law into line, dear.”
[Photo 5: Who needs the Coles Funny Picture Book or comedy shows on TV when you have Uncle Jack to entertain you? I’m not smiling as I had orthodontic braces. © C.D. Trudinger 1977]
My dad sat on the piano stool, hands under his bottom, his lips doing the bird-in-mouth thing and a snort escaping with every new and daring quip from Jack. Dad hoped to play the piano as we sang some Christmas carols, but as each joke escalated in levels of risqué, clever though they were, the likelihood of carol singing became less likely.
One of Grandma’s friends suggested we should sing some carols. Ah, the innocence of good Christian folk in the 1970’s.
Rick and I commenced our own rendition of We Three Kings…
Grandma picked up a present and quietly said, ‘I don’t think we will sing this year. Let’s open our presents. Lee-Anne, you’re the youngest, you can start.’
[Photo 6: Meanwhile, on the other side of Adelaide, and many years before I met him, Mr K wishes his relatives a happy Christmas © N. Kling circa 1978]
So, here’s how I scored in 1978: Cosmetic mask from Aunt Wilma and Uncle Jack, hairdryer from Mum and Dad, photo album and book from Grandma and a cassette tape from my country cousins.
Grandma’s present, a book, interested me the most and I stayed up to 2am reading it.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Rick and Me under the Christmas Tree on New Year’s Day © C.D. Trudinger 1978
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