It was 4pm, a workday that’d started at 6am and a site wide power outage and it had left me in, well, I was in “a mood”. I’d handmade a lot of gifts, fixed a grumpy phone system and the making of christmas food gifts unfinished and lovingly prepared had not been ‘quite done’ or quite finished and I missed my grandmother Mary. She was a maker of things at Christmas. Rum balls and apricot balls were her favourite and I’d done a right angle twist on theme: A fig paste for my favourite waiters Marcio, a woman whose name I couldn’t recall and Mrcio’s mum in California. I’d made cherry, ginger chilli coconut balls for my mum and my aunties.
The balls were too coconuty didn’t taste good and the first run at a fig paste was more like blackpool rock than the deep sticky ooze Id hoped.
I drove to Watson st and Grandma’s tiny cream brick unit to say hello. Someone else lives there now. Having said my hail mary’s and my ole mary’s I stopped by The Arkaba shopping centre and the loneliness would not leave me. I stopped by a friendly local butcher to buy liver to keep on track with my seriously limited diet and I spoke to him for a bit. He had problems of his own. Wendy had called him that morning asking for 100 kilos of chicken fillets – He got it done! But that’s not the story.
This is the story of Andrew, Grandma and his mum Beryl.
I asked this local, pork pie hatted butcher Andrew what christmas looked like for him . He told me it was like every other day, Every day is christmas for me love. “Why is that then there Andrew ?” Well, he said, let me tell you a story.
His mum and dad never asked for much – just 4 things of the kids. Both when they were kids and after they’d grown the parents asked their kids to come home for 4 days a year. All together. Especially, Christmas day no matter where they were in Australia. So. The rules were set. His mum was a prolific maker and doer. She had a small locked room in the house that no one – Not even her husband was allowed to enter. Out of that room came her efforts. Hundreds and hundreds of cards and stuff to give. Things to give. Every christmas the kids would get little packages. Just like my feeble efforts. As life hurtled past the hundreds of christmas cards that came out became bereavements cards. As they do.
And as we all do, Beryl died one day and Beryl’s loves; her husband and her kids decided to unlock and enter the room. In it was a making room. Unwritten cards and the things of building and making lived here still. And 11 boxes. Each labelled. One for each of the kids and one for dad. They looked, closed the door, relocked the room and decided not to go back till dad died and they were all together again. To open those boxes. Together.
As husbands whose life belong with their wives often do, Andrew’s dad died soon after mum and the kids decided. They still wouldn’t enter the room until one day, in memory of their parents, when they were all together. Just the ten of them. They would go into the room and open their boxes. That day happened one random day in the year a couple of years later when they sold the house. All the 10 decided to stay in their rooms. No wives, no grandkids, no husbands. Just them on a day like christmas day and without their mum and dad and they would go into the room and look at their boxes. They’d stay the night – with unapproved booze and unfold an evening. Walking into the room, they found their boxes, all sat down and opened them, talking of the many things Beryl had collected over her life, for her husband and her kids. That day wasn’t christmas day you see – but every day was christmas for Andrew. It was his life with his mum and his dad in a big creaking stirling home and the making of things.
I took my livers, left Andrew to his chicken fillets and got back to thinking of christmas things, making electronic circuit board christmas cards, hooking up LED’s with my nephew jack to teach the basics of electric circuits and card making, thinking about my cherry ripe balls, my chutneys and fig paste and thought of Beryl.
The loneliness left and I continue to make and to give. Thank you Andrew. Thank you Beryl.
Now, have some second round spiced scotch fig paste and chutney kids (electronic circuits and other christmas making guides to come!. Or food. Perhaps you will too make something too? Perhaps you will buy something I’ve made to give to you? Perhaps not. but make something for christmas or a time – make it and build it for the people you love. Every day is christmas.
Cue corny Bing Crosby song and snowflakes gifs. Corny shit huh?