Starting the New Year with an anti-Scientology rant, always understandable but the timing was in questionable taste. Here’s the ‘what I did on my holiday’ essay.
Mummy – missing one and being one
This Christmas Eve was the 9th anniversary of our mother’s death and it was the first year that I haven’t felt weighed down with memories and painfully conscious of her absence. In early December I was able to go through my stock of Christmas cards and see the ‘With love to Grandma at Christmas’ one I’d bought optimistically in ’99 without completely stopping in my tracks and feeling a thud in my heart (although I am feeling one as I write this). When planning the decorations and menu I didn’t feel I was an impostor in her role any more. I satisfied myself that there was a completeness about the group that gathered together and enough love and sense of family not to constantly lament my kids’ lack of grandparents. Importantly too I felt grown up enough, at 52, to cope. The mantle of family matriarch I’ve inherited doesn’t chafe so much any more! So perhaps time does heal or at least lead to a sense that one will manage what comes.
We had the immediate family over for Christmas Eve dinner and for Christmas Day lunch. I rode the wave of the first coping with making the house and yard look presentable, cooking the roast turkey dinner and collecting my grown up niece and her driving licence-less partner and an enormous TV they were giving my sister from their place in Glebe and getting the car back just in time for my husband to collect the Tasmanian contingent from the airport. The second saw me starting to fray a little as the day was a great deal hotter and I was a great deal tireder but I rallied and everything went well thanks to the contributions and help of my sisters and a good friend from our dog walking/book group. While the event was not a chocolate biscuit commercial nor an afternoon at the Algonquin it was PLEASANT and as Elwood P Dowd [Harvey (1950)] says ‘I recommend pleasant’.
Testament to my good mood was the fact that I joined my teen daughter and her cousin, my husband and our ancient staffies on the sofa on Christmas night to watch ‘Mama Mia’ on DVD. Never an ABBA fan in their heyday and finding Rachel Griffiths & Toni Collette’s tribute in ‘Muriel's Wedding’ [YouTube - Muriel's Wedding - Trailer] the grotesque spectacle I have the generosity to think it was meant to be, I was ready to be underwhelmed. I really enjoyed it, didn’t give a damn about the Streep/Firth generation gap, thought the choreography was exuberant and inspired and adored the authentic ‘Greek chorus’. It is true that you can’t get the lyrics out of your head for the next few days but Julie Walters’ nudge nudge wink wink spoken delivery of ‘If you change your mind, I’m the first in line’ was cute enough for me not to care.
Money – it’s not easy, or cheap, being green
The $60 Wollemi Pine I bought two years ago has been indefinitely suspended from Christmas tree duty until it can learn to grow and support more than 3 tiny baubles. We invested $70 in a ‘real’ tree (i.e. a severed plantation pine tree branch) this year that I could smother with nostalgic decorations and tinsel and that smelled ‘like Christmas’! Miraculously (how appropriate) it has stayed looking spruce (although it isn’t) and hasn’t toppled over or dropped many needles at all. I am extremely pleased with it and will ask it to give Australia’s botanic ‘dinosaur’ a good talking to.
It cost us $230 for the free range turkey and the free range ham. It was worth it. They were totally delicious and at a time of year when 800 kittens have been surrendered to the RSPCA I didn’t have to dwell on still more incidents of animal neglect and cruelty. The rest of Christmas was blessedly (how appropriate again) inexpensive. For better or worse the circle of gift exchangers amongst our family and friends has shrunk and the kids focus on one or two big ticket items rather than the endless Bratz dolls and their accessories or multiple computer games they used to want. It is also true that you can do stuff that is free or inexpensive in Sydney. One of our nicest outings was to the Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain which I think was under $20 admission for the 4 of us, and, being on holiday, we watched a bit of telly and some DVDs and I also actually had the energy to take advantage of half price Tuesday at the movies. We were visited by and visitors of people too, something that barely seems to happen the rest of the year.
Monet - New Year’s Day with the numbre une Impressionist
Very few places open their doors on New Year’s Day. It is hard to buy milk let alone do anything more adventurous. While my sister was up from Tassie we had planned to see the Monet and the Impressionists and the Tails of the City: Sydney's Passion for Pets exhibitions. In the event we were all too whacked to make it but I did check with the Gallery to see if they were open on NYD and lo and behold (to keep the irreverent faux biblical tone up) they were. So off we (14 yr old daughter, me and spouse) trolled and took refuge from the scorching heat amongst artificially cooled water lily ponds. The exhibition was balm for any traces of hangover or fatigue, uplifting and sensuous and not at all intellectually taxing even when considering the influence of photography and Japanese prints on the work of the Impressionists. We still haven’t made it to Tails of the City but our own two mutts and moggies provide us with around the clock performance art on the same theme so we are by no means deprived.