Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas WHINE - What Happenred to the "Joy?"

This is a WHINE list you do not have to uncork.

Simply take your WHINING (on any topic) and add it to the

1 - You CAN DRINK wine while spilling your beans in "comments."
2 - 4 letter words that have to do with sex or bodily functions will be CORKED!
  3- You can tell readers what pisses you off royally - just do it in a "literary" manner.
4 - Be a GRINCH if you must, but humor always earns a gold star!
5 - THINK before you write - or at least before you hit SEND. 

 6 - BE  SMART
Do not WHINE about stuff that could get you
jailed, sued, divorced, or otherwise spanked!

This is my road - so MY rules apply.
(Whine about it if you like. . .)
My WHINE for|
December 13th

I Want the Christmases of My Youth Back

Whatever happened to simple pleasures?  Handmade gifts?  Making cookies together and then wrapping them as gifts? Homemade candy?  Secret stashes of gifts?  Being with family, and soaking up the spirit of the season until YOUR spirit overflowed with JOY? 

These days it all seems to be about Black Friday Bargains, how good a deal you can get on Kindle Fire, and sore feet in long lines waiting to pay for the technical wonders your kids begged to be put under the tree.  Did I say TREE?  That flocked, created from plastic and recycled tires monstrosity is a TREE?  Give me a break!  I want to smell pine, or fir, and the woodsy scents that a REAL Christmas tree delivers.  But I guess cost trumps woodsy scent.  Those real trees cost a bundle these days, and wilt fast.  Artificial lasts forever, or at least until you are dead and don't much care anymore.  

Now the Internet offers fierce competition to the the BIG OLD BOYS of  Christmas shopping.  You can buy at midnight in your jammies, or at midday from your office desk - as long as the boss doesn't catch you.  Just flash those credit card numbers, or PayPal info, and you can skip the sore feet of REAL shopping, for the REAL after Christmas chock of your Credit Card bill. 
Hey, give that shopper a highball to go with their high blood pressure!

And while I'm on a WHINE roll, if grand kids of mine bring their cell phones to our Christmas dinner table,  texting  the ham and tweeting the pies, I have a solution:  microwave them all - the cell phones, not the kids, tempting though that might be!  Ours is a CELL free environment, thank you, and as ruling Granny, I tend to become rabid when thwarted.
Whew, glad I got that off my chest.
NOW, on to the WHINE nitty-gritty.  

After all of that WHINING above, I have a yen to share with you the ghost of my Christmases past, when times were simpler, expectations were smaller, and the invasion of the Internet was not even a gleam in someone's eye.  Maybe it will even stir the ghost of YOUR Christmases past.

Memories of my Mom
    and Aussie Christmases Down-under   
My mother was the heart and soul of our small Australian family. I have lived in Oregon now for many years, yet memories of Mom presiding over special family occasions are tucked away in my mind. Mom was the most honest person I ever knew.  She had a true inner compass that made her an excellent judge of people. If she told me a certain person was up to no good, I learned that time would prove her right.

Mom was a great storyteller. On days when the northwest wind cut like a knife, or she was sewing me a skirt, or baking cakes and cookies, she would tell stories of what it was like when she was a girl. I learned to know and appreciate the many great qualities of my long dead grandfather through her loving tales. My dad had eight sisters and one brother, most of whom I had never met. However, the affectionate, funny, and sometimes sad stories she told about them, made me feel I knew each aunt and uncle personally. My mom was not perfect, but over the years, I find myself using her moral yardstick on my own children, and wishing she were here to imbue them with her own unique sense of integrity, humor, and fair play.

No occasion in our house was more special to Mom than Christmas. Mum was not religious. To her, Christmas meant forgetting the differences of the past year, and gathering together as a loving family. Aussie Christmases, where hot blue skies and one inch down-pours, made the mosquito net over my bed a must. Now, when I sit by the fire at night, weary from baking holiday cookies, memories flood over me – of how special Mom made those early Christmases.  If I close my eyes, I can again hear the chitter of flying foxes: fruit bats that nightly raided our mango tree.  I am whisked back to my childhood, when Mom tucked me in every night, told me a fun story about the birds who lived in the cumquat tree outside my bedroom window, and woke me every morning with a hug. She made my world safe.

Mom always baked our Christmas cake and puddings early.  Assorted dried fruits, drowning in brandy, gave our house a definite alcoholic buzz!  After cooking, the cake received a final brandy bath.  Then, it was retired to the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard, to age gracefully, wrapped in greaseproof paper and an old towel. The puddings were boiled, then tied up in old pieces of sheeting.  Mom hung them from the rafters under our house, like so many Halloween goblins waiting to be set free.  Cookies and cakes, pies and tarts, all flowed from Mom’s fingers to the oven.  School vacation time allowed me to help, and listen to a selection of her much loved tales.  The aroma of Christmas cake and pudding saturate my childhood recollections.

Our table groaned under the weight of hot ham, and stuffed chicken with roast side- vegies.  When the temperature rose to 100%, plum pudding, complete with hard sauce and hidden sixpences, was an effort to eat.  Only in latter years did Mom agree to have cold meat and salads.  "It isn't Christmasy," she would protest. 

We lived on a hill above the ocean, and were surrounded by date palms.  When the mad-hot sun set, and the sea breeze strengthened, all windows and French doors were flung wide.  This was a time Mom liked to sit on the front verandah, sip hot tea and chat with her mum, Dad,  and passing neighbors. Christmas would have to get along without her for a while.

As an only child, with relatives a thousand miles away, for me, family meant Mom, Dad and Grandma.  When money was scarce, and things were tough, Mom’s talent for making something wonderful out of nothing was little short of miraculous.  She would hand make gifts and handkerchiefs to save money.  The handkerchiefs came from the tails of dad's old white shirts, with delicate crocheted edging.  Dresses and skirts that had seen better days became gift-wrapped designer aprons. She hand knitted my dad’s socks for 45 years: in the dark at movies, or while listening to the radio. I can still see her, planning some fun to make Dad laugh, while deep in a flurry of baking. 

My snippety Grandma lived with us, and she reluctantly helped Mom clean house for special occasions: all this work and effort, in heat and humidity that would curl an elephant’s toes.

Dad would set up a sparse and scruffy young gum tree in the living room. We would giggle and laugh, while decorating it with well-worn and sentimental trinkets.  Mom would hang brightly colored curly paper streamers from the center of the ceiling to the four corners of the room.  They transformed our shabby living room into an Arabian Night’s affair.  By now, my excitement and anticipation would be almost too much to bear.  

The countdown was ON, when the presents began to appear under the tree.  Mom frowned on poking or squeezing.  One year Mom placed a mystery gift on the top of the tree.  She informed us it was to be opened last.  Even my grumpy old Grandma got into the swing of things that year.  Endless surmising about that gift filled the days before Christmas.

The big day dawned.  I don’t ever remember opening presents so fast.  Dad, Grandma and myself, we were each sure that tree-top gift was ours.  Well, let me put you out of your misery - it was for Peg, our dog.  She thoroughly enjoyed her juicy, beef bone.  Mom laughed at our disappointed faces.  We ended up laughing too.  Who could begrudge our beloved Peg.

Another year we discovered a huge parcel for Dad under the tree.  Again, Mum insisted it be opened last.  Dad began by lifting and shaking it.  Wow, what weight!  Slowly the wrappings came off, and off, and off. . . . The containers became smaller and smaller.  Finally, he unwrapped an old boot of his.  A pill bottle nestled in the toe.  The bottle held a $5.00 bill – remember, this was another age!   An enclosed note told Dad, and I quote: “For God’s sake buy yourself a new pair!”   Dad hated shopping, but he desperately needed new boots, and as there was no money for a gift as well as the boots, Mom decided to give everyone some fun. Dad laughed so hard tears ran down his face.  The rest of us were not far behind.  What a terrific Christmas.  Mom’s sense of humor helped us all forget that the pickings were thin that year. 

In bed at night, during the days before Christmas, my ears stretched out to catch every mysterious whisper and rustle of paper that came from our kitchen.   One year Mom stayed up late every night, hand making me an Indian ‘Ramona’ doll.  That doll was the neatest, softest, most unusual doll in town.  I kept it for years, until it fell apart. 

Late Christmas afternoon, Mom would sit with the rest of us and take a trip down  ‘Memory Lane’, as she liked to call it.  I would hang on every word she said about the  Christmases she remembered from her childhood.  In the cool of the front verandah, a wine-shandy in hand, my Dad would add his share of reminisces.  Even Grandma had a story or two to tell. But mom had a way of telling a tale that made you see the people and places she spoke about.  She could make Dad and Grandma laugh.  Her stories forever addicted me to the fascination of past generations and their doings.  As I grow older, Mom’s words of wisdom, fun, or common sense, often pop into my head when I need them most. My kids and grandkids know my mom through my memories of her.

Today, on the other side of the world with my family, the steamy, tropical Christmases of my Aussie childhood have been replaced with the more traditional, ‘Christmas Card’ variety. Dad is gone, and my dear Mom also.  It is now my turn to take our children and grandchildren traveling down Memory Lane.  In time, when my children and grandchildren add their contributions, I hope our Memory Lane will become a Super Highway to times past, and the memories we will always love and treasure.

Thank you Mum.

 This is not a new story. . .
But at this time of the year it is well worth reliving.


 The WHINE box is listed below
(under comments of course!)


Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!



  1. Ah, Margot.... You brought back a lot of memories. Me, my brothers & sisters never knew that times were tight and that we were poor! I thought that everyone's Christmas tree had handmade ornaments made by the kids of the family. I truly miss the smell of a real Christmas tree which my parents made a point of us having. We kept getting these every year until my Dad fell from the top of the house. Times were really thin then. Santa was almost out of the question but Mom came to the rescue! She recycled presents from Christmas' past. My aunts & uncles helped by sending things (including the ugliest silver tree) up. Mom would spend hours baking tons of cookies until we girls were old enough to help take over some of the baking. Yes, your blog brings back so many happy memories. Oh. Dad falling of off the roof isn't a good memory but our Christmases are.

  2. Thanks Deb. So sorry about Dad's fall. Roof climbing is dangerous at best. I loved what you wrote in your comment. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!

  3. What terrific memories of your childhood Christmases, Margot. Love the image of the hanging puddings. Reminds of my grandparents' smokehouse outside where hams and bacon hung after smoking, waiting to be sliced up. I can totally visualize your home growing up.

    I also have a dog story---one year our large yellow lab came running into the "Christmas tree room" and went right for the tree. She got so excited her wagging tail snagged on the light cord and off she ran, dragging the tree through the rest of the house trying to get away from it.

    My whine is when dinner is ready (time agreed upon ahead of time), family should arrive on time. I'm the cook and I don't much care for keeping everything on warm for an hour. OK. I'm done....

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  4. Thanks so much for your comments Bill. Love your dog story. Memories like this keep Christmases past alive.

    Late for dinner is really bad form. I say just keep theirs warm, and eat with out them: while things are fresh and hot. Next year they will be on time!!

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!

  5. A beautiful post, Margot. I, too, wish for the simpler Christmas, with the pine tree, stockings, anticipating Santa's visit. How excited my sister and I were on Christmas morning to find what Santa put in our stockings, which were Mom's nylon hose. We usually had an apple, and orange, pecans, and ribbon candy. And one or two presents under the tree, usually a doll for me.

    Lovely memories. Thanks for reviving them.

  6. Beverly, So glad I was able to dig up your ghost of Christmas past. Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!

  7. Hi Margot,
    It's amazing how similar your hot Christmases down under are to my cold ones in the mountains of North Carolina. But we didn't have puddings.

  8. What a great post! I'm a new follower from Mom Bloggers Club - the timing of this post is perfect. This year my husband and I are ONLY doing stockings. I can't wait to read your future posts!

  9. BarbaraB and SoCalTess, thanks so much for your comments.

    Christmas pudding is yummy, Barbara. But here in the cold of Oregon winters you can REALLY enjoy the hot meal much more.

    So you are trimming Christmas, Tess, as well as the tree. Good for you, mate!!

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!

  10. What a lovely story. I, too, can't help but admire your Mom.

    I am a new follower from MBC. I will be glad if you can visit me at http://www.auxilioabalto.us/et.al

    Best regards,


  11. Thanks so much Imelda. I went to your site and left a comment.

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!

  12. Good, warm memory. Mom's have such lasting power. Thank you and
    Merry Christmas.

  13. Thank YOU Gabriele (lovely name,) and Merry Christmas to you also.

    Give kid's BOOKS this Holiday Season!