When I was a child Christmas revolved around my grandparents. My dad’s mother, Nanny Munro was alive, as were both my mum’s parents, Pop, and Nanny Daph. Our family of four, me, mum and dad and my brother, would go and spend Christmas either at Nanny and Pop’s house or at our house. Joining us there was my Aunty and Uncle, my uncle being my mum’s brother and his wife and their three children. Later in the day my other Uncle would come over, mum’s other brother and my other cousin. We always had a cold Christmas lunch, which consisted of turkey, ham, various salads, boiled eggs, beetroot. We spent many Christmases’ eating too much and playing with our various toys that we had been given.
Over the years there were changes. My Nanny Munro died, and Pop died. So, Christmas’ became more about Nanny Daph. We began to spend more Christmas’ at my parents’ house. Somewhere in there my Aunty left my uncle, we didn’t see her again. I was married (to a man), and cousins had partners. In these years people came and went.
Christmas during these times centred around Nanny Daph. We were all adults and there were no small children around. However, my grandmother was hard to manage. She would get cranky because people weren’t behaving the way she wanted them to behave. She would get annoyed with all the men, because they’d go outside and sit under our carport together. Mostly because they all smoked and that is where they could comfortably smoke and drink beer. People did mix, slowly, everyone would end up out there at times. Mum would try and take my grandmother out there but then Nan would get cranky because they were too loud, or she couldn’t hear them. Nanny would also start fussing about cooking months beforehand and she’d complain about that too, but no one else cooked the turkey or the ham, as well as what she could.
Then one day mum cancelled Christmas. Everyone was relieved. It was becoming harder for everyone. My cousin Karen had her own family by this point and her own child. My brother had a partner who had a child and I had broken up with the man and had my own lady partner.
Over these years mum would usually spend time with Nanny, and her and Dad would go to lunch somewhere. I invited the family over for a casual cup of tea mid-afternoon.
In the last few years thing have shifted again. Nanny Daph died in 2019. My mum also could have died that year, as she had stage 4 cancer. Dad had two cousins die later that year too. My dad had been an only child and at times in his childhood he lived with these cousins they were like siblings to him. It was a hard year.
Apart from family deaths mum and dad have also had friends die, and my mum’s youngest brother died. This is what happens when you are in your late seventies and early eighties. This has meant that my brother and I play a different role in our parents lives now. We are still their children, however, as they age, we are also looking after them. This is not something that anything really prepares you for.
This year, my partner and I hosted Christmas for our parents. We had both sets of parents over for a sit down, cold lunch. We had turkey, prawns, green salad, and potato salad. For dessert we had warm pie, berry salad, custard, ice cream and whipped cream. Everyone bought one of the dishes with them. It was low stress and easy.
Christmas is now about my parents. They rely on my brother and me for ongoing adult friendship, and we will always be their children. It’s important to me that I can do this for my parents as they age. They have given their lives to making sure my brother and I were cared for, now it is their turn.
My dad sent me a text. He’s learnt how to send texts recently. He thanked me for the nice Christmas Day and said he had eaten left over prawns, the day after whilst watching the cricket.
You never know when it might be your last moment with people you love. It’s important to saviour these moments.
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