Sunday 26th June 2022

Telling My Story. Christmas Memories Edition. #FestiveBonBon. 130/2021.

Telling My Story. Christmas Memories Edition. #FestiveBonBon. 130/2021.

When I read that my friends from blogging, Debbie from here, Sue from here, Jo from here and Donna from here too, had a plan for a one-off Christmas related link up, I could not resist.

I am definitely a Christmas ‘Kid’ with memories galore.

Team #FestiveBonBon even has a cute photo and questions. And link up icon IN CHOCOLATE colours. Nice one!

I will do my best to respond, and as I am not only a Christmas sentimentalist, but also have a LOT of photos as memories, then I think I have some ideas.

 

Christmas Tree – do you have one, when does it go up, who decorates it, is there a theme or is it miss-matched?

YES.

  • Traditionally (my traditions) ours went up the weekend before my birthday (30 November) because after that it was close to my Mum’s birthday and we didn’t want to take over her date. BUT more importantly….sorry Mum, is WHO decorates/d the tree?

 

  • EVERY grandchild does. At least those I can corral. Back in the first years/decades of being grandparents I admit I hyped the whole “Christmas at Grandma’s and Papa’s” decorating Sunday (mostly) and asked the parents to leave…or at least help Mr W with the myriad of lights, outside decorations and more to be adoring the house.

 

  • IT WAS FUN…frantic and the best.

Christmas music was played: Holly Jolly Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and occasionally more traditional music – see next question. I still have many CDs and playlists and they are now my car accompaniment during December.

I digress. Not a chronological post. Sorry. Not sorry.

  • Grandkids started happening for us in 1996 – the first born 2 days before Christmas that year. She got to add the star to the tree in 1997. My rule? Youngest puts star on tree. (Sadly, this year in our house, it was 71 year old me!)

 

  • I bought a new decoration for each grandchild each year…so 1996 one had many more than say 2013 born on. We have grandkids born in 1996, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015. I labelled each one with date too. Some had photos in them. Before we moved house, and downsized the Christmas tree, giving our 1994 one to our daughter and her 4, I gave each grandchild their tree decorations from our house in a special box for the family Christmases ahead.

 

Christmas carols & songs.

I have enjoyed singing both the carols of Christmas (traditional and Australian themed ones) since I was in a church choir – I think I went to be social and I loved the singing, and got to learn some teaching skills helping little kids at Sunday School- aged 12 t0 14. Dad always had music playing in house at Christmas but can’t specifically recall Christmas songs.

  • I love to sing and in a group or teaching some kids and I may not have been a keen musician nor able to read music but I could hold a tune and loved teaching songs at Assembly and for Christmas concerts.
  • I particularly enjoy the Australian carols: The North Wind, The Silver Stars are In the Sky and more.
  • Remember for us, teaching in outback NSW was a very hot time as school ends and yet, we still put on traditional Christmas plays, songs and Santa always visited.

I have, as mentioned earlier, a huge number of CDs and even great songs from Hi Five and The Wiggles (all part of grandparenting back then) bring me joy. Santa Wear Your Shorts is one I recall kids singing at school carols too.

In a Rusty Holden Ute is one I remember a class doing back at RPS when I was principal.

I have very eclectic taste. Obvs.

 

Christmas books.

My favourites are always those I read to my kids, then their kids and to some classes. Way back I used to share a golden type book about the story of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. I had a collection of various Father Christmas story books, and Santa Claus ones too. They are now all in other people’s houses, and I hope still being enjoyed.

I loved reading them to little ones and seeing the sense of awe and wonder.

I don’t have any that are mine nor am I really interested. However, I recall a series of short stories, Maeve Binchy perhaps, about coming home and Christmas. Long gone like my memory.

 

Christmas movies.

As mum and then,  Grandma I would watch movie length cartoons on TV as we had broken up for the year, and it was a nice distraction to have on a hot day inside while I probably made Christmas gifts.

And here’s on oldie. Back in the early 1960s Mum and Dad entertained neighbours and friends on Christmas Eve, and Dad would drop me and bro up to local Cinema in Balgowlah to watch White Christmas or something similar. I liked it. I must ask my brother if he recalls. We must have been collected by someone, and with no RBT, and within 2 kms of home anyway maybe having a festive driver do that didn’t matter.

And then in mid 2000 teens, I found Its a Wonderful Life. I like it so much it IS my go-to each Christmas to remember ‘why we each are important to each other’

Christmas cake.

I love(d) eating small amounts of home made Christmas cake. Made my own for a few years back in the 1980s and certainly enjoyed those my mum made back in the day. I liked the tradition of making them when the kids helped stir the cake mix. For photo purposes only. Neither like(d) Fruit Cake!

I also recall Christmas puddings made by Mum and wrapped in pudding cloth. Back in the day  1950s I recall the threepence and sixpence you might find in a slice of pudding…and not break your teeth. My paternal grandmother kept pudding coins I recall. Mum’s recipe here…and no I have never made it but it’s in Mum’s handwriting so treasured as a memory.

Chocolate nuts or fruit.

Now I can physically barely eat any, but cherries (black more than red) are part of Christmas, lychees  and so are mangoes.  And watermelon. We always had fruit and a variety of fresh nuts on the table. With a nutcracker. Seriously. Only ever used at Christmas.

Christmas traditions

See above…

However, there were some when our kids were young.

  • Christmas Eve I was always tired out – school had just broken up, and husband was finishing off whatever jobs he was doing around the place, so I took the kids to Christmas Eve Mass. I know! I did it because…tradition (and I became a catholic to be same as husband and kids, none of us are no longer practising) and I loved the music and the nativity…and then we got Maccas for tea. Still a novelty in 1980s.

 

  • Home with takeaway & after eating,  and some last minute preparations by kids for carrots out for reindeer, one of my orange biscuits or piece of shortbread for Santa, and quite possibly a can of Coke. Honestly I can’t recall but B liked drinking Coke then.

 

  • Kids laid out their Santa Bag (pillowcases) and Santa Stockings under the tree…and then off to bed. We watched/listened to Carols from Melbourne whilst trying to equalise sizes and presents for kids. Not wrapped ever. But if son seemed to get more (volume wise) I would remove for his birthday in 3 weeks.

 

  • We then waited…and bit the carrots and poured out the water, ate the treats, drank the drink…and hopefully kids were asleep and we left sack at bottom of their beds. Tired out.
  • When they woke in the morning, I was there with the trusty camera and it was a very special start to the day. As the kids got older (7 years difference, so one was 14, other 7) I sometimes actually ‘woke’ them because we often had a busy day ahead.

 

  • I used to make gifts for family, friends and even our doctors…(still do, actually) and one recipe honed by me back in 1990s I call “orange biscuits”. These are still much loved by my daughter and as she was turning 50 in covid lockdown, I made a batch and sent them to her. I “will” make some for her Christmas too. I also used to make Almond Bread. Yum. But not anymore as my mouth couldn’t bear it.

 

What’s on the table?

So many memories here.

  • However, musts for us were Christmas Bonbons to pull open, wear the silly hat, and share the silly jokes. I made placemats some years. Even a Christmas Trivia Quiz.

 

  • There were always festive treats on the table before any food was served! Cherries, lollies (and liquorish allsorts were a must, along with chocolate almonds), something savoury maybe like home made cheesy biscuits and some prawns in mayo on jatz, and some smoked salmon on rye bread would have been served before lunch.

 

  • I used to drink Mimosas too,  Orange juice and champers…As a wee kid though, MY Papa would have cold little bottles of Cherry Cheer for his 2 grandkids

 

  • Then there was LUNCH.

 

  • A mix of hot meal and cold too. So much food.

 

  • Always (back then) hot chickens, leg of pork  and many roast veggies, gravy, and some cold ham, turkey,  and salads with bread rolls. And later, slices of pudding for those who liked it, with home made brandy butter (yum), cream & ice cream and for others, something from the freezer ice cream selections.

 

  • On a hot day we were always grateful for air conditioning if available! And a pool too….

This was at LUNCHtime…and then, by about 6 p.m. we might serve up some leftovers too before, hopefully, all went home (with leftovers) ….sigh. Food coma.

Before & after head & neck cancer & adapting to no family at Christmas time.

 

One of the BIG Christmas Days…where Mum – see waving hand would have cooked a lot at home and brought it with her and Dad. Happy & sad memories here as my Aunty, back, second from right, would not be with us the next year.

Christmas memories.

  • They started at Dapto in 1950s for me, with the old fashioned Christmas lunch and all the spoiling that grandkids (me and bro) get. Then to dad’s Mum in Wollongong  for Christmas dinner/afternoon tea. Not as enjoyable though.

 

  • By the time we moved to Sydney however, and in early 1960s, my parents agreed we no longer wanted to spend Christmas day in the car, so Christmas would be at our place, and relatives were welcome to our place.

 

  • We became adults, and after marrying B & I  had a child by 1971, so Christmas and having the lunch at Mum and Dad’s was great as we were staying on school holidays and then over time, we moved to sharing some of Christmas Day with B’s family.

 

  • We bought a house, had teaching roles  and stayed in Sydney from 1978, with a second child added, and we still trekked to my parents most times until one day, Mum tired of it all, 1985 when her sister died suddenly, and I was given the family gig. It was fine, even though the reason my mum stopped was borne of grief and the need to pass the baton.

 

  • I probably did this closer to 2010s ish in our family if they wanted to do Christmas. Sometimes it became very complicated with extended families so we might share present opening instead on Christmas morning.

 

  • Over the next decade, we would have hosted, or gone to my brother’s and sometimes to my husband’s family. It becomes complicated for sure as families grow, change and move away.

 

  • Early 1990s we had a brand new  (big!) house and wanted to share the new space, and did Christmas then.

 

  • Grandchildren’s arrival changed so much for Christmas traditions, see above, but none more memorable than 1996, when the parents of newborn J, had ‘day leave’ from the hospital to have Christmas Lunch.

 

  • Grandkids, families changing and more meant that there were MANY more variations to Christmas Days until 2014 when, as we had sold our house in Sydney (and all those Christmas memories 1997-2013) our daughter did family Christmas.

Now?

The stories are as above.

And with no further ado, I am going to use this post for a Special One-Off Edition of Telling My Story!

The Christmas Memories One for the LAST #LifeThisWeek “Wishing”

I hadn’t thought of that till now. Thank you ladies!!

 

 

All I want for Christmas is…

The writing of this post has given me a better and greater appreciation of my Christmas memories as a 72 year old, and for that I am

G

R

A

T

E

F

U

L

May your dreams and hopes for Christmas and the Holiday season come true.

May you all go well.

May you be happy.

May the new year hold good health for you and yours.

I am very grateful for the blogging community always.

And for my continued good health post head & neck cancer!

Denyse.

On Monday 13 December 2021, @HeadandNeckCancerAustralia’s Virtual Choir for Christmas will be launched.

A first for Australia! I am in it too.

 

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Women of Courage Series. #4. Debbie Harris. 67/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #4. Debbie Harris. 66/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

Welcome to  Debbie Harris, aged 58 who is sharing her story today. 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Despite what some people may think, my life is far from perfect and I have faced some truly terrible moments along the way. Some I didn’t know about at the time but required me to be ‘courageous’ to continue on – as a baby I contracted pneumonia, was hospitalised and then it went to double pneumonia with the added complication of Golden Staph infection – this resulted in having to have some of my left lung removed. I now have an amazing scar running down my left side! It’s horrific enough now that I’m fully grown but how must it have looked on a tiny baby??

I was involved in a tragic accident while on a school excursion in Noumea, New Caledonia at age 17 where the bus we were in rolled off the steep winding road on a wet night, rolling several times into the river below, drowning 2 students and a civilian and leaving many others severely injured.

I received a Brave Conduct Award from the Queen for my efforts, along with several other students who were involved.

From my blog post May 2018:

It was 40 years ago in May 1978 that I set off on a dream trip with my friends, my French teachers, and other French students from my school, all of us armed with a real sense of adventure. We headed off to New Caledonia ready to practice our French language skills and immerse ourselves in the culture of the French island.

I was 17 and in Year 12, my final year of school, at Bomaderry High School, a public high school on the NSW South Coast (Australia).

Little did we know that within a few days we would be heading home after surviving a tragic accident which took the lives of 3 people, two of whom were young students in the prime of their lives.

I was one of the oldest students on the trip with two of my best friends. But sadly only two of us returned home alive.

At 1.00am on Thursday 11 May 1978 we were returning in two buses to our hotel Chez Maitre Pierre at Hienghene, after spending the evening at a disco at a nearby resort, with a group of students from a Wagga school.

It was raining heavily, and I was on the first bus which left with 13 people on board – 4 adults and 9 students plus the bus driver.  I remember the road was winding, narrow and slippery.  The bus slid from the road and overturned, rolling four or five times down a forty-metre embankment, ending up submerged in the river, La Hienghene, with only a small part of the bus showing above the water.

I was thrown from the bus as it rolled down the embankment and sustained concussion, shock, cuts, glass embedded throughout my body and other minor injuries, but somehow, I had survived.

In total darkness, and with no sign of panic, those of us who had managed to escape from the bus immediately set about the task of rescuing the injured, resuscitating those who had drowned and caring for them until rescuers arrived, more than two hours later.

But for their actions the loss of life would have been far greater.

It was tragic – 3 of the 13 people aboard, died on that bus.

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

As I was only 17 at the time, I hadn’t really suffered any great losses.  This accident made me aware of how fragile life was and to live a good life wherever possible.  I didn’t get any counselling or support from professionals at the time, this would be very different scenario today!  I remember just having to continue on and so I did with help from family and my then boyfriend (now husband).  I think it gave me some resilience.

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

We all need to be brave in our own way and make the most of what life throws at us.  It’s funny that anyone who gets a bravery award says they didn’t feel brave they just did what they had to do at the time.  Those were my exact words when I was given the award.

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Yes, I now tackle things head on.  Due to the accident I have a fear of heights, but I didn’t let it stop me from walking in the Himalayas in Nepal, tackling the infamous Kokoda Track, skiing in the Italian Alps.  I could have been put off from travelling and to be honest it took me 14 years before I travelled overseas again after the accident but now, I’m a fearless traveller, with my husband, family and even solo trips to Europe.  I grasp opportunities with both hands.

In late 2016 I was made redundant from my rewarding 22 year career of Managing Education programs and working with inmates in a correctional centre.  The government decided to outsource education provision (it was a cheaper option) and they decided they didn’t need qualified teachers in their system any longer.  I was 55 turning 56 at the time and this forced change to my lifestyle nearly brought me undone.  I needed all my courage to join with my Teachers Federation colleagues to fight this abominable decision.  I fought hard, rallied troops, spoke to the media and put myself out there- it was very scary.  But I had the courage of my convictions and I stuck with it.  Unfortunately, the changes went ahead as planned and I was suddenly a very young retiree.  I grieved for months but have bounced back with optimism and enthusiasm, created a new lifestyle and I am happy to say life is good!

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I know it seems to be a cliché but really you just have to hang on. Try to take the positives out of a situation and get help if you need to.  My family keep me pretty grounded and don’t let me carry on too much!  Everyone sees courage differently and we need to respect these differences.

There is no one way to be brave, sometimes we just need to know it’s inside us all and hope that we will find it when it’s needed.

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I hate roller coaster rides (I think due to my accident) but have learnt that if I close my eyes and count slowly they only last a few minutes at the most.  I don’t enjoy them but remind myself that ‘this too will pass’ – life’s a bit like that in many ways.

Many thanks to Debbie for her story of courage. I first ‘met’ Debbie on-line and as teachers who left their roles in circumstances beyond our control I ‘get’ her part in this post very much.

Denyse.

Follow Debbie here:

https://debs-world.com/2018/04/08/what-ive-learnt-from-surviving-a-school-trip-that-went-terribly-wrong/

Blog/Website: https://www.debs-world.com

Twitter: @wonderwomandebz

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://www.facebook.com/worldaccordingtoDebbie

Instagram: https://Instagram.com/debs__world

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Kirsty Russell. 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

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