I’ve been trying to remember my first Christmas.
How far can you go back? If you happen to be ancient like me, it’s tough.
I can picture where we were living. Our first place. Britannia Street. The house that Dad built for us.
Where was the tree? I think it was in the corner of the lounge room. To the right, as you walked in the front door.
Try as I might, the rest is pretty much a blank. No memory of my first present. Or the decorations. And no photos.
What I can remember, is how Mum and Dad approached it all. It was their special time.
Somehow, they made sure I never missed out. Year after year.
To this day, I’m not entirely sure how they did it. Things were tough for us. In those early days, I had no idea.
When Dad’s business went bust, the family struggled big time. We lost that house. They were shattered.
But every year, come Christmas morning, there would still be a scooter. Or a Malvern Star. Or a cricket bat. I was never disappointed.
So how did they manage? It took me years to find the answer to that. Doing what parents had done years before. And still do today. They missed out themselves.
Thinking back, I can’t remember one decent present that they gave each other during those grim years. Not one.
If you’d been with us back then, you would never have known. Look under our tree, and you’d see plenty of gifts. Their trick was to wrap things they’d already given to each other. Complete with mock surprise. Fooled me every time.
Christmas Day would start with ham and tomato on toast for breakfast. I still have it to this day.
I’d end up outside while Mum was cooking lunch. Dad would help me test-ride the scooter, or the Malvern Star. Or we’d oil the new bat. And it was always just us.
For some reason, Dad never invited his side of the family over. Another unspoken rule. I knew little about them. There may have been a phone call or two. Nothing more.
Our holiday fun always came from Mum’s side. She adored her sisters, and their kids. There would be Boxing Day gatherings whenever the tribe could be gathered in the one spot. Still happens to this day. Sadly, without Mum.
My parents had a love of Christmas, that was different to what I see around me now. They embraced the gift of giving, totally. Their joy came from others being happy. Especially me.
The things they treasured were the bits and pieces I made for them at school. Badly. Wonky ashtrays. Out-of-shape clay figures. Let’s not even mention the woodwork class letter box, that may have been missing an opening for the letters.
There were no big family shopping trips to spend money we didn’t have. No fancy lights. The day just seemed to arrive, with everything done and dusted. Mum at work yet again.
Things are so different now. Not better or worse. Just different.
No-one will go without in our house this year. No presents coming out for the second time. There will be several trips to the biggest shopping centre we can find. That groaning sound you hear is our embattled credit cards.
I’m proud to say I’ve taken at least one thing from my parents. My favourite gifts, will be whatever the girls make for me. Home-made cards. The bits of paper promising to help me around the house. Even though I know they’re more likely to write their own Chinese opera than wash my car.
Life can get too complicated sometimes. In most things we do, simple is good. Mum and Dad knew that. For one day of the year, we were the richest family in the street. That’s something I’ll never forget.