Cloudstreet river – what a backdrop for Christmas lunch!
‘Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living. Yachts run before an unfelt guest, with bagnecked pelicans riding above them, the city their twitching backdrop, all blocks and points of mirror light down to the water’s edge.’
Tim Winton Cloudstreet
Once upon a time my children and their families came to my house every year for Christmas lunch. Sometimes there have been as many as thirty or more of us, including my grandchildren. It worked well. In the last few years, though, we’ve begun to rotate to different homes for the celebration.
By some mysterious process, a decision was made to picnic by the river this year. It happened in August, about the same time as the Kris Kringle ballot was drawn. Jenny and Janet see to the ballot each year, with a little help from others. The ritual determines which adult will give which other a present. At the same time, Jenny and Janet make the list of what delicacies everyone will bring for lunch. But, as one of my granddaughters said,
‘There’s not much point, really, is there? Everyone brings what they always bring. That’s one of the things that makes our Christmas lunch so special.’
Peter, Janet, Alexander, Louisa, Amelia and Lara arrived at the river early. By the time John and I got there, they had set a long table under the trees they had strung with decorations. The weather was perfect for our Australian Christmas lunch.
Soon the others came with ham, poultry, salads, seafood and drinks packed on ice. That morning I had recooked the Christmas pudding we made at the beginning of Advent. It was hot from the boiling water when John and I wrapped it in a towel and placed it in an insulated box. Pats of brandy butter melted into it when we served it at the end of lunch.
Australia’s acclaimed author Tim Winton received the Miles Franklin Literary Award for his novel Cloudstreet in 1991. The opening and closing scenes of Cloudstreet depict picnics by the river. I have always visualised that scene close to the place where we had our Christmas lunch, ‘in the shade pools of the peppermints by the beautiful, the beautiful, the river.’
Like the Pickles and the Lamb families in Cloudstreet, my family also spends a lot of time by the river, or on it. Like a magnet, it draws us. It regenerates us, invigorates us. The decision to have our Christmas lunch there this year was inspired.
In the midst of our festivities, there was also some sadness. I imagine there is always family sadness at Christmas time, mixed with the joy and the love.
As Winton says,
‘Unless you knew, you’d think they were a whole group, an earthly vision. Because, look, even the missing are there, the gone and the taken with them…’ Tim Winton
I thought about my sons and their families who, for various good and proper reasons, were not there. I couldn’t help but think about my baby great-grandson who was not with us.
We happily welcomed some family friends. There was the announcement of an engagement and the presence of an unborn great-grandchild. There was love and laughter and the generous promise of good things to look forward to in the New Year.
Thank you for reading my blog. Comments are always welcome. Perhaps you have a Christmas story to share?