We have to drive down Rocky Point Rd to get to our ancestral home – The Sutherland Shire. Its a soulless six lane strip lined with bland apartment blocks and brick veneer townhouses. Except for my Aunt Ida’s old place on the corner which is heritage listed. Its exterior remained much the same from when she was born at the beginning of last century to when she died at the beginning of this one. It adds a desperately needed touch of character to the area. I am glad it’s been preserved but despite this for me something has been lost….
A few blocks back down is an unremarkable medium density development. Thirty years ago there stood a ramshackle old house with a cracked concrete pathway and double garage that looked suspiciously like it contained asbestos. The whole shebang sat on a spacious quarter acre block – the type which has been consigned to history (at least in Sydney). It was my grandparent’s home.
My Mum is the second youngest of eight so as you’d expect I have MANY cousins – 15 infact. (And NO we are not Catholic). When the clan converged on the place for Christmas it was always bigger than Ben Hur.
Christmas lunch was an unfashionable feast. You’d never the likes of it on a gastro porn blog these days but Oh My! it was tasty. My grandmother and aunties would roast three different types of meat served up with boatloads of gravy. Apple sauce in a naff crystal bowl was de rigour to compliment to pork crackling. Everyone wanted the pork crackling. The veges were roasted to with in an inch of their lives. They were so soft that they sagged the minute they hit the plate (like a middle aged butt).
Dessert was the traditional sherry drenched pudding drowned in homemade custard, whipped cream and icecream. If you could possibly fit in any more, a family of naff crystal bowls, related to the one that held the apple sauce, offered up choc coated nuts and sultanas. There was even some of that awful white Christmas made with rice bubbles and studded with (cough, cough) glace cherries. The passing of time has not made that particular confection any better.
The fancy glassware was extracted from the display cabinent where it resided next to the trinkets Uncle Donny brought back from the Korean War. As a special treat the kids could imbibe sparkling grape juice directly from the shelves of Jewel ( a super market chain before the Colesworths apocalypse). We felt very mature and sophisticated indeed.
After all the plates were emptied and we all felt like exploding there was some actual exploding. The cracking of Bon Bons resounded about the room. Grown men donned flimsy paper crowns and guwaffed at the corny jokes. It was only then that the tribe could migrate to the living room for the presents.
With such large numbers the family stuck to a gifts for kids only policy. Still there were so many presents that a large section of the faded floral living room carpet was obscured. My Grandfather took the mantel of Santa and handed out each one. He always saved the very best for last – the bag of Violet Crumble that he coveted every year. After that he’d umpire the game of backyard cricket. Our clan did it French style with under arm chucking in place of bowling. A hit over the fence was a six and out.
As the cousins grew up and scattered all over Australia the gathering shrank. Then in the late 1980s a developer approached my grandparents with an offer they couldn’t refuse. They sold and moved to the lower Blue Moutains where my Grandfather contentedly spent his remaining years pottering about the garden. He left the building at age 83. Lung cancer defeated him whereas the Depression World War Two, the times a changin’ in the 1960s, Whitlam and even the Trevor Chappell underarm bowling incident could not. My Grandmother battled on but was never the same without her beloved “Snow”. (That was his nick name because of his very blonde hair). She joined him in 2009. I was heavily pregnant with P2 at the time – her 33rd great grand child.
Team Abulous is pretty much assured of having a wonderful Christmas this year. We’ll join my brother and sister in law in the Shire. They are generous souls who love nothing more than putting on a magnificent spread. The girls will splash about in the pool jump on the trampoline and work themselves into an excited frenzy with their cousins. I’ll sip on Yellowglen laced with Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup. Undoubtedly some silly hat wearing and lame joke telling will happen.
There’s no doubt it will be a great day but I’ll feel a touch of melancholy when we drive back up Rocky Point Rd. For me a slice of history has been lost.
What will you get up to this Christmas?
PS: Thanks to all the blog fans who have put up with me in 2014.