Christmas carols constantly played through my head as I stood at my gate in the 38 degree heat.
“Across!” Darcy shouted.
I pulled open the gate to my left, to let a couple cows through. Sweat and dust caked my face, but I didn’t mind.
I took a few steps back and out of the way as I opened my gate to let cattle into the pen with me. I shut the gate again, still singing carols in my mind.
Sure, it was just another work day, but it was one day closer to Christmas, and boy, was I excited! December had arrived and was progressing with a lot of sun, and still no rain. And DEFINITELY no snow. With it being my third Christmas down under, I thought I would be used to it. Wrong. I was the most homesick I have been since I started travelling over two years ago.
I’m not sure why it hit so hard this year. Maybe because I had just been home a couple months earlier, maybe because my brother was over and I felt responsible for giving him a good first Christmas away. Maybe I was just hormonal. Either way, I REALLY wanted snow. I wanted to wake up all cosy at 5am while it was still dark out. I wanted to wake up Jared and sit on Mom and Dad’s bed, opening my stocking until they finally gave in and woke my sister up. I wanted to sit around the Christmas tree with all the tree and candle lights on, opening presents before sunrise. I wanted the big morning brunch that Mom prepares every year. Wanted to sit around the fire. To read. To talk. To enjoy the company of my family. Maybe next year. This year, it was a Christmas in Clermont.
Once my three days of being homesick had passed I was ready to prepare for my best Christmas away yet. Jared and I drove to Emerald and I went on a Christmas shopping spree! I bought ingredients to do the Christmas baking Mom always does. I bought Santa hats. I bought Candy Canes. I even bought tree ornaments, even though we didn’t have a tree. I struggled not to buy more Christmas decorations but, as it would only be used for one year, I figured I best not spend all my money on the festivities. I came very close though.
When we got back to Clermont with all our Christmas goodies, Darcy didn’t have much choice but to take us out to find a tree. He was already sorted though. We all put on our newly bought Santa hats and went to get us a Christmas tree. He grabbed the chainsaw and knew exactly which paddock we would head to to find out perfect Christmas tree. He even found me a pine.
With the tree cut down, we held it up for a look. It was a sad tree, very much resembled a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but I loved it! We took our holiday plant home, stood it up in a big bucket, and threw on some lights and decorations. Literally, Darcy stood in the middle of the room throwing the candy canes at the tree, hoping to hook them on branches. It worked more often than not.
Once the tree was up and decorated it was time to start my baking. I made a double batch of Scotch Cookies, which are my favourite Christmas cookie. They turned out alright as it was my second time making them. I had made them for Christmas last year, back in Sydney. It may have only been a year ago, but it feels like a lifetime.
I was glad that the cookies had turned out, but the challenge was going to be the family tradition. The Hungarian Coffee Cake and the Swedish Tea Ring. My family is neither Swedish or Hungarian, but these two dishes are delicious. Eating the Swedish Tea Ring for brunch on Christmas morning has always been one of my favourite parts of Christmas. I decided that with my brother having his first Christmas away I would try and bring a little bit of home to Australia.
The plan was to spend Christmas lunch with Darcy’s Dad and family, then head over a bit later to see him mum. After a visit with his mum we would head over to a friend’s place for Christmas dinner. I decided I needed to bake enough to take something to each place. I made two of each the Hungarian Coffee Cake, and Swedish Tea Ring. I barely had a chance to step outside. The result was worth it though. They may not have been as beautiful or as moist as the ones Mum or Nana always bake, but for a first go, I was happy with the result.
It was a little nerve-racking at first, driving through the hills with fire and destruction on either side. The fire spread quickly and didn’t halt much for fire breaks. Quite a crew gathered from the surrounding properties in an effort to pull it up. There were dozers, and utes with water tanks, there were chainsaws and quads and firebugs on the go. It was a bit of a whirlwind and a completely new situation to be thrown into. I was mostly positioned in a ute, spraying out logs that would otherwise burn for days, and watching that the fore wasn’t climbing trees and jumping breaks.
I headed off to bed on Christmas Eve, filled with excitement for the coming dawn. It was the most excited I have been for Christmas since leaving home. I felt like a child again, grinning non-stop, tossing and turning half the night, too excited to sleep. After hours of restlessness, I decided to go sit by the tree.
It was 1:30am and the house was quiet. I slipped out of bed and crept to the door. I just wanted to go sit by the tree for a while. I knew I would have had to be up by 4am anyway if I wanted to be able to sit by the tree while it was still dark out. The sun doesn’t sleep long in Australia.
As I came out of my room an turned to go down the hallway I tripped over something soft and lumpy. I started to cry. My little brother had played Santa. He had made me a stocking and placed it by the bedroom door, just where it always was at home. I decided against opening it then and there. That was against the rules. Stockings cannot be opened before five. I straightened it back up and went to sit in the living room.
I wasn’t sat down for long before I heard a door creek and Jared’s head pop out. Apparently he had just woken up and wanted to look out at the tree too. We sat for a while in darkness, just the tacky, cheap, LED lights shining. We talked for a while and I thanked him for the stocking before heading back to bed. I still don’t think he truly realizes how much it meant to me.
When the sun came up on Christmas day, I was thrilled. It was time to wake Jared up. For years we had had the rule that whoever woke first on Christmas morning would wake the other up. I was always the one jumping on his bed. This year was no different. I ran in and took a leap onto the bed before jumping up and down. “WAKE UP! IT’S CHRISTMAS!” I shouted. I didn’t stop my jumping or cheering until I was certain he was going to get out of bed.
We sat and opened presents before breakfast, just like home. I finally got to open my stocking, filled with lots of goodies! I received lots of chocolates and sweets and a hot sauce set too. Darcy was also great and sent my camera away to be fixed. I should be getting it back soon and be able to take loads more photos again. I hit jackpot with my motion sensor candy dispenser. Oh yes, it was a wonderful Christmas morning.
The rest of the day was wonderful too. We spent our meals with many wonderful people. We had wonderful conversations and ate wonderful food. I have many people to thank for such a wonderful Christmas. Of my three Christmases away from home so far, this one was the best.
As the sun went down on Christmas night rose high in the sky I knew it would be another year before I could decorate trees and wear Santa hats and sing Christmas carols again, but that’s okay because boxing day was about to bring a whole new adventure.