Gray Street

canstockphoto7691275She steps over the bodies strewn across the room. One body lies in the hall, trying to grab any gasp of breeze that may float in the front door. It’s been a hot night.

Her walk is slow and soft, hoping the creaking of floorboards doesn’t wake anyone. It would be nice to have a moment of quiet before the children waken.

Her brother is sitting out the back door, a lonesome figure with the same idea as she. He takes a puff of his cigarette and looks out across the back lawn. It is littered with balls, water pistols, toys and the occasionally empty Melbourne Bitter beer can. The cricket stumps are standing like three drunken sticks, left in peace as the sunset yesterday evening. The ball was hit for six out of the yard just on dark prematurely ending the game. First job of the morning will be hunting in the block next door to find it.

The kettle echoes through the small kitchen, penetrating the quiet like a jet engine as the water crackles and bubbles to boiling point. She glances at the bodies. A few stir but the eyes remain firmly closed. She is optimistic that she will enjoy this coffee in the morning silence. She hands her brother a coffee and just nods, knowing they are both keen to enjoy this rare moment.

Her mind goes back to the revelries of yesterday.

She had watched her mother stand proudly in the front pew as her eldest son celebrated mass for the family. The children had fidgeted, keen to get back to the presents that had been ripped open at sunrise. A sharp look from grandmother and the threat of presents going to the poor if they misbehaved had put them straight. They endured the rest of service like angels.

She always loved the short walk back to the house, less than a block down the street of her hometown. The children had run ahead, eager to scare the first of the adults as they stepped through the gap in the back fence. The adults had played the part seeming surprised and pretending to trip through the fence in their Sunday best. The youngsters chortled and whispered to each other pleased with themselves, acting like they had invented the game that many had played before them.

Today was Christmas and everyone was in a merry mood.

With the formal parts done the men started to relax. The Christmas Sunday best shirts were replaced with stubbies, singlet, toweling hats and thongs. The beers flowed, the stories started. The women of the house prepared the baked meal, despite the searing 35 degree heat. The chicken roasted, the vegetables counted and divided, the tomato pie not forgotten.

The grandfather clock in the dining room chimed the passage of Christmas celebration as the clan squashed around the dining room table. No room for flapping your elbows or tantrums at this banquet. With eyes bigger than their bellies the traditional sago christmas pudding was ceremoniously served. The brood jiggled in anticipation with promises of treasures to be found in the pudding. They were not sure what threepence was but they excitedly shared in a tradition passed on through generations.canstockphoto7392799

“Well I’m as full as a fart in a bottle” declared their grandmother as she
shuffled off to take a kip in the afternoon heat. The children were ushered out the back where the sprinkler provided respite from the summer swelter. Little consideration of hats and sunscreen in these times as the children danced through the cooling droplets and played backyard cricket and tag with their kinfolk while the adults looked on, crowded under the small shade of the back awning.

Their hometown on the banks of the mighty Murray River had provided the backdrop for this family congregation. They had travelled hundreds of kilometres, some driving over 14 hours on dusty dirt roads to be home for Christmas, to be surrounded by loved ones. And they will again.


Photo credits:

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / zurijeta;

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / saje;

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