I know in other parts of the world it can get a wee bit chill around this time of the year, but for me and my whole childhood, Christmas equals heat and the holidays equals lots of hot and dusty work punctuated by cold watermelons and swims at the end of the day.
My father is exactly the same age older than I as I am to 'Salina, so it seems that much easier to understand my parents at certain times in my childhood now.
As a result, telling V the story of "going away for Christmas" to the Sunshine Coast during the year when we (hugely mistakenly) had a sedan, I now get swung around to another view of the trip and see the planning and promise that my parents put into this delight.
It still doesn't explain the need for all three children to lose 100% of our legroom and live with the fear of the balanced bundles on the back ledge, but it does put a bit of shading in that whole "don't give us your bellyaching" looks they gave us while we whined.
As the few months prior to Christmas is when all the baby calves hit the ground, Christmas is the ideal time to innoculate and brand the little darlings. Of course, I am sure it doesn't hurt that school holidays happen to coincide and the free labour force is utilised fully.
If ever we whinged about waking early every day of our holidays, Dad would say "best part of the day" and we would splash into the pool for our wakeup.
If ever we complained about callouses and tired muscles and saddling up again during our 13 hour days, Dad would say "people pay to do this" and so our muscles would relax into the gait of the horse and our hands would knit the reins as we rode through the hills with mobs of the most cute babies in our care.
But there were a few years where Mum and Dad actually organised for us to have a REAL Christmas holiday. One that involved NOT BEING AT HOME. One where we would be near the beach and seafood and seeing our parents outside their natural habitats.
The preparations would take a full day of packing - presents, clothes, eskies, artificial tree - and the morning of set off was always a frenzy of Dad packing the car with Mum supervising closely.
With a station wagon, which was generally our car of choice, this packing can be 80% achieved in the rear section (to the ceiling - who needs rear view) with some thought to placing 6 lower legs across the back seat between the detrius. With a sedan, there was a vast difference in the amount of thought involved in stealing this (and any other space) for the bags and boxes and "stuff".
Now, if we were say visiting the town only 50km away, it would probably have been bearable - but said coastal holiday at the time took place at the Sunshine Coast - nowadays possible to traverse in 4 hours (if my brother in law is driving) but then it took a full day and a few dodgy roads.
Add to that three children but only two window seats. As the
In those days, there were no namby-pamby DVD players to enthrall the younger generation, so my mother would alternate her Val Doonican with music of our choice (from her selection) and we would all holler along to Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, Olivia Newton-John and Slim Dusty. See a pattern?
We would play games - I spy, White Horse, shopping list, working out time and distance left to travel and taking turns making up fitting tall stories for creek and river names.
I was renowned for being able to "hold on until Brisbane" as I had a thing about going to the toilet at the servos, but there were generally a few stops along the way.
Ban Ban Springs, where my grandmother always filled her thermos on her journey as it was so pure and clear (not any more), Nanango where the park next to the service station had lots of shade and room to run around, Blackbutt where the local version of Yeti has been formed into a towering wooden sculpture, the Big Orange, the Big Cow, the Big Pineapple - all passing markers to our final destination.
We knew we were nearly there when the speed levels dropped. In those days, a two-lane road twisted and turned for many miles before reaching the ocean, and our noses would scent it far before we saw the blue.
The first job on arrival was taking the explosion of goods from the car to the holiday flat and fighting for the "best bed". Mum would open the sliding doors and windows and we would throw our belonging around searching for togs and water toys.
Dad would then walk us down to the water a few blocks away while Mum got "peace". I know now that "peace" would have been fairly packed with activity and how blissful it would be to complete such in relative quiet.
When we got home, Mum would have tidied up, done a grocery shop and assembled dinner - and then we would put up the tree and put our pressies under. (In Australia, 9 times out of 10 it is an artificial tree - or in our case, 10 times out of 10. Not big on rotting vegetation chopped down to disinitigrate in the living room, and given it is high summer that is the guaranteed process)
Then we would ask the big questions - How would Santa know how to find us? What time could we wake them in the morning? What were we going to eat? When would we be able to go for a swim?
After we were tumbled into bed, we children would chatter on (in increasingly hushed tones) our plans for filling the hours before we could wake the parents, generally involving creating a breakfast feast and turning little brother into that year's thematic Santa) until the sound of the distant waves would send us off.
Christmas itself I never really remember - sort of like all those times you are having such a great time being drunk as a young adult - you KNOW you are having a good time but all the stimuli overloads and crashes.
Christmas night when we were away always meant being taken to some relatives who we hardly saw as often as every 4 years and sent to play with the kids while the parents ate and drank with the other adults.
But Boxing Day was always a tradition - swim first, then feast, then cricket on the telly (while you played with your toys) then snacks, then cricket on the telly (while you napped) then a swim, then cricket on the telly (while you helped pack up and tidy) then toasted sandwiches and early bed.
It always seemed the holidays were that short, and the next day was the trip home again - as there was always mustering to be done, calves to brand, cows to dip, watermelon to eat and the pool needing a stir.