A Revised Look at Grandparenting

Eighteen months ago, we welcomed a stranger into our lives. Despite the fact he couldn’t speak any English, he managed to demand we give him a lot of care and attention. He wasn’t concerned about how tired or busy we were, and he certainly didn’t worry about interrupting our sleep. We became his slaves, and yet, we chose to love him.

Since then, his English has greatly improved, and although he still demands a lot of attention, he’s eager to be more independent. But the best thing is the way he has returned our love a million times over.

I blogged about his arrival here in Beginnings.

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Yes, I’m talking about my first grandson, and I’m besotted by him. The intensity of my love for him amazes me. Every new word he says, each new skill he masters, and the way he loves us all back sends sparks through every cell in my body. I often find myself gazing adoringly at him like a preteen experiencing her first big crush.

I’m not surprised about this, and yet I am. Family and friends had told me how special grand parenting was, but I couldn’t know what they meant until I experienced it for myself. On the other hand, I’m not convinced it’s the blood link that makes it special. I honestly believe I could love any baby I had frequent contact with from birth.

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I’ve always loved babies. I love their curiosity, their earnestness, and their unconditional love. I adore sharing the wonders of the world with children, and re-experiencing it all through their eyes. They truly are one of life’s biggest miracles.

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I’ve always thought of the time when my own children were young as the happiest years of my life, and caring for Jasper takes me back to those good times. I’m getting another chance to have that fun time all over again.

And yet, it’s so very different.

Yes, I was happy as a young mother, but a lot was going on in my life. I was torn between wanting to be a full time nurse, and a full time mother. There were more bills to pay, and concerns about our future. My relationship with my husband was far more volatile, and I was often anxious about what other people thought of me/us, Plus, I constantly struggled to keep up with the demands of housework, cooking, and washing for a family of six.

At this stage of my life, most of those concerns are gone, or minimal, and perhaps this is the biggest benefit of grand-parenting. I have time to totally focus on my grandson, to sing to him, read to him, play with him, and just be with him. In the moment.

A song from the 70’s keeps running through my mind : Watching Scotty Grow by Bobby Goldsborough.

That’s what I’m doing these days, watching Jasper grow, and loving every minute of it.

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Although, right now, I wish I’d sometimes get out of the moment and take some decent photos for future moments!

Beginnings

New Year's Day sunset, 2015

New Year’s Day sunset, 2015

My first day of 2015 didn’t begin well. I’d woken too early, so I was tired and couldn’t seem to find the motivation to do any of the things that usually make me feel better. Instead, I felt grumpy and dissatisfied with those aspects of my life that weren’t the way I wanted them.

It’s strange, but it was as if the universe was adding fuel to my mood when for some inexplicable reason I dropped my yoghurt container as I was preparing my breakfast, and big white splotches of yoghurt splattered all around my kitchen — on the floor, the backs of the chairs, the newspaper, and the bench tops.

Later, my full water bottle slipped out of my hand and created a minor flood in the same kitchen. I had to hurriedly mop that up as my husband was waiting in the car to be taken to the airport and catch a flight.

On the drive to the airport, my mood deteriorated further as I focussed on the most negative aspects of my life. All was doom and gloom, and if beginnings were any indication of how things might progress, 2015 was destined to be a bad year for me.

Fortunately, I know a beginning’s mood doesn’t predict what lies ahead.

But beginnings have always been important to me. As a kid, first days of school held hope for new achievements, and perhaps new friends, and the first day of the summer holidays always held anticipation for lots of sun, water, and fun. My first day as a trainee nurse, the beginning of the process to fulfill my dreamed of vocation, was momentous.

But beginnings took on a different importance when I became a midwife.

I believe that one of the most miraculous events in this amazing experience called life, is birth — the beginning of a new person’s life — and as a midwife, I had the privilege of being present for many ‘birth’ days. Each one was special in it’s own way, and it was always an honour to be able to play a part in such an emotional, spiritual, physical, and transforming experience. The beginning of a new life often marks the beginning of a new family, or a new father, mother, perhaps new grandparents, aunties, and uncles. And each new life brings new love.

Last Saturday night, I was woken at 3:40 am by a phone call. Phone calls in the middle of the night usually don’t bring good news, but when I worked as a home birth midwife, they generated excitement because they signaled that another little person was readying to come to the light and take a breath.

I answered my early morning call in the same way I used to when I was called for a home birth, saying, “I’m on my way.”

You see, I knew it was my son Ben calling to tell me his partner’s waters had broken.

Months ago, when Ben and Amanda invited me to be involved in the pregnancy and the baby’s birth, I felt blessed. Not only were they giving me a longed for grandchild, but they were also enabling me to fulfill my dream to be present at the birth of that child.

But this was Amanda’s second baby, and because I knew her and her history, I believed this babe would be in a hurry to enter our world, which made me scared I might miss the birth. Time would prove my fear was valid.

My phone records tell the story:

First call at 3:41, lasting 31 secs. (To let me know the waters had broken.)

Second call at 3:50, lasting three minutes. (To say the hospital had told them to stay home until contractions began. We agreed I’d drive to their home, but if they needed to leave before I arrived, Ben would text me to let me know.)

Text message at 4:33 saying, ‘Hospital’ (I had only just passed the last exit for the hospital, and had to continue to the next one, turn, and go back.)

I arrived at the hospital about 4:50 to 4:55, just after they got there. (Yes, I broke the speed limit, but there were very few cars on the road.)

Baby was born at 5:07. (The midwives almost missed the birth because Amanda was so calm. I suspect they had no idea how imminent the birth was, they didn’t have time to do anything but quickly don gloves and catch.)

It was fast, too fast – not for Amanda, who was relieved the pain was done with — but for Ben and me, who hadn’t really come to grips with what was happening.  Yes, I made it in time, which was fantastic, but there was an element of shock for us. I remember mothers I had cared for in the past who laboured fast, telling me about the shock factor, but I never really understood it before.

As is often the case in the initial minutes after a birth, no one thought to see what sex the baby was until a midwife asked if we already knew, prompting us to take a look.

A boy.

I have a grandson, Jasper.

Jasper. 8lb 2oz (3685g)

Jasper. 8lb 2oz (3685g)

Apparently, the clinkers were right! (See previous post for an explanation: Reflections)

A mother's love

A mother’s love

A new family

A new family

A new dad

A new dad

Jasper cried readily and all seemed well to begin with, but a fast birth can be a bit of a shock for the baby as well as the adults, and he lacked the energy needed to feed, so towards the end of his first day, he was admitted to the Special Care Nursery. Apparently, despite his healthy weight of 8lb 20z (3685g), his behaviour suggested prematurity.

So, although all seemed well at his beginning, it didn’t stay that way. On day two of his life, he was still too tired to suck, and had to be fed by tube, and when he did wake enough to feed, sucking at the breast was too tiring.

As is often the case, everything seemed worse on day three when his mum was discharged, meaning she had to leave him overnight while she went home to sleep, and our hope for him to be breastfed was diminishing because the nursery staff bottle fed him.

However, everything seemed to click into place on Day four and he was finally discharged on Day five, fully breastfed.

My siblings all became grandparents over twenty years ago, and I was desperate to join their ranks. I loved being a mother, and wanted what I considered the natural extension of that role, to become a grandmother, but as the years ticked by, I’d pretty much given up hope that it would ever happen.

But I was still curious about it. Grandparents I knew, raved about how wonderful it was, how inexplicable the feeling, and what a blessing it was.

We already have a child in our life, Amanda has a five year old who calls us Nana Juli and Papa Tony. She brings us endless joy and we adore her as if she was our own grandchild, so when Ben told me that Amanda was expecting his baby, I wondered if it would feel different.

One grandmother told me she loved knowing that her expected grand baby contained a part of her DNA, but that doesn’t seem important to me. I see my own DNA as a type of record of my genetic history, coming from ancestors I never met as well as my own parents. It’s not special.

I know to many people, a highlight of having grandchildren is that the family name is being carried forward into the next generation, but I don’t see why should I care if my husband’s name is carried on. And I doubt I’d feel differently if it was my father’s name, because it doesn’t identify my mother, or my father’s mother. Besides, my mother’s maiden name was her father’s name. Her mother’s identity fades into oblivion with each added generation, and given enough time, so will her father’s. When I took my husband’s name in marriage, I knew that names are simply the labels we use for ourselves in this life. So, now I am a grandmother, I can honestly say that I don’t love Jasper anymore than I love his big sister, but I have discovered one pleasure in being related to the little chap. It occurred to me when I saw the following status that my son posted on Facebook:

This little guy is so amazing! Falling more and more in love every minute.

And this image posted by his partner, along with her words:

Words cannot express how much love I feel for this little guy and his daddy xxx

A father's love Photo by Amanda Buckingham.

A father’s love
Photo by Amanda Buckingham.

This is where the magic lies – in that mysterious unconditional love that we have for our children.

If a stranger came into our lives, demanded we feed him, wash him, and care for him in every way, while never giving us anything in return, I suspect we’d rebel, hate him, and tell him to get out of our sight.

And yet, that’s all Jasper does, but we still adore him. He doesn’t crack jokes to make us laugh or cheer us up, he doesn’t hold intelligent conversations with us, he doesn’t even pretend to be interested in us. It’s all about Jasper – me, me, me. Such selfishness!

And still, we love him.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt unconditional love like this for everyone else? Then, peace on earth would truly exist.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, what’s special about becoming a grandmother is seeing my son experience that endless and unconditional love we felt, and still feel, for him. I’m sure the years ahead won’t always be perfect, there’ll be days when Jasper makes us angry, or upsets us with something he does, but they will all be evened out with the amazing joy he’ll bring into our lives, and those times when our hearts take flight with the simple immensity of our feelings for him.

I love that my son is experiencing this, and will go on experiencing it with all the ups and downs of parenting. And that maybe one day, his son Jasper, will also feel that love as he gazes at his own newborn.

A baby reminds us that love is limitless.

What a wonderful world.

Daddy’s boy, Jasper.

Isn’t he sweet?

Our beautiful boy.

Listen to John Lennon singing, ‘Beautiful Boy’ 

A happy new year to you all!

Reflections

Sunset Reflection

We celebrated Christmas early this year because a few family members will be away on the day. Two weekends ago, my siblings and their families came to our home for our usual Christmas get together. It was a beautiful day, very relaxed, with an abundance of delicious food, lots of chatter, children, and presents.

The gang with the oldies hidden at the back where they belong.

The gang with the oldies hidden at the back where they belong. Photo by Cindy Townsend

This weekend, we enjoyed an early family Christmas dinner with our children. Once again, the weather was perfect, the food plentiful, and the company great.

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Christmas Dinner Photo by Cindy Townsend

I don’t belong to any religious group, so for me, Christmas is about traditions, and giving, and the love that seems to infuse the atmosphere at this time of the year – people shopping, looking for the perfect gift for their children, friends, and family, strangers wishing you a Merry Christmas with a smile, the decorations, and the cheery Christmas songs ever present in the background. It all makes me happy.

Over the years, as my children grew up, we established some family traditions that have become an important part of our our Christmas dinner – Bon Bons which require us to wear silly paper hats, the pudding cooked in the cloth and served with brandy custard, the candle in the centre of the table, glace fruit, and Cadbury’s fruit and nut mix with added bullets, M & Ms (red and green), and the obligatory ‘guess the colour’ clinkers. This year, the clinker colours were used to predict the sex of our soon-to-arrive grandbaby – I think a boy won. Not long now until we discover if clinkers have super-predictive powers.

Clinkers - Green for a boy, pink for a girl

Clinkers – Green for a boy, pink for a girl

Another important tradition we include in our Christmas gatherings is to play John Lennon’s song, Happy Christmas (War is over), with the volume turned up so we can all sing along.

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one begun.”

The end of a year prompts me to reflect on the past twelve months, and although I don’t blog often, I do enjoy being able to look back over the year’s posts to be reminded of some of the small things I may have forgotten if I relied on memory alone.

However, today I found an interesting post in Anushka’s blog, Into Mind, suggesting we reflect on the past year by answering the fifty questions she’s posted. I liked the fact that they weren’t questions about what I did, or where I went, who I was with, or what I got. They were questions about how I felt. It was insightful to look at my year this way and sometimes challenging, but generally satisfying. And it was useful to seriously think about my answers and what I’d like to address differently next year.

The best question was no. 21 –

  • What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

The answer to that one was easy, because the repeating underlying theme in my life is elation. I’m thrilled each time the fact that I’m here in Australia is reinforced. The time spent with my family, the friends I’ve reconnected with, the wildlife in my garden, the magnificent sunsets, and my home, are among the many reasons I get a buzz these days – I dreamed of this for so long when I was in Scotland, and now it is real, but the best part is that the reality is so much better than what I imagined.

I feel blessed.

However, reflecting on the year has also helped me see a way forward, because in all the busyness of my life here in Australia, I’m not making enough time to write, and that doesn’t feel right. I want to amend that in 2015, but I don’t want to lose the positives that this year has brought me. It won’t be easy, because my life already feels full, and there’s the added bonus of an expected new member to the family – my first grandchild – to consider, but it’s important to try.

Maybe I’ll discover that I don’t need to write anymore, or perhaps I’ll find a way to have it all. Why not?

What I know is that my life is living proof that dreams do come true.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with family and/or friends. Soak up the love and enjoy.

Merry Christmas Photo by Cindy Townsend

Merry Christmas
Photo by Cindy Townsend

Room for One More?

White Night Crowd

White Night Crowd

One could easily be led to believe their are too many people in the world today, with people fighting over borders, land, and who belongs to what in all corners of the globe.  And yet, our planet is large and I believe that if we invested our resources in positive ventures rather than war, we’d discover there is enough for all.

I wanted to write about all the good things that have been happening in my corner of the world lately, but the greater world news almost makes me feel guilty about my happiness. Many countries are caught up in wars, and too many innocent victims are injured or dying as a result of grown-ups acting like children – battling over possessions.

My deepest sympathy goes out to all those families in the midst of the worst war torn areas, and those caught unexpectedly with loved ones who have been hurt, or killed as a side effect of the mayhem.  I don’t want to take away from the magnitude of their pain, but I can’t change the killing and damaging behaviours of others, so I simply choose to do what I believe is the loving action in any situation.

Caring for our earth and being kind to others are loving actions. Killing and harming people are actions based on fear.

A friend of mine who is married to an Israeli with many family members living close to the Gaza border, wrote to me about a minor problem in her life that left her feeling disgruntled and sad.  In the midst of the bad news of the last few weeks, she realised the pointlessness of her sadness and wrote to me, saying –

The least I can do is add to the positive vibrations in the world and smile – Patti Daboosh.

I wholeheartedly agree!

And on that note, please indulge me as I share some of the things that have made me smile recently.

In my May post, I told you that The Pull, the film our youngest daughter wrote, directed, and starred in had been accepted by the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto. Jenni and her editor/producer friend, Christa Markley, attended the film festival in June. They had a wonderful time and met some great people who made them feel welcome and special. The icing on the Film Festival cake was when she received the award for Best Foreign Feature. We were so happy for her.

See Jen’s Q & A after the screening of her film in Toronto by clicking here.

Best Foreign Feature Award

Best Foreign Feature Award

Jenni, Christa, and The Award. June 2014

Jenni, Christa, and The Award.

This month, I was thrilled to be invited to the premiere of another indie film, Pretty Good Friends, which Jenni starred in. This movie was directed by another young girl, Sophie Townsend – no relation – and Tony and I got a wonderful buzz sitting in a small theatre and seeing Jen on the big screen.

You can see the Pretty Good Friends trailer by clicking here.

Sophie Townsend introducing her film, Pretty Good Friends, starring Jenni Townsend.

Sophie Townsend introducing her film, Pretty Good Friends, starring Jenni Townsend. Photo by Tony Townsend

Tonight, we are attending a Wakakirri competition that our eldest daughter, Cindy’s primary school students are performing in. Cindy created, and has been heavily involved in almost every aspect of this production, and it’s something that the school children love to take part in. We’re really looking forward to seeing it for the first time.

The other big news is that our youngest son Ben, and his partner are expecting a baby. Another little person for this world, which brings me back to the title of this post. Is there room for one more on our troubled planet?

Absolutely! This baby is already loved, and there’s always room for more love, it’s infinite.

It’s fear we need less of.

If I was still living in Scotland, I would have enjoyed the fun Commonwealth games, but I’d be desperately sad to be missing out on sharing the celebrations of my children’s achievements.

Fortunately, I’m not living in Scotland. I am here, in Australia, and that makes me smile.

This was a happiness whose other name was home. —  Roger Cohen

Grief – The Unexpected Visitor

Sisters and Friends

Sisters and Friends

It’s my sister’s birthday today.

We were born seven years apart, which may be why we always had a good relationship.  By the time I was a teenager, she was living away from home in the city, and then she travelled, got married, and set up home with her husband in Bendigo, a three hour drive from the suburbs of Melbourne.  So, we weren’t physically close like many sisters are, but she was always in my orbit, and I’m sure I was also in hers.  We’d call each other every month or so, and visit for a day or two when we could. We’d often make the effort to visit on our respective birthdays, and we ALWAYS had a good time when we were together.

When we were very young

When we were very young.

This post is my way of visiting her today, because she died in January 2011.

She was my go-to person when I needed advice, or support.  She was the one person I could talk to about anything that was concerning me, and I’d know she’d listen, pay attention, and be interested.  That’s a gift she gave to me.

Thanks to my supportive husband and family, and the fact we were living overseas when she was diagnosed with cancer, I was able to make three extended visits to be with her in the nine months she was ill.  If  I had still been living in Australia, I would have visited more often, but they would have been brief snatches of time between work and other obligations, so although living thousands of kilometers apart when she was dying was difficult at times, and scary, there were benefits.

Those extended visits of four to six weeks were wonderful.  We talked and talked, about cancer, treatment options, dying, death, the after life, religion, funeral planning, and our usual favourite subjects, relationships, my writing, her art projects, flowers, photography, our family of origin, and the families we had created.

By the time she died, I felt we’d both said everything that needed to be said, and although I knew I’d grieve, I expected to be able to deal with her death reasonably well.

My parents died suddenly when I was in my early twenties, and I was still being surprised by bouts of unexpected grief up to forty years later, so I’m aware this is part of the grieving process, but I also thought I’d gained a wisdom with my added years which would help me accept my sister’s death. So, it was a shock earlier this year, to discover myself crying at unexpected intervals, the tears prompted by a fleeting thought, the words of a song, or a sunset viewed from our new home, but most of all I think they stemmed from the fact that I was home at last,  and she wasn’t.

So much has happened since she died.  I know she was excited about my writing, but I was okay knowing I wouldn’t be able to hand her a copy of my book before she died.  I was also aware that the life I’d planned when I returned to Australia, one that would include regular days spent together because we were both retired, was not going to happen, but I coped well with that, too.

It’s the little things I want to tell her that bring on my grief.  I want to tell her what’s happening with my kids, where I’m living, what my next book is about, and all the details of the garden I’m planning.

There will always be things I want to talk to her about, but those unexpected tears will come less and less as the years go by.  Time is a wonderful healer.

Happy Birthday, Helen.  I miss you.

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Choices

When I return to Australia in September this year, it will be the first time there won’t be a dog waiting to greet me.

Kara, Hutch and Claude

Back in 2003, we left three of the family’s dogs with my daughter who continued to live in our home. Three friends. Claude, the renowned beagle of Mt Eliza was very ill when we left and I knew we were saying goodbye to him. He died about a week later, but, Kara, a big, hairy German shepherd with a gentle nature, and Hutch, the kelpie-like mutt who lived to fetch balls, sticks, or anything we cared to throw, were both still young.

I’m not sure if it occurred to me that Kara and Hutch would also be gone by the time we returned to live in Australia. Our future felt so unknown at the time.

Kara died in 2008, and this month, Hutchie left us, too. It broke my heart on many levels, but also brought to mind my grief for the other friends who are no longer there for me to visit. Two of my closest friends, Monica and Judy, already had cancer when we left, but I kidded myself that they were both doing well, the cancer was in remission and they would still be around when we returned. Monica died the following year, but Judy hung on for another two years.

Judy, sitting, and Monica, standing, with my daughter at a farewell lunch.

My third and lifelong friend, my sister Helen – my confidant, adviser, mentor and almost mother substitute – was healthy when we left and I never allowed myself to consider she might also be gone when I returned. But she is. She died in 2011, nine months after her cancer diagnosis .

My sister Helen in Glasgow

When we left Australia, we didn’t know how long we would stay away. We tossed out vague references about allowing three years to assess how we felt but rarely mentioned the possibility of stretching the stay until Tony retired in ten years time. Our friends didn’t want to hear that.

Now, facing no dog to greet me, and massive holes where good friends and family were, I find myself asking the question, would I have made the choice to leave what I knew and loved if I had known my friends would no longer be there when I returned?

What if…?

What if I had chosen the well travelled road?

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Pollock Park

Pollock Park

I can never know the answer. Robert Frost was right when he points out, how way leads on to way. There is no going back to choose the other path, and I guess, like Frost, I tell this with a sigh, but only fleetingly.

Because we lived overseas, my sister spent a full month living and travelling with us in Florida, and another here in Scotland. They were joyful months filled with fun, endless chats and doing things we never had time to do together when we were both working and raising families. If I had stayed in Australia, I would still be working.

I also had the privilege of being able to be with each of my friends in their final days, to spend quality time with them and help care for them, to be the midwife as they made a transition, not into this world, but out of it.  It was an honour  and a gift to be able to spend precious time with them without the normal workday constraints.

I can only guess what my life may have been like if I had stayed, but ultimately, despite moments of sadness, I’m glad I chose the less travelled path.

Currently, that path has me in Scotland’s Summer and last week, the slightly warmer temperatures encouraged me to choose to go for a walk and take some photographs. The Scots know how to make the best of a small city garden and the conditions here bring the gardens alive with beautiful flowers in the summer.

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I agonised over the decision to leave Australia, but returning is a given. That’s because my heart has made the choice for me, and when the heart decides, there’s no argument.

Do you have a hard time making big decisions? Do you follow your heart, or let your head get in the way?

Home to Scotland, One Last Time

I am now back in Scotland, after a wonderful extended stay in Australia, a detour to Chile and a fleeting reunion with friends in Florida.

The time in Australia went by too fast. We had two birthdays to celebrate, a houseguest from America and a visitor from interstate, plus Christmas and all the busyness involved it that. It was fun, but I felt deprived of time. There wasn’t enough time to catch up with my friends and family. And there is never enough time to spend with my children. Still, we did our best with the time we had.

Coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise fpr is all.

Stopping for a coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise for us all. We don’t get those types of surprises in Scotland.

My gorgeous girls

My gorgeous girls

Christmas was a wonderful, drawn-out affair, beginning early – on December 15. Unfortunately, my boys were visiting on different dates from different states, and we only had one night where the whole family was together. I cooked a special Christmas dinner that night. It was pure pleasure to see my kids sitting around the table, chatting, laughing and enjoying each others company. I’d like more meals like that in the future.

Crazy fun family photos.

Crazy fun family photos.
Photo: C Townsend

On Christmas day, we enjoyed our Australian Christmas morning drinks – a tradition that goes back thirty or more years, to when our children were small. The home we lived in for twenty-eight years was blessed with wonderful neighbours. Those neighbours were our friends, and their children were my children’s friends. As our children were always keen to show each other their Christmas goodies, my friends and I decided to formalise the event, and have a bit of fun ourselves. Christmas morning drinks became the highlight of my Australian Christmases, and something I will always remember fondly. Sadly, Monica and Judy, the mothers in those families, have died since I left Australia, so it is a real treat for me that when we have an Australian Christmas, Judy’s son and his wife continue the tradition. It is made all the more special by their small children. Beautiful evidence of the cycle of life.

Two of Judy's sons, their partners and their children.

Two of Judy’s sons, their partners and their children.
Photo: C Townsend

The cousins

The cousins
Photo: C Townsend

LIttle children are so easy to please.

Little children are so easy to please.

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Next, we returned to our house-sit to have Christmas dinner with our American visitor.  He had to leave us that afternoon to fly to Sydney.

As my youngest daughter was working at that time, we had the ‘real’ family Christmas dinner at dinner time.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.
Photo: C Townsend

Our final Christmas gathering was on December 30th – yes, we made Christmas last for over two weeks! This time, it was the extended family gathering, with my siblings and their families. The group was smaller than usual because my eldest brother and his wife were in the UK, a niece and her family now live in Coffs Harbour, and one of my sons  was working in Esperance,, but it was still wonderful to see everyone.

My extended family Christmas.

My extended family Christmas.
Photo: C Townsend

I was reluctant to  leave Australia. However, once Tony dragged me onto the plane and we were on our way to Santiago, I realised that this was the last time I would be leaving Australia to go home. That was a good feeling.

Santiago, Chile was also busy. We were there for an annual conference Tony has been involved with for many years, which inevitably meant we spent a lot of time catching up with people from all over the world, as well as fitting in some sightseeing.

Chile January 2012 022

A viewpoint in Valparaiso, Chile

I adjusted to the time change only a day or so before we left for the next leg of our journey – a fleeting visit to our friends in Florida. Once again cramming as much in as possible into a small space of time.

Catching up with friends

Catching up with friends

Including furry friends.

Including furry friends – I’m referring to the dogs. My people friends aren’t furry!

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

Despite the six weeks of sun, it was good to finally get home to cold Scotland and stop rushing around.

I have unfinished business here; a house to pack up and friends to say goodbye to. I’m sure these next six months will fly by.

It will be nice to once again live in Australia, and visit other places.

Are you homesick for anywhere?

Dorothea McKellar understands. Here’s the fifth verse of her poem, My Country.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.