Christmas Past

Can you believe Christmas is just over a month away??? I can because I am currently haemorrhaging money. But it’s all good…We don’t spend a lot on the girls birthdays (just a party and a small present) so xmas we go all out.

To see why we go all our we have to rewind 20 or so years (urg….I know I am getting old know when I can say 20 years ago…and remember it!). I have a really big extended family. I grew up in Sydney and we lived not far from my nan, her parents, her parents in law, her brother and his family (her brother was not much older than my dad…so his kids were more like my cousins) and my aunt and two uncles. My brother and I were the only grand kids on that side and Christmas was always filled with awesome chaos. First opening our santa stockings as soon as we woke up (which was usually around 4am) followed by opening presents at home. Then we would head to who ever was hosting Christmas for a truly OBSCENE amount of food, back yard cricket and more presents. Oh the food! My great nana (my nans mum) would make the yummiest fried rice, my mum made kick ass pav and my nan would always make some delicious salad. I remember not being able to sit at any table as it was covered with food. There was rarely any left overs though given how many of us they were. It was really, really happy times.

When I was about to turn 9 my dad left. Thing had been bad for awhile. While my dad was earning a lot of money, mum was putting it all in the pokies. To save some money he moved us into a caravan in his mums driveway. At this point my nan, mother of 4, had all 4 kids and now all her grandkids, living back at home. Dad had met someone else a few years back and eventually left mum for her. (20 years on they are still together and blissfully happy). Then we moved into my grandmas house. Then mum moved us to Melbourne for a bit. Then Tasmania. Then back to sydney for the last week of school…only to be told in the holidays we were moving to Coffs Harbour. Christmas was never really fun after that. It was the stress of my brother and I having to choose where we wanted to be on xmas. My dad didn’t believe in buying a bunch of crap for xmas so we were to select one gift. Mum didn’t have any money and was usually drunk by midday and stoned long before then. My dad stopped talking to me at 14 and mum let her boyfriend toss me out in the middle of the night when I was 15 (because I refused to sleep with his friends) and I was living on my own by 16. While my sad life was unfolding the girls father was living a life even worse….

His mum was living in housing commission flats in Williamstown. She had disappeared on his father overnight (he didn’t meet his father until he was 19), she was not only a drug addict, but also a dealer. His babysitter has been featured on underbelly (the first season). He had a baby sister. His mum had met some dude on a radio dating show and they married not long after….he was an inmate at Pentridge Prison. They married in the jail. When he got out they got into credit card fraud and for awhile the girls dad had some ok toys and stuff (after being poor for ever). But the heat was on, so they skipped parole and went on the run. When they were eventually caught (as they continued to steal cars and use stolen credit cards) they took everything. Every single thing he owned…including a remote control car his grandfather had bought him…his prized possession. He was only 7 or 8 years old. His new step dad took the fall for everything leaving his mum, him, his sister and the baby on the way in a caravan park in Grafton (they were caught in casino…but the nearest jail was Grafton). His step dad was shipped back to Melbourne and the next few years were spent in extreme poverty as his mum got clean and saved all her pennies to travel back to Melbourne to see him in jail…so he might now his first son. Even when they both had jobs, they lived almost at near poverty because they had both been “born again” and gave away a significant amount of money to the church each week as well as now having 4 mouths to feed and insisting on sending his two younger brothers to private school. His sister and him were now just bitter reminders of a past they longed to forget. They were excluded.

Can you imagine that – being poor is one thing, Being unloved, unwanted and excluded in your own family is a whole other kettle of fish. He may not be the apple of my eye, he may have broken my heart…but no child, no person deserves that. Which is why no matter what, he is my family and I am his.

So we meet, fall in love and like two crazy kids who have come from shitty families, desperate to be loved, wanted and accepted – we went ahead and had babies. LOTS OF BABIES! And we loved them to pieces. We were not well off by any stretch of the imagination…but when you live in a modest home, don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or give it all to church you can actually have an comfortable life. Everyday we get with our girls our love increases exponentially. It’s a feeling so intense it is hard to describe. Our lives revolved around them…not because they were demanding or because it was expected…but because we genuinely enjoyed their company. My mum always said (of all the bad things she did or let her partners do) that I would understand when I was a parent. I don’t. I understand even less now.

So we had our little town house (which ironically I had lived very much unhappily 3 years earlier and where my little brother once set fire to the carpet). We had our baby girl and another on the way and it was our first Christmas as a family. We went wayyyyyy overboard. We spent over $1500 on presents for our 9 month old. I was so excited I woke her up at 5:30am….our baby that happily slept from 8pm to 8am.So as you can imagine….she was pissed. While initially enthusiastic, she didn’t even make it half way through the presents before melting down completely and needing sleep.

We cooked every meat known to man. And for some insane reason we wanted our families to be there. So my brother came up from Canberra, My Aunt and Cousin Came from Sydney, Mum, her alcoholic boyfriend and my two little brothers came and his step dad borrowed the church can and bought his mum, his brothers, his sister (and her violent abusive drop kick boyfriend) and our baby niece (just 3 weeks younger than our baby girl). Our place was tiny tiny tiny. But we set up out underneath the carport. What a disaster. Mums boyfriend couldn’t drink as he was driving them home after lunch – so he was shitty. Ryans sister woke up our baby who had already been woken up once today – so she was shitty. My mum can’t stand his mum (and vice versa). I don’t know what we were thinking!

Every year we continued this charade as (surprisingly given our upbringing) we were both determined Christmas was for family. I even dragged my mum to his mums house one year. Urg! Every year we had high hopes and every year they were dashed apart from the lovely, lovely time we had in the morning as a family…just us.

Then we had the twins a week into December. The older girls were easy babies – the twins screamed if they were put down. We were exhausted. I didn’t get out of hospital til a week before Christmas and no shopping had been done. I was breastfeeding so we attempted to take them all with us while doing some shopping for family. Picture this – two screaming babies who hate the pram so one over each shoulder of their dad, two bewildered toddlers in the pram, a tourist town at Christmas time (population triples) and everyone wanting to see the twins. I felt like we were a travelling freak show. One lady followed me to the change room and watched me breastfeed (ick), once when the twins were in the pram screaming (and I was dashing to the changeroom to feed) someone physically grabbed the pram handle to stop me so they could look at the twins and another once pushed my 2yo out of the way so she could get a better look at the babies.

But something happened. We told the family given how sleep deprived we were, and how much the twins hated prams and car seats that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for xmas. That they could come see us if they want, but we wouldn’t be going anywhere. One by one everyone told us they couldn’t be bothered making the trip and I was devastated. Hormonal and sleep deprived I bawled my eyes out that no one loved us or our little family. Once I pulled myself out of it I decided we were going to have an awesome xmas and that year our first Christmas tradition was started. After presents we had pancakes and ice cream for breakfast. Our eldest girls thought that was the best thing ever. Food was put out and the girls could help themselves all day if they wanted. We were exhausted but it was such a lovely, lovely day.

In April we moved to Melbourne (note to anyone considering moving interstate with newborn twins and having to live with your in-laws while you look for a house….DON’T!). We ended up spending a few months with his biological father (who is such a nice man) and his wife (who is equally awesome…but a neat freak. Neat freak + newborn twins – aka poop machines + two toddlers…well it was a stressful time for all). We were finally settled, we got around to buying some furniture (after living in a practically empty house for 6 months) and we decided Christmas was going to be at home again. His biological family all do a post Christmas celebration so that was easy.We spent too much money on the kids (as usual), I cooked too much food (as usual) and we had pancakes and ice cream for breakfast.

I still longed for family acceptance and asked his parents every year to come. But we were happy with our little (or not so little) family unit. Christmas was laid back and joyful. We cooked in the days leading up with everything served cold (less stress), we got up super early (yes I still occasionally woke up the children), opened so many presents and had pancakes and ice cream for breakfast. We chilled all day putting together toys and letting the kids go nuts. We napped on the lounge while they played and had a few celebratory drinks after they were in bed.

Then we ended up with a room mate. He knew a guy from QLD desperate for a change of scene and willing to pay us to rent our spare room. After police checking him and working with children checking him he moved in and has been uncle to the girls ever since.

Two years ago my mum asked if she could come down for Christmas with my two little brothers. Then to my surprise my (we hardly ever see him and sometimes wonder if he is still alive) brother came to stay as well. Then his mum said she would come for lunch with his nan. All these years of begging and pleading and all I had to do was ignore everyone for a few years…but it was too good to be true. My mum stayed 5 weeks before admitting she had no money to get home. Our daughter with aspergers clashes badly with my mum and I was so stressed with my mum (she has bipolar and is an alcoholic and I walk on eggshells around her) putting on her best “woe is me” performances I ended up not leaving my room the final week she was there. My brother that we never see is a vegan and complained about the meat. My youngest brother is a spoiled brat and the girls wondered why he could stay up til midnight and they couldn’t (he is only 9 months older than my eldest). I feel sick just remembering it all. His mum came over and bitched at me – his nan sat chain smoking in the backyard ignoring everyone. The kids were stressed, I was stressed and the girls dad (who has the best talent in the world – he can wrangle my mum!) was playing peacemaker. Our normally peaceful household was turned upside down. But we still had pancakes and ice cream for breakfast.



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