Renovations were ongoing, and after the tedious work of taking out the old fashioned fireplace in the kitchen, brick by brick, to create more space, the chainsaw was called in. Using it to cut through into a walk in cupboard, nextdoor, gave us room for a dining area and a breakfast bar island. We quickly realized, that we needed to also install a dishwasher, to cope with the amount of dirty dishes a whole bunch of kids, piled up on the bench each meal.
After the big push from the farmers to get their sheeps’ wool, all sheared off before Christmas, had been accomplished, it was time for some R and R. With the cheques in the bank, the free mutton entitlement, one sheep per farm, in the freezer, we began preparations for the ‘big’ day.
The husband took the big boys with him to help chop down a Christmas tree from a back country road, pine plantation, that they then set up in the lounge for the other children to decorate. He also did one of his own yearly Christmas customs, taking some beers in his car boot and driving around to his shearing run, farmer friends, shouting them some Christmas cheer.
Christmas day, presents for all were laid out under the Christmas tree, and the house’s long hallway, (fifteen meters of carpet), had two tables set up, end to end, covered in festive fare galore. As I looked around, at our newly combined, gathered family as well as extended family, everyone, looking spit and polished, dressed to the nines in new Christmas clothes, I felt very happy and blessed.
Joining in the celebratory mood, everyone donned silly looking paper hats, and read corny jokes, both out of pulled Christmas crackers, before tucking into, roasted meats and veggies, slices of ham, kiwifruit decorated pavlova, real sherry trifle, and a traditional steamed puddy, washed down with bubbly. Boxes of chocolates as gifts were popular, adding to our already overstuffed tummies.
Perhaps, because of past struggles and going without, or the lectures as a kid of how the starving kids in China would love the food we were not eating. My pleasure was tempered, by thoughts in the back of my mind of others not so lucky, and wondered if maybe my fairy-tale ending was too unreal and too good to last
My husband, a very positive thinking, Alpha male, quickly dismissed any misgivings, whenever I expressed them to him, laughing and saying, ‘we had too much living to do yet’. However, the death of my little daughter had taught me life was really fragile and could change quickly. Boxing day, we piled kids and gear into the Transit van, to carry on moseying around the countryside, sightseeing.
Seeing marching teams on the telly, dressed in beautiful uniforms with big fluffy hats, doing clever complicated patterns at their competitions, inspired my daughters to want to join a local team. After going along to practices for a few months they were disappointed because the team had too many members and the extras spent a lot of time on the sidelines waiting to get a turn at the competitions.
To overcome this, I decided to get involved and start our own team. After advertising in the local rag for girls wanting to join the sport we got enough replies to put together a midgets, junior, and senior team. Luckily some of our new recruits were already experienced. One of our mums volunteered to be our chaperone, and we found someone who was able to help with the instructing.
I got busy on the sewing machine making uniforms and remodeling others that were donated. When we were ready, we piled the girls into the van and cars to travel around the North Island to marching competitions. Everyone got excited, when after all their practice at the local super market car park each evening, they had the fun of winning some medals.