It is Christmas eve here in Australia. Although it sure doesn’t feel like it. I’d like to thank Jon Watterson for providing me with this great photo from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Also enjoy some photos from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa and Elf - some of my all time favorite holiday films.
Three days ago I was out on Dolan’s Bay with Mike York and Eoin (Owen), another friend I’ve met here, sitting on a boat fishing, swimming and sharing a case of Carlton Draught. It was surreal. This will be the fourth Christmas in five years I’ll have been away from Keene, NH. I can’t say I’m getting used to it, but I will be in the company of good people on Christmas day. So that is a positive. I will be having Christmas Dinner with the York family so don’t worry that I’ll be alone, because I won’t.
The last couple days I spent with my friend Neshat from England. We walked all over Sydney. We saw the Opera House and the famous Harbour Bridge. Today we spent the day at Bondi beach, one of Sydney's most popular and famous beaches. Unfortunately it was cloudy and only 74 degrees, that's right, ONLY 74. A shame.
Christmas time in Australia is kind of strange. I hear holiday music wherever I go. I see Christmas trees, fake of course. There are even decorative lights on many of the houses with blow up snowmen in the yard. But it is 80 degrees or more! It feels like July every day. So this makes me feel less homesick than I was last January, when I was stuck in Maquoketa, Iowa buried under 2 feet of snow.
My memories of Christmas, or my favorite ones rather, are from when I was growing up. Each Christmas Eve, the Watterson family gathers at my grandparents, John and Barb’s house. We have a good size family, so the house was always packed wherever we were whether it is in West Keene or in Marlborough. I can’t remember if we’ve ever had the entire family there, but I will be thinking of my grandpa Watterson, Gram, my parents and Brother Jon; Brian and Kim Watterson and my cousins Ingrid and Sam. Also Daryl, Donna and kids Mariah, Frosty and Tank. My ant Kim Stanton and my Hollywood bound cousin Shelby Stanton. (Go rent The Clique! Shelby rocks in that) Also in the past decade, I’ve reunited with Toby Watterson and my cousin Paige. And I always remember the holidays as seeing my Nana. Gramp always had the job of handing out the gifts. I missed having my Grandpa at Christmas when I was home last year, as did the entire family. He was the best. I’ll be thinking of you all tomorrow. Make sure you have enough chicken wings for Jon and Donna!
The best thing about Christmas at home was we had two Christmas’s really. On Christmas Day, my brother and I would wake up early and open gifts with my mom and dad. It was always a special moment just amongst the four of us. In the last decade or so, we have started getting up later and not opening gifts until afternoon. There’s still a child inside me that wakes up hoping to exchange the gifts at 7am.
My mom makes a breakfast on Christmas Day. She saves up all her days of cooking for making the best breakfast of the year! Hehe, mom I love ya! The Gemmell family always comes over. We’ve had some great crowds in years past with Jon, Marilyn, Lori and sometimes Todd Gemmell making an appearance, as well as Lori’s kids Benjamin and Katherine. Again, I’ll feel a bit empty without the presence of Grandma Gemmell and Jon Gemmell being with us this year. Gram always provided a laugh or good conversation. Jon brought the best out of everyone and had the all time greatest laugh. He taught the family to play cribbage and on those lazy holiday afternoons would always be up for a game. Grandpa Gemmell, I look forward to speaking to you again. We had some great talks before I ventured down to Oz. Also, the Harris family in Seattle, the Gemmells in Virginia and Minnesota – I will be thinking of you too.
I remember as a child calling up my neighbor, Ken Macie, and we were so excited to share with each other the gifts we’d received. Thank goodness he was the one who always received the video games! I know this is his first Christmas as a married man. So Ken, if you’re reading this, congrats on your first holidays hitched.
The holidays remind me also of playing hockey and traveling to Concord, NH and Fitchburg, MA for holiday tournaments. That was back when we were good and could actually beat Concord. As for Fitchburg, I can’t say that I ever enjoyed venturing down there. The arena was cold and we played against great teams from Mass like Leomenster and Chelmsford that beat up on us. We once played a game in high school where we were beat 10-2 with the only two goals being scored by my brother and me. I thought that was cool.
The holiday season always had us going out to Robin Hood Park and playing pickup hockey. A few years, my dad made a rink out of our front yard. We had some heated battles out there. Well more like freezing battles.
Another holiday memory was decorating the tree with my mom. I did grow out of it and now my mom puts up a heckuva tree. Make sure if you go over there, you notice her lights. It was also my job each day to add a heart to the advent calendar. There were 25 of them and they connected together to make a three foot hanging line of hearts. The first one had an angel and the last one with a star on it. Again, over the years, I grew out of the habit and now my mom is the one who keeps the tradition alive. But for a time, it made my day to add another heart, anticipating the big day.
So as you enjoy your white Christmas in New England, or wherever you are, I hope you have an amazing holiday. I do miss my family and friends I’ve met through Up with People, Carroll College and Carnival Cruise Lines. Take Care, I miss and Love you. Talk to ya soon.