Because it’s Christmas

I love Christmas. I don’t care much for the heat or the humidity or the anticipation of an expanding waistline, but I do love the ‘spirit’ that to me feels almost tangible. I love giving presents. Almost more than I love receiving them. Most years I go to great lengths to whip up something crafty. Something wearable, something edible, something ‘ahh-able’. Yes, I do love the reactions. Last year I made handbags. The year before that I made gingerbread trees. Not the small, quick variety, but table-topping, tiered, snow-covered creations. One year I made rum ball trees complete with flashing angels on top. This year it’s Gingerbread houses. To me, Christmas isn’t so much about spending lots of money, but being generous in time, effort and relationships. Thoughts are more precious than Kmart gift cards and Ipods.

Christmas is also a time (before I had children, that is) where I could spend days, weeks curled up with great books. When I was at Uni, I looked forward to every new Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtney in December. This year I want Rose Tremain and Kate Grenville and Margarret Atwood under my tree ( I did want Chris Cleave and Stephanie Meyer, but I couldn’t wait and bought them myself). To me a book is a living, breathing, interaction with an author. It’s a gift of their mind. A creation sometimes years in the making. It has been dreamed, moulded, shaped, baked and wrapped. Perhaps that’s why I love writing at Christmas time. 

In Big River Little Fish, my seven year old main character, Tom, has been shut away with his dysfunctional mother for six years of his life. He knows almost nothing about the world at large, but he does know his own mind. So when he does discover the world when he goes to live with his father, his interpretation is unique. This is his first Christmas. 

Leave a comment if you like…

Something about the Guthrie’s house wasn’t quite right. Something struck Tom on the way in, grabbed his attention and set mosquitoes buzzing in his brain. The questions were hard, there was no denying that, but the brain bugs weren’t exactly giving him a fair chance.

In the corner of the kitchen was a great big tree growing up out of the floorboards through a clay pot. Not one of the Guthrie’s noticed anything strange. Their eyes didn’t stray to it — not once. Tom had been watching. But even more surprising were the kinds of things growing on the tree. At first, Tom couldn’t help but look. Strange brown hearts with ribbon tethers hung from some branches; tendrils of something Tom couldn’t name stretched out horizontally from branch to branch. That was all he really noticed before the mosquitoes swarmed inside him. Made him itch just thinking about it. Felt something strange and hot rise in his blood. He saw that the others weren’t looking at it. Didn’t want to ask in case it was one of the things his mother said not to tell his Pa. In case it was one of those things he didn’t want his Pa knowing he didn’t know. But Sarah was his friend. Said “bloody” around him without looking shocked or taking it back. Helped him carry his fish. Shared his last humbug and first orange.

‘Does everyone around here have trees in their kitchens?’ Tom couldn’t work out a better way to say it in his head before it came out.

Sarah spun on her heels in front of the line of bottles on the bench.

‘What, the Christmas tree?’

Tom shrugged his shoulders. ‘The one in the corner.’

‘Haven’t you ever seen a Christmas tree before?’

Tom shook his head.

‘Are you for real, Tom Ribbald?’

‘I bloody well am!’ Tom felt the hot thing spring out all over his face, making him want to dive into the river. Knew Mother Murray’d take it away, cool him down. Drown everything he didn’t know he should have known.

‘Don’t get your knickers in a knot, Tom. Wait ‘til we’ve got the milk all sorted. I’ll tell you everything down with the lambs. Right?’

 Tom scratched his head. Mosquito bites most likely. He Nodded and took the bottle Sarah handed to him while she poured milk in from the large bucket. Slopped some on the floor at his feet, on his shorts. Said “bloody hell”.

Mr Guthrie grunted from the paper, ‘Cuss again, girlie, and I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.’

Sarah shrugged, poked her tongue out and made a bad face.

Tom smiled. The mosquitoes buggered off, and the two of them walked down the back paddock in search of the lambs that needed to be fed with the milk they’d poured together into the bottles from the bench near the tree that grew through the floor. 

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3 Responses to “Because it’s Christmas”

  1. Its gutsy and fresh Belinda.
    I can see the girl particularly, the boy is not yet so clear drawn. Love the way the use of external detail (spilling the milk) enhances the relationship that is building between the spilly (exuberant I am guessing) girl and the boy.
    Got the tree in the pot (tick tick) but the other descriptions of how he saw the tree were less convincing to me.
    great stuff
    thank you
    :-0
    margaret

  2. Well, it made me want to read more! Love the dialogue too – rang lots of bells for me.

  3. PS Love the sound of those Gingerbread Houses! You’ve got a terrific attitude to Christmas and I thoroughly agree with you.

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