On that first Christmas at St. Vigeon’s Station – my first away from home and halfway around the world from my mother and kid brother, I felt lonely and nostalgic.
We invited our neighbors from Roper Bar – the policeman, his wife Nell*, and their seven-year-old son to join us. I’d attempted to make the house look festive by baking bell-shaped sugar cookies with a little hole that I put a red ribbon through to hang on branches from a Coolabah tree one of the men had cut for me.
Nell arrived with traditional wreaths made from Australian Christmas Bush to decorate the veranda. She also brought a couple of poinsettias, the winter flower native to Mexico, but in the southern hemisphere’s hot summer, they were not flowering. Instead Nell and I planted them in the yard.
“In July, we can celebrate Christmas again,” Nell said, referring to the winter season that would make them flower.
We returned inside to find the cookies gone from my Coolabah branches. She began chastising her son, but the men confessed to the crime, pointing to the crumbs around the table where they were drinking Foster’s, Australia’s most popular beer at the time.
To celebrate the special day, everyone water skied – the men drank beer in between turns and periously impaired their balance on the skis the next time around. In a futile attempt to sober them up, Nell and I served barbecue for lunch, the men washed it down with more grog. Shortly after, Santa arrived to deliver packages for Nell’s son, not in a sleigh driven by kangaroos as one might expect Down Under, but on skis pulled by a speedboat. Santa, sporting a white beard, wore swimming trunks and a red jacket with faux fur trim.
By late afternoon, Nell and her family returned home, releasing in me another round of nostalgia. The men continued partying so I took a walk along a pathway by the billabong. A white dingo stopped in the path ahead, turned, and watched me. Dingoes usually run in packs, like American wolves. That solitary dingo filled me with wonder – how it seemed calm, enjoying the stillness of the moment. The image of a wild albino dog was permanently etched into my occipital lobes – the visual processing part of my brain – and the memory still makes me smile.
Next installment: More Adventures at the Homestead
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This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs that are similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons. All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.
*Names of people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia.
My Life in Australia Blog – Installment 10 is brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC
Poinsettia Bush by Kathryn Lane
Christmas Bush Wreath – Public Domain
Santa on Skis by Public Libraries – licensed under CC BY 2.0
White dingo by lillymb5 – licensed under CC BY 2.0