Have you ever been so busy and exhausted that you couldn’t afford to stop for a moment? Have you ever spent all the hours of every day with your true love? Have you started a challenging new job in the midst of  a menopausal-nightmare of hot sweats and anxiety?

Did I mention hosting two Christmas functions, my son’s 21st birthday, a 12 hour wedding shoot, and a freaking ‘Santa Photo’ job, in the midst of that?

Living. The. Dream.

Fitty’s parents always go away together for Christmas, so we plan a special Christmas on a date that suits family members (either the weekend before or after the 25th).  It’s a great plan for getting everyone together for Christmas regardless of the actual date but.. every year?

Two Christmases.

MIL and I had established the date months earlier, me forgetting at the time that the Saturday before Christmas was the very same day as 5’s 21st birthday. So we did both on the same sweltering hot day. At the time we made the date, I also wasn’t working at all back then, so had no idea what December had in store for us!

It’s typical for Fitty to book a band gig on one of our birthday’s, or a rehearsal on the day we’re supposed to visit folks. He’s got too many hobbies, and we frequently have to save him from himself when it comes to agreeing to do stuff – then spending 5 nights a week doing the stuff, and complaining bitterly that we are all doing no stuff.

That’s because you agree to do the stuff, dick!

Not content with keeping my weekday’s busy at the office,  Fitty had also agreed to photograph a wedding one Saturday in December, and taken a phone call at some stage about doing “Santa Photos” locally. When I overheard the Santa plan I immediately started shrieking at the top of my lungs about how busy we were going to be for the couple of weeks before Christmas..

“I love you,” I spy camera equipment over his shoulder, “but I fail to understand how I can so deeply and thoroughly despise you at the same time.”

I’m receiving a crash course in photography. Fitty needs a back up for the “girly bits” of the wedding, and to increase the balance and variety of the shots. Fitty insists I learn about apertures, and focus and shit. I insist I can point the camera (set on auto), and shoot – so shut up and go away.

In the end I get both a crash course, and an argument.

“If you make this too technical I will shut down and refuse. Stop talking about exposure, we covered that yesterday, and I still don’t understand so just give up okay? Why is this so heavy? Where’s the little lens you had on it yesterday? This heavy thing will break my wrist, and I’ll be drooping on the ground with it! Do you want all the pictures to be of feet?”

Was going to the wedding anyway – had no idea I’d be seeing it through the lens of a camera! Had even less idea I would throw myself into the task so thoroughly that I would forget I am a cripple and start crawling around on the beach on my knees, looking for perfect light and framing. Up and down on the sand I sprang, snapping the bridesmaid’s as they walked onto the beach, the bride, the ceremony. Never for a second imagining that I wouldn’t be able to walk for four days afterwards…

It was thoroughly good shit. I’ve never had every single guest at a wedding smile at me so winningly every time I walked by with the camera in hand.

The bride was 4’s long time childhood friend, which meant a flying visit from 4 – in which she impressed upon her father and I, how much growing up she’s done since she moved away. There was no shred of apprehension as she managed the task of “Bridesmaid and Beyond”. She was her usual dynamic-creative self, and she managed so many tasks that were exquisitely and joyfully undertaken.

In some quieter moments at home, she helped me to untangle my frustration with her father, his ability to overload his schedule, resulting in the need to ask for my help. She unpacked him in two seconds flat..

4  –  “Don’t help him.”

Me – “But then he will fail?”

4  – “Let him fail – it’s the only way he’ll learn.”

This is why I love 4, she is way more grown up than us.

With the wedding over, I spent Sunday screaming in silent agony every time I had to use my legs. Excruciating pain. (*Note to self, never knee-walk in sand again.) Wished solidly for one of those stair-chair-lift thingies to whiz me up and down the stairs because I had to wash clothes, and do the housework with two solid clumps of ouch hanging from my hips.

In the days leading up to 1st Christmas, I tidied up every loose bit of crap that wasn’t nailed down, putting away most of the clutter left from redecorating. Created a sleek looking space with clean, dust free surfaces. I was inspired by some minimalist Christmas decorations.

How to Stick Tree: See stick tree on Facebook. Think “I can do that”. Rope in help from 7. Avoid tick bites while collecting huge pile of sticks from undergrowth. Drive Pooh dog crazy with huge pile of sticks. (Pooh dog love sticks.) Move sticks upstairs to outdoor area away from dog who is screaming at sticks. Notice vine curling naturally around one of  sticks. 7 agrees this is a beautiful thing – this vine wrapping naturally around the stick. Go back into the undergrowth to find more “special vine wrapped natural renewable Christmas tree sticks” with 7. Dump 3 kilos of ugly sticks back in bush. After several minutes of listening to 7 complain about the lack of beautiful sticks with vine in her search area – find perfect stash of vine sticks. Lug sticks upstairs, tell dog she is a whiner. Tell 7 she is a whiner. Gain complete control of the project and don’t let 7 touch anything until I am ready to let her help me saw the sticks. Get a ruler? Fuck the ruler. Guess. Cut stick lengths with 7’s exceptional saw skills. Praise 7’s saw skills!  Hastily tack string in a tree shape on back of sticks after laying out in order of size. Pick up top stick and hold your breath??? When nothing breaks scream at Fitty to put some fixings on the wall to hold up your stick tree. Spend way too much time decorating the sticks. Notice how much extra space you have with no big pine tree looming out of the wall. Be grateful for your sticks. Be smug about your tree.

A few days later I walked in late one evening after picking up one of the kids from work, and 50% of the living room was full of photographic gear. Two studio lights with reflective umbrellas, two tripods (for each), two cameras on huge tripods of their own, and all the associated bags and cases.

“You’re a fucking maniac, I can’t believe you’ve done this. When am I supposed to cook and clean with all this?  What are you doing with all the bullshit and batteries on the table? If you ever do this again I swear to God…!”

Remember the Santa shoot that I was shrieking my head off about? Because ridiculous timing?

He’s taken the job. Against my advice. He’s set up in the middle of the room to work out how the Santa shoot will work. At this point in time I am so sick of him I could spontaneously burst into flame. Flame with intent.

– I go, I help, I do the freakin Santa shoot! I take the names, and the money, the orders for the pictures. I am the happiest fucking elf in the Kingdom of Santa.

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Fuck you this IS my happy face.

Fortunately for me, the Kingdom of Santa was set up in my favourite furniture shop. I have purchased whole rooms in this store! In between helping Fitty snap kids – in varying degrees of distress – being forced to sit on a bearded red man’s knee – and be flash-blinded by space lights, I managed to take several laps of the stock, finding many things to my liking. At the time, I’m thinking – the money Fitty makes from the pictures, pretty much matches the amount of money I’m willing to spend right now in the store!!  And that’s how Karma works.

1st Christmas occurred on the hottest day ever. Cheese melted! We did manage to have a lovely family day, despite the heat. I made 2 huge batches of everything, one for lunch and one for the 21st, so it worked out incredibly well in terms of catering, and provided endless fun playing  fridge Tetris with all the food!

My kid’s 21st birthday’s are celebrated in their father’s paddock with loud music blaring until morning. This is a family tradition. Fitty and I sleep on a mattress in the back of our car like all the kids do, (because drunk and really comfortable anyway).

This is the first time the Police haven’t shown up at 3am telling the kids to turn down the music. My kids like their music loud. This is why they have parties on their dad’s  property out of town. I spend every minute after midnight turning down the volume of the music myself, or nagging a kid to turn down the volume. Because I don’t want to have to visit with the Police about the noise.

I was impressed by 5’s friends, an incredible bunch of  young people, even though they look like a bunch of  new-age smelly hippy children! These were great friends with long histories – everybody laughed and had fun all night, despite the searing heat of the evening.  Apart from the need to destroy each others ear drums with loud techno-bullshit music, I have no complaints about my son’s choice of friends.

When I stuck my head out of the car window at 7am the next morning, (having passed out from drinking sheer exhaustion around 3am), the music was blaring and a few scraggly drunks were staggering around still pretending to be human. These kids were drunk and tired enough to cheer “oooiiiiiieeee” just because I had woken up. A more realistic shout of “here comes trouble” from one as I moved deliberately toward the volume control. I cut the music right down to a mystical hum and crept toward the coffee…

Fitty and I worked together irritably until social events and work responsibilities blurred together. That’s how I spent the lead up to our Christmas holidays – I was irrational and emotional when I was awake .

2nd Christmas (the 25th), was much cooler, more casual, with an air of “didn’t we do this just a week ago?” about it.

Fitty and I got drunk together into the late afternoon, (when all the kids had gone), and I realised something. “Fitty! I’m sick of your face!” I said. “For the last 8 weeks or so, I have spent almost every minute of my life either next to you at work, in the car, at the meal table, in the kitchen, with your camera’s and so on, sleeping next to you…”

He looks at me and says “get over yourself will ya?” And with that we retire to bed and eat a box of Belgian Biscuits.

Now, on the first day of 2016,  we sit on the balcony in the cool breeze watching the lake, hearing the sounds of the bush, soaking in the peace. The water is calm here.

We have had all the people we love around us constantly, helping, supporting, there’s much to be thankful for coming into the new year…

A new year which began, I might add, with Fitty awakening, poking his head straight around the doorway to observe me tapping away at the keyboard, the wild look in his eye announcing his intention to crack a really bad joke: “MORNING! I’ve only been happy for ONE minute this year!”

Wait until he reads this?

It’s gonna be a long New Year’s Day people!

 

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