Last year we had my sister and brother in law aboard EV for the holidays and despite several offers to spend Christmas with friends we opted for a quiet family-only celebration. It may have been a little too quiet for Nancy and Dave, and devoid of the usual tree and other decorations that mark the holiday, but for Jack and me it was as special as it comes. The year before we two were completely alone in the beautiful Bay of Islands, New Zealand, where we hiked all morning and made our traditional curry dinner. It was a little lonely, truth be told.
This year we were facing a letdown after a warm and wonderful visit from Drew and Ericka in November but no family visitors for the holidays. To our delight, the same two invitations we had last year were extended once again and we happily accepted both.
We renewed our old cinnamon bun tradition on a small scale with buns delivered to nearby Erie Spirit and Starry Horizons. Then it was on to the ritual making of our traditional Christmas Eve samosas to take to Alex and Diana’s Schnitzel Fest.
All day long the VHF radio piped up every half hour or so with a dire strong wind warning for Sydney Closed Waters, a sudden 180 degree change in direction and 30 kts with higher gusts. This is the situation we experienced last year when a 35 kt. buster slammed EV from behind so hard that it popped our anchor out and for the first time ever with our Rocna anchor we dragged through an anchorage. The warnings were absolutely specific that between 8 and 9pm this front would move across our position. We listened with increasing concern about leaving the boat in a crowded anchorage with nothing but potentially damaging obstacles on all sides. We decided to wait for the 4pm forecast hoping for a slight change in direction or intensity of the prediction. The updated forecast did nothing to allay our fears and we reluctantly called Diana to say we needed to stay on the boat because of the weather.
In the end, while the wind did pick up and a small thunderstorm blew through, we didn’t get anywhere near the predicted dangerous conditions and we could have safely left EV at anchor, but that’s boat life. When all you have is on one small floating vessel you really can’t take chances. We salved our disappointment with a few samosas and some wine and cursed the alarmist forecasters of the Bureau of Meteorology for screwing up our Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day was gloomy, chilly and breezy but at least there were no strong wind warnings. We left the boat just before 10am for the dinghy, bus and train journey to the suburbs for a mid-day dinner at the home of — stay with me now — the landlady for my brother-in-law who lived and taught here in Australia for a year after college 45 years ago. How’s that for a connection? Noreen and her three daughters and other family and friends made a lively and welcoming group and we were delighted to be included.
There was plenty of bubbly, an abundance of delicious food, great conversation, and most appreciated by us, the easy, familiar story-telling that families do when they have a virgin audience. This was the best part for us, as it was reminiscent of our many years at the holiday table of our adopted family of three Irish Cassidy sisters in Pittsburgh, where singing and storytelling is a finely honed art.
After lunch, while there was much bustling about readying the Christmas pudding, we were entertained by the matriarch Noreen relating what we came to understand is a well-rehearsed tale of a long-ago train journey from Sicily to Switzerland involving a husband who missed the train and a mother left with no passports or money and three children. “Two!” piped up the older two daughters. “I wasn’t born yet,” added the youngest.
There was much prompting and challenging from the listeners, with Noreen occasionally putting her foot down. “Let me finish!” And at each sticky moment in the tale, Noreen declared, “You can imagine, with three children…”
“I wasn’t there.”
At the end of the story, Noreen imparted her well-earned wisdom, “Never travel with three children.”
“I wasn’t born yet.”
We loved every minute of it and were sent home with bags full of chocolate, fruitcake, homemade jam and little gifts, including the most thoughtful gift of all, donations made in our names to CARE Australia of farm animals to families in need around the world. This is a generous and open-hearted family and we are so lucky to be included in their circle of friends.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!