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Out the front after Christmas

Wednesday, 17 February 2021  | John Kidson


 

Flies and the acrid waft of petrol fumes seemed to compete for space in the summer humidity of Australia Day. He stopped, fanned his face and sighed smilingly at me.

'Ah thanks, but no thanks!' Then shaking his head asked: 'How're goin'? Orright?' Of course, my neighbour had declined my waved invitation to continue mowing along the verge in front of the next house - mine. 'Reckon I'll call it a day soon mate – floggin' hot hey?'

'Sure is!' I agreed. 'And today's supposed to be a holiday, too!'

'Yeah well now the family's gone, it's a chance to get a bit done.'

'They were all up Christmas? Everybody happy, had a good time?'

'Oh the usual groans and smiles – but yeah it was good, don't get to see them that much these days you know – just Christmas and some birthdays, you know. How about you? You seemed to have a crowd on quite a few nights.'

I explained how we'd seen all the grand-kids over the past month or so: 'It was a bit like a tag team wrestling event, one family after another’, I told him. 'And I reckon we're due a holiday now. But it was a great time!'

'Yeah, kids love it don't they? I reckon Christmas is all for kids – not adults! Too much grog'n'stupidity I reckon. God! What do you think?'

'Are you asking Him or me?'

There was no response to my benign enquiry. He continued: 'I mean people don't think! Christmas! You know peace and good will and, and all that stuff. You know, Christmas ... it's supposed to be a happy time. Did you hear about that road smash? What a Christmas for that family! Eh?'

'Yeah, tragic!' I ventured: 'Like the first Christmas!'

'Hmm ... what? ... the first Christmas?'

'When soldiers slaughtered all those little kids - infants.'

'Where was that? I didn't hear about ... which conflict? Recently? Strewth! What happened?'

'No, not recently. The first Christmas, in Palestine. Authorities were threatened by a prophecy about a new king being born. No rivals allowed! So to play safe they murdered all new-born boys!' I drew a finger across my throat in demonstration: 'Superstitious times back then.'

'You're not serious!?'

'Yeah. I am unfortunately. That's what happened two thousand years ago. Opposition to Christmas ... it's always there ... been around for ages.'

' Unbelievable! Strewth!' He was shaking his head '... Well I'd better put this away ... see you later.'

And he was gone... I was left, ruing the missed opportunity of a deeper conversation. We both, for different reasons, right then could have really used a cold one!

 

John Kidson is a former chaplain at Southern Cross University.


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