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Friday, 19 December 2014

Children make Christmas

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas takes place in summer and the weather is usually hot. Often a backyard game of cricket with friends and family or a beach walk can follow the excesses of a hot Xmas dinner.  The first photo here is of my mother and her siblings Pat, Ken and Derek playing cricket at home in Aylmer St, Christchurch NZ on Christmas Day 1932. Young Derek the batsman was born in 1929.  I imagine the bowler must have been either the children's father Jack or their mother Mona, and that one of them took the photo.

The next photo shows my mother Jean helping Santa hand out gifts at a Christmas party for Cholmondeley, a children's home in the Christchurch area. It was Christmas 1944, when Jean would have been aged 18, and she and her friend Betty (standing behind Santa) must have been doing volunteer work at the home. Cholmondeley provides short term emergency care for vulnerable children from families in crisis, and these may have been the only presents these children received that Christmas. Jean and Betty met in their early teens and became lifelong friends. I discovered that the Cholmondeley home was badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2010/2011 and had to be demolished as a result, but that a new building is expected to be completed by mid 2015. I've since made a small donation towards the rebuilding fund and have also sent a copy of this photo to the home for their records, as any they might have had could well have been lost in the quake.

In 1953 I enjoyed a cold Christmas in Cambridge, England in the back garden with my parents, and went for a walk in the afternoon, so the weather can't have been too wintery. I think the first snow fell a couple of weeks later, as documented here in an earlier blog.

This next group of three photos shows our elder daughter Claire enjoying the fun of her first Christmas in 1980, with grandmother Mary for Christmas lunch and then back at her other grandparents' home for Christmas tea, where she wore her party hat and pulled a Christmas cracker with me.

Eight Christmases and three children later, here's a collage showing them opening a rather excessive number of presents from both sets of grandparents. Our younger daughter Laura looks quite overwhelmed in some of these shots, but there are also moments of joy.  The grandparents lived in neighbouring suburbs of Canberra, so it was not too difficult to stay at one home, open presents there after breakfast, then go to the other for Christmas lunch and more present opening, and then return to the first for Christmas tea.

All ready for a lovely roast lunch and plum pudding with the children's paternal grandparents Bob and Mary and their Aunty Ann ...

...and later a beautiful Christmas tea with Jean and Ian, which would have routinely included a glazed ham, salads of various kinds, meringues sandwiched together with cream, and fruit punch to wash it all down. We always pulled Xmas crackers at tea time, read out the silly jokes they contained and wore the party hats.

The other side of the table shows my mother's sister Pat, the former wicket keeper from the first photo above. She must have been visiting Jean and Ian, either on a trip from NZ or on her way home from one of her overseas assignments. I've written previously about Pat and her life's work here. Jean is on Pat's left. Our younger daughter Laura looks rather solemn in her Christmas dress and matching bib that I had made specially that year. She would have been around 21 months at the time, and it had been a big day!  Click photo to enlarge and pick out the bib.


I don't have that little Xmas dress any more, but both the bib and a matching Xmas stocking will get another airing this Christmas, when our little English granddaughter Isabelle is here with us. It's been a while since we've had a Christmas with children, so this year will be quite special in that respect. We will be sad that Isabelle's great grandmother Jean who passed away in August won't be with us around the family dinner table, and that other great grandmother Mary won't be with us either, but hopefully she will be able to come and meet her first great grandchild in early January. With luck we'll be able to get a four generation photo of baby, mother, grandfather and great grandmother. And a photo of the bib with its latest wearer.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015 to you all! For other Sepians' Christmas memories, just click here.
Sepia Saturday #259

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Of cowboys, steps and stairs

A small boy dressed as a cowboy has lassoed a man who is likely to be his father in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt photo. I have some photos of cowboys and stairs, but not together.  

The photo below shows my mother's two youngest brothers, Graeme and Peter, dressed up in their cowboy outfits, at their home in Aylmer St Christchurch, c. 1942. No lassos in sight, but they look to be pointing their toy guns straight at  the photographer, and were probably saying, 'this is a stick-up'!

Our family moved to Australia in 1956, and this next photo shows my brother aged about 2 or 3, sitting on the stairs with his toys in Canberra, ACT, and sporting a bead necklace that he probably threaded himself. I don't know if he ever had a cowboy suit.

To the early 1960s, and here's a group of three on the front steps. My neighbours Gerlinde and Elfriede lived across the street from us in the suburb of O'Connor. It was a brand new development when we moved in, and it looks like my father had roped off the garden in order for his newly sewn grass to grow, so we may have been restricted to the steps.  I'm not sure what we were doing, but Gerlinde appears to be holding up something, maybe a drawing or some other handiwork. I remember  spending a lot of time after school with Gerlinde and Elfriede, and playing games on their veranda like hopscotch and elastics were some of our favourite activities. Years later my parents were invited to Gerlinde's university graduation ceremony, because they had encouraged her to to achieve her best when she was a school student.

Here's my sister Louisa in a party hat, posing with her favourite dolls on those same concrete steps, and the garden has grown a bit

Meanwhile Guy and his friends Mark and Robbie the cowboy were playing out on the footpath with their billy cart. No sign of any lasso or gun though.

One more family photo taken on the steps in about 1964, this time around the back door of the house in Swainsona St, with our cat Phoebe, who had a litter of kittens that sadly all died of feline enteritis within a few days of being born. We never owned a dog, so I can't show any photos of them, although Mark and his family had a pug puppy that we enjoyed visiting. My mother was not keen on dogs and even confessed to once using my stroller, with me in it, as a shield against an intimidating Alsatian that we encountered when out walking! 

For more takes on cowboys and stairs, and maybe a dog or two as well, just click here to go to Sepia Saturday #257