My Christmas Dinners

The Story of My Christmas

Christmas to me is whole family around table with Christmas dinner, gift for everyone under the tree, sing carols after beside the tree sparkling with lights and tinsel, and everybody happy to be together. My last Christmas like this was in the 70’s in Doncaster. Then I started a florist shop in the 80’s and for 12 years Christmas was working in the shop with the biggest takings for the year on that day. Then there were no more Christmases for me..except the last one when I was told to ‘go away, because Dad wants to come now….” and I never even saw the gifts I had bought everyone. So every year I go somewhere so I won’t feel lonely… This year I will be at The Mantra in Brisbane …For me, Christmas is ‘In my Dreams”….

During the past years, people have at times invited me to join them for Christmas, and sadly, every single invitation I accepted turned out to be an expensive for me, disaster. Every time I regretted accepting and now know, that the Christmas I remember and yearn for, is only in my mind, a dream.

The last Christmas Dinner I went to, I provided a turkey, a pudding, bon bons, some ham, nuts, a fancy sausage for my friend who invited me to join their table, and a gift for everyone who was at that dinner, even those I did not know. It was a family dinner, and everyone fought and bickered at the table. The vegetarians did not like my meat, some did not want gravy, the kids wanted pizza and they bickered and bickered. I quietly sat there eating a cold dinner plonked on my plate, and then gifts were given out and I was touched to find there was one for me.  When I opened it thrilled to get a gift, it was an old gardening apron, and the green edging on it had rotted and it fell apart in my hands dusting my clothes in green dust. I was appalled.

When the fighting got serious and loud, I quietly left claiming a head ache and not feeling well. I never went back there for Christmas again.

A few years earlier, I was living in a Caravan Park and one of the inmates there who I had started talking to invited me to join their festivities. Wearing the red dress again, I wear the same dress every year since the 90’s when I bought it at Brighton with Harry in happier times, and with my arms loaded with my contribution which was a cake, nuts, and bonbons and a beautifully wrapped gift for everyone. I bought all the men a handy tool and the ladies’ various toiletries. I only knew the couple who were having the Christmas Barbecue and I was the only one sober from the time I arrived. The lunch was whatever everyone brought cooked on a barbecue and my gifts were accepted hesitatingly as it was unexpected and laughed at. I would have been better off bringing everyone a beer, but I was not to know. I was the only one dressed up and I just did not fit in and wondered why I had been invited at all. I sat there feeling lost, then with the headache story, quietly returned to my caravan and swore I would never go to anybody’s Christmas ever again.

Burrum Heads

One of the best Christmases I have had as a single was at Vanuatu where the Resort set up a table for Singles and my companions were a gay couple, two aging lesbians, and an assortment of young happy people, and the Band Musicians. I immediately linked with the Piano player who then let me play the piano with the band while he played other instruments or dueted with me on the piano. I had an amazing time as a result and everyone danced with me and the whole table was one happy family and I stayed friends with the band for the rest of my vacation and was very happy.

Another truly memorable Christmas was two years ago. I had booked in at The Mercure Hotel in Brisbane, and because I could not find a Christmas Dinner anywhere, I booked a Christmas dinner Cruise on the River Boat at Eagle Pier, after asking the company if they had a table for singles, which they assured me they did. Wearing the red dress, I went along quite happily. I was early so tried to talk with those queued up, but the feeling was not too friendly, so I waited quietly to get on board.

 When I was taken to my table to my horror, I saw that it was placed in the centre of the dance floor, a sad table for one. I said to the girl that I did not want to sit there and asked if it could be moved to the edge with the other tables or by a window. She said, “No”. I asked if I could sit with others at a table, and she said, “No” I looked at her and said I would go home and forget the dinner. She came after me saying there was no refund…I was not asking a refund, I was just going home, so I continued going out.

Then I got to the gangway where they were meeting people, and the Captain asked where I was going. I told him I could not sit alone in the middle of the Dancefloor and was going home.  He asked me to wait a moment, came back to ask if I would like to join him the at the Wheel of the Riverboat. I was thrilled to accept and had the best Christmas sitting there at the wheel chatting with him while the Riverboat cruised the Brisbane River. He walked me in to get the dinner, and dessert and after the evening, drove me back to The Mercure which was on his way back to the freeway.

Last year I nearly got to Christmas dinner. I stayed at Rydges in Southbank, and because I could not find a Christmas dinner anywhere, discovered there was a Christmas Dinner for the Homeless at the Uniting Church. I called the Minister asking if I could help and attend too, and she very kindly said I was welcome to come and join the homeless for Christmas dinner. On Christmas Day, I started walking across Victoria Bridge to go to the dinner, but it started raining and half way down I was soaking wet, so sadly, I turned around and went back to the Hotel and had lunch there.

Who knows what this year will bring…Yes, its Christmas again and I have plans to join the Homeless at the Botanical gardens this year…if there is nothing happening at The Mantra.

Marguerite Carstairs