crossed wires at Christ­mas

Not so long ago, a long-dis­tance phone call was just for Christ­mas, and over-shar­ing wasn’t al­ways car­ing.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - WITH PAT McDER­MOTT

Isipped an early cup of tea and turned on the com­puter to check my emails. There were ve headed MUM in cap­i­tal let­ters. Clearly I’d done some­thing wrong. “You pressed ‘re­ply all’ again!” wrote the rst one. “You’ve been plan­ning Christ­mas with­out talk­ing to us! We’re not 10 years old any­more!”

Damn! The email was sup­posed to go to one at a time. I wanted to tell them, gently, that I was “do­ing” Christ­mas and didn’t need any help.

“We do things the same way ev­ery Christ­mas any­way,” I pointed out to the MOTH (Man of The House). If you don’t count the leg­endary “sug­ared al­mond” ght of 1998 and the year the Christ­mas tree fell on the cat, things have gone pretty well.

“And we al­ways ‘face time’ Ruff Red and Re­becca in New York de­spite the 14-hour time dif­fer­ence. They watch us sip chardon­nay and we watch them eat Coco Pops. It works!”

Then we eat and drink and talk un­til some­body re­alises, a bit late, red wine and pavlova are not a good pair­ing, which is when ev­ery­body goes home.

I swore on a stack of A4 pa­per that, in fu­ture, I’ll pause be­fore “send­ing”.

“Now stop call­ing me ‘Donna’ Trump”.

“Maybe you keep in touch a lit­tle too much,” the MOTH said mildly. “Ruff Red thinks some­one’s died ev­ery time you ‘mes­sage’ late at night.”

My par­ents be­lieved long-dis­tance phone calls were for Christ­mas and catas­tro­phes only. I still re­mem­ber one of my last Christ­mas calls to Mum. “Hello?”

“Hi Mum, it’s me!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Noth­ing! Merry Christ­mas!” “Thank you dear. How are the chil­dren?”

“They’re ne! How are you?”

“I told Dr Stewart any more chest pain and I’ll take my­self to hospi­tal.” “Chest pain!”

“Yes. But com­pared to the arthri­tis and the mi­graines the chest pain is a walk in the park. Did you hear what hap­pened to Mrs Bolton?”

(Mrs Bolton was my pi­ano teacher.) “Her nephew mar­ried the Creel­man girl. The younger sis­ter got into some trou­ble but I didn’t like to ask about it and then she died.”

“The Creel­man girl?


“The sis­ter?

“Keep up dear! Mrs Bolton died!” “I’m sorry to hear that. Was she still play­ing the pi­ano?”

“Of course not! She was sitting in a chair, stone cold dead.”

“Mum, Den says this call is cost­ing $15 a minute.”

“He was al­ways good with gures.” The MOTH paced around the kitchen, jog­gling the baby. We lined up the other four and passed the re­ceiver from one to the other so each child could wish the grandma some of them had never met a Merry Christ­mas.

But we couldn’t squeeze a gur­gle out of Ruff Red.

“He’s smil­ing at the phone, Mum.” “I like the quiet ones,” she said. “Robert says Merry Christ­mas too.” “Robert?”

“A new friend, dear.”

“Way to go Mar­jory!” whis­tled the MOTH qui­etly.

We watched the kids fos­sick about in the presents un­der the tree. It was al­most Christ­mas. Time to smooth over the cracks of an­other year.

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