Sunday, 3 January 2016

The true meaning of Christmas according to Davo

When I was very young I lived a lot of my time in a parallel world I call my “Fantasy World”. I believed in Santa Claus, fairies, gnomes, dragons, that men could fly, that good would always beat evil, superheroes were real and that I would rule the world. It was a world where unicorns were real, knights saved damsels in distress, Jason of the Argonauts existed, Biggles fought the Red Baron, the Lone Ranger and Tonto were alive and well and lived inside my brain and Superman saved the world on a daily basis.
Most children I have known are born to believe in this fantasy world – the characters change but the reality of the imagination does not. It is only over time does the child leave this fantasy world behind and enter the “Real Logical World” and some never enter the fantasy world again.

But to me the world of fantasy was real and no more so than at Christmas time. I lived my young life (in the 1950’s) in Mount Isa and all my relatives lived in Western Australia so Christmas revolved around my immediate family of mother, father and two brothers.
My father had spent 6 years fighting in the 2nd world war (3 ½ of them as a prisoner of war in Germany) and only after returning to Australia did he get married, have a family, got a job and decided to do University at night. We did not have a lot of money, so at Christmas time we would go into the bush and find a Eucalypt sapling and cut it down, take it home, put it into a bucket of dirt, put coloured paper around the bucket and place pine cones (sprayed with white paint) around the bottom and put it in the corner of the lounge room. Then we would put decorations over the tree and hang paper chains around the room. (When I was around 5 years of age my father and mother bought some lights that we could put into the tree so that it lit up at night.)
I thought the tree was magnificent and would stare at it for hours and let my imagination run wild – I could see reindeer in the snow, I could hear the tinkle of bells as the sledge was pulled by horses, I could hear the laughter of many families that lived in northern countries where snow fell and where families skated on ice.
We would place the Christmas gifts under the tree a few days before Christmas and woe behold anyone who damaged or touched those presents – they were there to be viewed and wondered at, but “do not touch”. I would sit for hours at night (we had no TV) and I would stare at those presents with my name on them and I would imagine the most wonderful thoughts about what lay inside.
On Christmas night, my mum would hang the special Stocking from the foot of my bed and she would tell me the most wonderful stories about Christmas’s past and about Santa. I would try to stay awake at night to hear Santa coming but every time I would fall asleep and there, in the morning, was my stocking full of special gifts that Santa had bought me.
Then it was time to sit around the Christmas tree as my father (sitting in his favourite chair) would read out the card on each present and hand it to the appropriate family member. The house would be full of laughter and joy as we opened our gifts and interacted with each other.

It was a wonderful world my fantasy world - but, like all good things it came to an end as I grew up. When I was around 8 years of age I was told by my friend that Santa was not real and that it really was my parents who were filling up the stocking. I was not devastated nor was I emotionally traumatized – it was a natural progression from going from the fantasy world into the real world.
As the years have rolled on I left my fantasy world behind (with the occasional visit late at night when all around me were asleep) and I become more and more involved with the logical world. I was given some grave news about my own health in the 1980’s and suddenly there was no fantasy world. For over 8 years I lived with an uncertain future and all my time and effort went into living in the real world. I eventually won my battle but by then the fantasy world was far away and long forgotten.

Then, in 1994, my wife and I were blessed with a son and again my fantasy world returned. I would sit up at night holding my son and watching movies such as “Hook”. As my son grew older I introduced my son to my fantasy world – we would fight the pirates together, we would slay dragons with a single blow, we would fly spacecrafts to the distant galaxies and we would laugh and laugh at Dr Seuss.
Again the magic of Christmas returned and again Santa became real and Christmas developed real meaning – it was a time of being together as a family, a time to be thankful with what we had, it was time to reconnect with extended family and friends, it was a time when we could put our troubles behind us for awhile and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
This time I could marvel at the imagination of my son as he watched the Christmas tree, as he gazed into the night sky on Christmas Eve and as he struggled to stay awake so that he could see Santa Claus. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
But again the fantasy was taken away – one day my son came home and informed us that Santa was not real and from that moment on my fantasy world dimmed and the real world again took its place.
My son has grown up now and left home and is living in Brisbane.
My fantasy world does not come visiting very often and my time is spent in the real world of business and veterinary work.
I still love Christmas and over the last few weeks I have discussed Christmas with many clients and the majority of the clients were not “fussed” with Christmas and felt “it is becoming too commercialized”. In fact a lot of them had not put up any decorations at home and were planning quiet Christmas day at home and had no plans for visiting relatives or friends.
It was with these thoughts that I headed off to Brisbane on Christmas day – I left early in the morning as my son was working that day and I wanted to see him before he went to work. After driving for 5 hours I finally arrived at his unit only to find him gone. I rang him on his mobile – he had decided to leave early because he was not sure of the traffic and had forgotten that I was coming.
In fact he had even forgotten it was Christmas and as I ended the phone call I realised that he had not even wished me “Merry Christmas”. My son has Aspergers (watch Sheldon in the “Big Bang Theory”) and the real logical world lives and breathes in my son – he had just forgotten it was Christmas.

Later that day I attended a family Christmas “get together” where my father, my brothers, their wives, their sons and daughters and their sons and daughters come together and share gifts. I was sitting in a chair, thinking about my son and hoping all was OK in his world, when a young great nephew (I think that is right – the son of a nephew of mine) came up and showed my “what Santa had bought”. As I listened to him, I looked into his eyes and my fantasy world was revisited– as he told me the story about Santa and the gifts Santa had bought I could see Santa in his sleigh flying across the pupils of his eyes and the memories of a childhood past came calling again.
My mother died a few years ago but my father is still alive and going well (he is 95 years of age) and every year he sits in a comfortable chair and one of the older children bring the presents to him and he reads out the label and then the gift is given to the appropriate person.
I am a perimeter type person – I sit in the background and I watch and listen rather than participate in the program. As I watched, my mind entered the fantasy world and suddenly the artificial Christmas tree with all its magnificent decorations and the people in the room disappeared and in its place was a Eucalypt sapling and there under the tree was a blond haired boy sitting at his Dad’s feet waiting for his name to be called out. And then in that moment I could feel my mother’s hand in mine and I could hear her words “Continue to believe”.
The true meaning of Christmas started to live inside me again and in that moment my concerns myself and for my son vanished – the fact that he did not remember that his dad was coming to see him or that it was Christmas was not relevant in his world - he was happy and healthy, he was proud that he had a job and he wanted to be responsible to his employer and not be late and that was the most important relevance to him.

For those people who feel there is no meaning in Christmas – let me remind you that Christmas is about family, about friends, about giving and forgiving, and being thankful for what we have and more than everything Christmas is about letting your imagination go wild and entering that fantasy world you left as a child. You do not need to spend a lot of money, you do not need give big presents, you do not need to eat yourself into oblivion – you just need to revisit your childhood and let your emotions rule your head for a short time. If nothing else – be thankful for what you have rather than what you do not have. Remember the people who are no longer with us and be thankful that we had the opportunity to know them.

Merry Christmas (belated) to all and have a wonderful 2016

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