This year, I was invited by my aunt to Christmas lunch, at her family's house in Bendigo. In years gone by, my family would often spend Christmas day either at that house, at my family's home, or at my other aunt's house, though the last time that tradition was observed was probably in 1988. In the lead up, I found myself looking forward to the lunch, and in particular to seeing my cousins. I figured it must have been over fifteen years since I had last seen them, and I had long sought opportunity to do so.
We left early on Christmas morning, with my father having offered Poppa a lift which he had declined. He had wanted to go to church in the morning at his leisure, but promised to drive himself to Bendigo, and he'd also offered to drive me home. My parents, meanwhile, were staying in Bendigo over night, and booked a hotel room large enough to accommodate me should I also wish to stay. It was suggested I leave my car at a station in case I needed to take a train home, but once Poppa confirmed that he would be driving home, I decided against the plan.
After a couple of hours, we arrived. It was a hot day, and I expressed my guilt for leaving Jessie at home, but she seemed to have very much enjoyed her gift which Simon had sent from Paris, care of PETA - vegan dog treats displayed in a stylish wreath format. It was great to see my cousins again, as well as to meet their partners, both of whom I immediately liked a lot. Then of course, there were all the people I had no idea about and how they fit in. It probably shows how far out of the loop I've become.
An announcement was made before lunch by my aunt Joy: My grandfather would no longer be joining us. He had phoned on route to say he couldn't find the address. He'd used his GPS to get to the correct street, but unfortunately navigated to the completely incorrect town, a similar distance from home in the wrong direction. Gifts were exchanged in a Kris Kringle (or Jidka-style) fashion, with my cousin Stuart proving himself to be the most colourblind of the males of our generation of the family.
'I'd like the orange present, Stu!' called Bob, innocently. Stuart looked blankly at the gifts, and whilst I could understand, having been in similar situations regularly (particularly in a professional context in regards to Mr Sketch tones,) I was surprised at the extent of his afliction. Meanwhile, my immediate family cemented our reputation by choosing distinctly bottle-shaped gifts each time our names were called.
My aunt, a real estate agent, asked some questions about my house, and my mother complained about the fact that I still didn't technically own a house - I must have forgotten to tell her that I actually had had the house signed over to me a few days earlier. When I revealled this, she became incredibly angry at me, as though I had kept the fact a secret for some reason. Perhaps I had failed to mention it, but if so, it was probably only because I'd worked so much and only seen my family when we were doing specific things.
My uncle Ian, as well as being a gunzel of the classic variety, is also renowned for his car collection, and I was pleased after lunch when the invitation was extended to browse his elaborate garage and see his vintage ambulance and Austin convertible (I think it is an Austin.) I had alterior motives, however. My parents had, at my cousin John's wedding, strategically mentioned my Mini, sitting devestatingly in need of repair. Their hope, I learned, was that someone might offer to give it a good home. Whilst that isn't my ideal solution, it is one I might consider. Apparently, my ideal solution was the one that was assumed by Stuart - that he'd like to repair the car for fun. So as people paraded to the garage, I sought opportunities to reintroduce the idea and state my strong support for it.
And then the point came. Either one was staying, or leaving. My parents suggested I stay, but I said someone had to look after Jessie. I had made my plan. Unline the previously anthemic Blink-182 single, I would be home for Christmas. So I headed to the station. I'd planned this. I had examined the V-Line timetable and packed my Gameboy and a book. Whatever research I had done was thwarted by the unpredictable country Christmas time table. I waited a couple of hours before the train came, quite certain of the direction I needed to travel, but doubting myself after several scenes of the game Secret Files: Tunguska were completed I started to find myself wondering if the trains that felt like they were going in the wrong direction might have been the ones I needed. Eventually the train that felt right came, and I climbed aboard.
I found a map to confirm that I was in fact going in the right direction, and settled back to enjoy the ride. I didn't need my Gameboy a lot, because I wanted to check out the scenery, but darkness fell quickly. It was a longer journey than I expected it to be, and it was after midnight when I arrived at Spencer Street. I opted to take the first train to Flinders Street to find the most suburban trains. My guess was, that by this time, I would need to walk home. As is my usual Modus Operandi, I took the first train heading in the right direction. It happened to be a Dandenong train, so I walked home from Springvale. On the way, I seemed to frighten a girl, who screamed when she turned a corner and came face to face with me. The walk also gave me a chance to observe some of the local Christmas lights, but by that time it was after 1am, and perhaps some had been deactivated, or maybe they just aren't as prevelant as they used to be.
I'd cited Jessie being at home without food as the reason for my desperation to leave, but when I served her a late night dinner, I realised she had had the vegan wreath treats to much on all day.