Christmas morn

It’s Christmas morning and I’ve just returned from walking Rigby to the beach. It’s the kind of day you want to bottle – 26 degrees and blue-skied.

As always on Christmas morning the streets seemed unnaturally quiet. Behind closed doors, I imagined, children rampaged and parents smiled indulgently in this precious family time. They would get out and about later, crisscrossing Melbourne as they went to parents and grandparents for the day’s festivities. Now, it was all theirs.

The few people I did see were in their shorts and nodded festively to me as I greeted them. The beach was quiet too. It had been groomed overnight and had been insufficiently disturbed to hide signs of it. A few odd couples walked along the pathway at the rear of it, and on the beach, there were widely spaced specks of individuals and families with their towels.

We walked to the water’s edge and, as always, Rigby plunged in. Soon enough I’d waded in up to my knees. We spent 5-10 minutes in the water before we clambered atop the bluestone breakwater extending into the sea.

All of this had become recent tradition, a touchstone for the day. Christmas is all about ritual, and if I no longer have my old rituals then I must invent new. Part of it is the breakwater, which has taken on meaning far beyond its modest purpose.

We always clamber atop it and look out to sea, at the tankers lurking in the distant haze, at the random yachts scudding across the bay. Turn the other way and there’s the shore, people coming and going, and beyond that the nearest thing I have to a home.

In the book, I’m writing there’s a hill that has significance for the protagonist. Over time and through habit it has been imbued with meaning. It’s the place he goes to get away from the world, the place he comes to think. It’s his refuge, if not quite a sanctuary – but it is his.

I walk by the beach occasionally with Rigby and often we’ll stop to climb atop the breakwater, but at those moments it means nothing. It finds its meaning at Christmas because it has become a part of my ritual. I don’t think a lot about it while I’m there, but I feel it. It has become a touchstone for me, something personal on a day when I no longer have anything personal to share.

Earlier in the night, I’d been woken at about 3.30 by Rigby wanting to go outside. I realised as I led him out that it was Christmas day. “Merry Christmas”, I told him.

I woke at the normal time after that, and as I would on any normal day off I made myself a coffee and returned to check up on the news overnight, before turning to my book.

I finished the book at about 8.30 and I got up to collect the few presents waiting for me, and to give Rigby his Christmas present (a pork bone, devoured with relish). I returned to bed to open my presents – an excellent bottle of boutique Japanese gin, and a couple of gifts from the kids – a cooking set and a big box of liquor chocolates, gratefully received. My sister probably bought them for the kids to give, which gave me pause.

Soon enough I’ll commence preparations for lunch. There’s a butterflied chicken I’ve been brining overnight I’ll roast with lemon and garlic and a sprinkling of thyme. I’ll have all the usual trimmings to go with it. Later on, I’ll be at JV’s for a barbecue, for which I’m grateful.

Now? I might just have a glass of eggnog.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hoping you all have a warm and loving day.

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