Karen woke to the sound of whispering. Rolling over and glancing at the window, she groaned as she saw it was still dark out.
“It’s too damned early,” she grumbled to herself. Hoping to get some more rest, she closed her eyes and tried to go back to sleep, ignoring the sounds of feet racing up and down the hallway and the quiet rustling of toys being removed from stockings. She sighed as her body gradually relaxed. She was just about to drift into slumber, when the loud flush of the toilet jerked her back into wakefulness.
Giving it up as a bad job, Karen climbed out of bed and staggered groggily towards the bathroom. After using the loo, she brushed her hair and teeth then splashed cold water on her face to drive away some of the tiredness.
Finally feeling somewhat human, she donned her dressing gown and emerged from her bedroom to share in her children’s early morning excitement.
After nearly an hour of clamouring and squeals and cries of “Look what I got” and requests for batteries or help with opening blister packs, it was time to pack everything into a neat pile, chuck the discarded wrapping in the recycling bin and eat breakfast.
This was one thing Karen insisted on, even on Christmas Day. Knowing the truckload of sweets and meats and savoury snacks her children would consume later in the day, she was determined they would at least eat a healthy breakfast beforehand.
The sun was just beginning to emerge as they finished eating. Leaving the children to wash the dishes and tidy the kitchen, Karen headed to the bathroom to take a shower. Opening the bathroom window to let in the breeze, she listened to the sounds of the magpies, kookaburras and currawongs greeting the day as she relaxed under the steady stream of warm water. She hummed carols as she thought about everything she needed to accomplish that day, planning out a basic timetable in her head.
By the time she was showered, dried and dressed, the sun was already burning the coolness from the morning. Padding barefoot into the kitchen, she enlisted her eldest daughter to assist her with food preparation while the younger kids played with their new toys or sat on the couch reading.
First things first, Karen set her daughter to peeling potatoes while she put the eggs on to boil. While waiting, she pulled out her nicest serving bowls and platters, making sure they were clean and dust-free. Once the eggs were cooked and the peeled potatoes were heating on the stove, Karen began filling the various bowls and platters with cold meats, salads, seafoods, trifle and other desserts, while her daughter set the table.
Once the eggs were cooled, Karen had her daughter prepare devilled eggs, while she pushed toothpicks into slices of devon wrapped around small spoonfuls of mashed potato. These last two dishes were added to the feast weighing down the groaning table before Karen set about bathing her children as her daughter strolled to the servo to buy bags of ice.
Switching on the air conditioning to cool the house before guests began to arrive; Karen took another shower to wash away the stickiness of a morning spent in the kitchen. Drying off quickly, she donned her prettiest summer dress just in time to hear her children opening the door to admit the first of her many cousins.
The hours that followed were filled with the squealing of children and the noise of distant relatives catching up on gossip and the mess of dozens of people stuffing their faces and cries of “Ooh, how you’ve grown” and complaints about the heat and songs and bad jokes and laughter and the odd argument; and by the time the last guest left, Karen was hot and stressed and ready to drop.
After sitting down to a small meal of leftovers (and that was something they’d be eating for days), Karen set about storing food in the fridge and cupboards. Then she and her daughter washed the many dishes, while the younger children filled the bins to overflowing.
As the sun began to set, Karen sat outside with a glass of wine and a citronella candle. Reflecting on everything that had happened that day, she decided that she really had had fun. It was nice to see everyone again and the happiness in her children’s eyes was worth all the work.
However, as the heat and the mozzies and the noise of the cicadas drove her back indoors, she sank her exhausted body into the softness of her couch and thanked every deity she knew that she only had to do this once a year!
I apologise for the lateness of this post. I had intended to write this on Christmas Eve and schedule it for Christmas Day. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and was unable to do so. This week’s prompt was Xmas in Australia. It did not come from anywhere in particular, just from my own head.
For those who are interested, the sounds of magpies, currawongs, kookaburras and cicadas can all be heard at Sounds Like Noise.