By L. J. LaBarthe
When I was in the last years of high school, (many years ago now!), my mum decided that we as a family should do something different for Christmas. Tired of the endless stress that preceded our family gatherings, mum felt that doing something positive for a change would be a good plan. She was right – our family Christmases consisted of my father baking and cooking from 4AM, making a traditional French bouche de nöel, and he would make several of these, to give to his friends as well as us. He also made éclairs au chocolat and éclairs au caramel, and by the time midday rolled around, he'd be in the world's worst mood and lunch wouldn't be ready. We would end up eating at 3PM, and I would have a terrible headache because we weren't allowed to eat anything before the Christmas meal was on the table.
Mum also wanted to do something for those who were less fortunate. She had trained as a kindergarten teacher and worked as a nurse before she got married and had me. She came up with the idea of putting on a Christmas day celebration for the homeless youth of my city.
I was hanging out with local bands at this stage, and mum was chaperoning me to gigs and making friends among the local musos as well. We put it to several of the guys in some of the bands and they were eager to put on a show for the homeless kids. We had a line up of five bands, each doing a 45 minute set. With the entertainment sorted out easily enough, turning to organising food was the next task.
Fortunately, we were able to get a lot of local businesses to donate food, like cold cuts of meat, roasts, vegetables and fruit cakes. One of the band's manager's mum chipped in with more food, and myself and a friend from school helped out with preparing vegetables for roasting on the day. Mum got the free use of the youth centre in the middle of the city's main precinct and it was advertised on radio and local newspapers.
Mum did this for three years, thereabouts. The turnout of kids wasn't great, but that wasn't what I took away from the experience. What I got was the amazing capacity for selflessness that a bunch of punk rockers and their families had when it came to chipping in to help those less fortunate. That one elderly lady from my father's church gave freely of her time without any fanfare and travelled to and fro by public transport. That the friends of mine from school who helped out did so, sometimes defying their parents, because they wanted to help. The incredible sense of camaraderie and good will that came from a group of people from literally all walks of life, coming together in selflessness and cheery good natured, good humour, is something I'll never forget.
That's what I remember as being the best of the Christmases I've ever had. I remember sitting on a table, watching local band The Coneheads, with my friend Bob – he was the mixer and he mixed all the bands for free, all day – bouncing around with a near life-size plush leopard. I remember the guys from FAL, the band my mum managed (and ten years later, I was their manager!), helping carry heavy platters of food to a large table, setting out a buffet. I remember the jokes, the laughter, the music, the food.
It might not have been successful in terms of getting a huge turnout – there were only two dozen people who wandered in and out during the day – but it was enormously successful in bringing together all these diverse personalities to do something good for someone else. And that's what Christmas means to me.
She spends her free time watching television, reads newspapers online for fun, and enjoys a good novel. She loves to cook and enjoys a snifter of absinthe from time to time.
L.J. would like to take a moment to let her university professor in creative writing know that knowledge of iambic pentameter isn't necessary in order to be able to enjoy the craft of writing, no matter how much he may have screamed to the contrary.
Her websites are:
Long Road Back.
Summary: Yoo Lee Shin had great hopes for his new life studying engineering in Australia, but nothing could have prepared him for the wonder of falling in love. His roommate’s brother, Craig, is beautiful, kind, and brave—and, very shortly after they meet, he’s deployed. As Christmas nears, can Shin keep hope for a happy ending bright enough to guide Craig to him on the long road back?
Buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=55_116&products_id=2609
L. J. is giving away two copies of Long Road Back – one per person – to two lucky readers of Whipped Cream Reviews. Merry Christmas!