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Friday, December 23, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: L. J. LaBarthe

A Different Kind of Australian Christmas.
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.


L. J. LaBarthe is an Australian woman living with disabilities and her cat. As a young child, she won a competition for drawing a picture of Australian Humpty Dumpty, complete with Aussie hat, corks hanging from strings dangling from the brim to keep the flies away. The drawing was accompanied by an adventure story with Humpty Dumpty she wrote set in Australia. From that moment on, she has not looked back.
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:

L. J. is giving away two copies of Long Road Back – one per person – to two lucky readers of Whipped Cream Reviews. Merry Christmas!


elaing8 said...

What a great thing you and your mom did.I enjoyed reading your post.

Happy Holidays


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Elaing8. It was a great couple of years. Have a wonderful festive season.

L. J.

Debby said...

What wonderful memories. Great stuff!]debby236 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Debby! Have a wonderful festive season.

- L. J.

GladysMP said...

After so much effort was made to get the bands and food together, the small attendance had to be a disappointment; but it sounded like the participants had a great time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gladys, yes, it was a bit, but that we got so many people to pull together to help others outweighed that. It was great to know so many cared.

- L. J.

June M. said...

What a wonderful holiday memory. It is great to give of yourself to others, especially during the holidays, when it is very stressful. And to work to help the homeless youth have a good holiday was great! I am sure so many people remember your mum & your family's giving natures.
Happy holidays!
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Hi June, it really was a great time - for everyone, I think. And you're so right, it's such a period of stress, it can be awful sometimes.

Have a wonderful festive season!

- L. J.

VampedChik said...

That is very awesome! I hope you have a great holiday! Thanks!

Shadow said...

What a great memory! So sweet of you. Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

GladysMP said...

Hubby has been playing Christmas carols all day. He has quite a collection. And I wanted to tell you how much some of the band music reminded me of the trouble your mom had gone to in getting bands together to entertain the community, only to have few folks take advantage of all her good intentions.

Unknown said...

Such a Wonderful Holiday Memory for you to always have, thank you very much for sharing with Us.
I hope you have a Wondeful Christmas & A Safe & Happy New Yera,
Renee' S.

Anonymous said...

@VampedChik - Thank you! Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, too.

@Shadow_kohler - Thank you and have a wonderful Christmas.

@GladysMP - That sounds fantastic. I love it when bands who you wouldn't think of do end up playing Christmas carols.

@PaParanormalFan - Thank you, and have a wonderful Christmas and new year.

- L. J.

Fedora said...

Wow, what an amazing mom, LJ, and thanks for sharing such a lovely Christmas memory! That truly is the spirit of the season!

Anonymous said...

@flchen1 - Thank you so much. I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

- L. J.

Anonymous said...


Happy new year to everyone! Using the random number generator, I got the two winners who each recieve a copy of "Long Road Back." They are:

elaing8 and VampedChik!

Your ebooks are in the email. :)

L. J.