‘Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…it seemed crazy. We would to be celebrating “Christmas in Australia!”     By Mary Zigan

Waldo, I and the children had arrived from Minnesota to Australia on a perfect, sunny day in March. The year was 1971, we were on a new adventure with a two-year work assignment. We sailed into the Sydney harbor with full view of the famous opera house.  We walked off the gangplanks into the unknown. Our feelings were mixed: excited, anxious, apprehensive.  Everything was unfamiliar.  We thought we knew English but we couldn’t understand a lot of the “blokes.” The Australians thought we were the ones with the accent! We arranged to live in a hostel until we could find permanent housing. Within three months, we were in a small house in a charming neighborhood, the children were enrolled in school, and I was learning to drive on the wrong side of the road in our Volkswagen Bug.  And we were approaching Christmas and would be celebrating what felt like “Christmas in July.”

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…but with a temp of 78◦ we certainly weren’t going to light a fire in the fireplace. But, more disconcerting than that situation was, we had to find a Christmas tree that didn’t look barren and sickly. We finally found one that would pass and put a few decorations on it. It just didn’t “feel” like Christmas does back home we moaned.

Waldo and I decided it would be fun to spend Christmas Day at the nationally renowned Bondi beach only a few miles from our new home. With Barb, our nanny, age seventeen, along with our two children, ages nine and six, we were bound for our first all-day experience as a family on a famous Sydney beach. We packed a picnic lunch and off we went. As you probably know, San Francisco and Sydney are compared as sister cities for glorious weather and this day was no exception. Waldo and I mostly relaxed on one of the provided chaise lounges while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.

When, what to our wondering eyes should appear…but the water patrol boat roaring up right in front of us. We wondered what all the fuss was about and whose kids were rescued. When in tow appeared Barb and Terri with fear and panic on their faces, and to our horror, what could have easily been a double drowning. Needless to say, that frightening experience brought that day to a full stop for all of us.  That night, when the children were nestled all snug in their beds, as we peered in on them, ringing in our ears were the water patrols words as he drove out of sight;    “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Mary Z






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