How A Bush Christmas Should Be

The sun is beating down on the hottest day of the year, the branches breaking and falling from the heat. The flies are buzzing and the dogs are panting in the shade: The Bush Christmas has come again.

We sit on the verandah, under the iron roof, and listen to the cracking and expanding of the roof in the heat. The dry ground is screaming for rain and the little lambs are bouncing around not knowing, and not caring, that it is too hot to play.

The old dog is sitting under the gum tree where he has been since last night, with his tongue hanging out and his breath hot and short. He flicks away the flies with his tail and goes about sleeping and waking and sleeping and waking all morning.
The cat has found a place under the roof and on top of the water tank at the side of the house. He is all curled up and completely unaware of things happening around him.

The children have been helping mum decorate the Christmas tree and get the house ready for the next couple of days. The uncle from out west and the auntie from down south are coming up for Christmas. The house has a bright and cheery feeling about it again.

Dad is sitting on the verandah and he is thinking how good it is to have family to share this day with him.
“I wonder if the rains will come soon?” he mutters, loud enough for mum to hear through the open windows.

“The report says it could be a couple of weeks yet, dear,” mum replies.
Dad mumbles something about the weatherman and pulls his hat down over his face. He rests his feet on the dog at the base of his chair.
A light has been making its way up the dusty road from the highway for about an hour or so. It is uncle with his wife coming to stay. He’s been singing to the country radio station the whole time – much to auntie’s dismay.

The girls have joined mum in the kitchen now and the eldest son has come out to dad on the veranda.
“Dad, do you think the lambs will be okay without water for the next couple of weeks?” the boy asks.

“Son, I think the ewes will drop their lambs under a tree and walk off if we don’t get rain soon,” he replies. “I think we need to pray a bit harder this year.” Together they ask God to send the rains soon.
Aunty has caught the train up to the nearest city and hired a car, with very cold air- conditioning, for the drive up this year. It is going to be the hottest place she’s been to for a while, that’s for sure. The flies at the train station stay well away from her because she smells like perfune and new clothes; a successful lawyer type.

The weatherman’s report didn’t count on the prayers of the bush folk this year. No weatherman could know just how many prayers have gone into this year’s rain.
Auntie’s car has pulled in just behind her brother’s Ute as they fly up the dusty road. Her city life forgotten for the moment, she drives like a real bush kid coming back to the family homestead.
They don’t see the clouds in the background through the haze that they are pushing in front of them. Dad hasn’t seen it from the verandah yet either.
The haze just looks like another heatwave haze. The clouds build and build with great speed and the cars race on toward the house, unaware of the growing shadow behind them.
Dad sees the lightning now and hears the thunder just as a cloud of dust comes up from the road and the bull bar from the Ute comes first around the corner.
“Mum, come quick and bring the girls. Look what uncle and aunty have brought with them.” Mum rushes to the front door just as the cars pull up and the clouds come over. The rain bursts out of them like stuffing from a pillow.
They all step down into the rain, not caring that their clothes are soaked just hugging their family and everyone is laughing and crying at the same time.
“This is the best Christmas present ever,” says Dad.
“Dad, I told God he could have my best slingshot if he brought the rain,” the boy says. “I guess I better go give it to him.”
They all stand there for the longest time laughing. This is how a bush Christmas should be.

© Peter Rowe 2002

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