‘Tis the season to be jolly, yours truly feeling giddy,
Still on track to a full-on recovery,
Time to kick back and enjoy the festivities,
Chillin’, watching Christmas Movies, including ‘Love Actually’
Where I’d heard this tune originally by Mariah Carey.
It has been said that the 1950’s era world heavyweight boxing champion, Rocky Marciano, went for a long run every morning whether he was in training for a fight or not, come rain, hail or shine and even during holidays. His reason? Because he always wanted to be the fitter, stronger, more conditioned man in the ring and he would have been damned if some upstart challenger wrested the title he had bled and sweated for away from him. Clearly, Marciano was from the ‘train while your enemy is sleeping’ school and that’s why he retired undefeated following a rather short but legendary career, is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time and, along with a rugged heavyweight journeyman named Chuck Wepner, was one of the inspirations behind the iconic film character, Rocky Balboa. Well, count me in among the members of that get up early and train club. On the morning of Christmas Eve I took a leaf out of Marciano’s playbook and woke up early, washed my face and completed a light workout routine. Don’t get me wrong, I still believed that holidays and breaks should be devoted to relaxation, spending time with loved ones and eating to the heart’s content but in my mind it was still no excuse to completely slack off. I kept my inner drill instructor in his cage and limited the session to light stretches and calisthenics, no equipment or crazy routines that would have made David Goggins smile was required as my aim was to simply get the blood pumping and rouse my tightened joints from their slumber before attacking the rest of the day.
Gotta stay battle ready at all times.
Yes, I repeated the ritual on Christmas Day and Boxing Day – although no actual boxing was during on the latter as it would have been highly rude and insensitive to wake my entire household up with the sounds of gloved fists thudding against the heavy bag.
Anyway, Christmas Eve played out the way it did every year, with Mom preparing and then cooking all the Christmas meals while Pops and I cleaned up around the house and yard as Christmas films played on the TV in the living room; the two Home Alone films, Jingle All The Way, The Santa Clause and Love Actually. The DVD player always got a workout on this special day and it’s great to know that these films can still keep us entertained after all these years. The first Home Alone film was one of the first films that I can recall laughing myself silly at as a child outside of Disney or Looney Tunes cartoons although I’d also wondered at the time how the hell Harry possibly shook off the effects of having the top of his head burned off as though he’d just scraped his knee.
We’d put up the Christmas decorations in late November before we left for the trip so that surprisingly long and, at times, demanding and frustrating chore was well out of the way!
Dad and I gave some of our trees an extreme makeover by cutting off their dead branches and also cut the grass. Despite summer’s full bloom and the relative lack of rain (save for those crazy storms that plagued our area a few days before we left for the trip), the grass grew regularly and so the lawn mower was constantly dragged kicking and screaming from the tool shed to report for duty under that heat. Keeping the grass short had become a must-do after we’d found a snake in the yard a few years prior. You see, the warmer weather gave snakes and other vile vermin the incentive to use peoples’ properties as their hideout and on one particular day, we experienced it first-hand during a time when the grass had been neglected for some time, prompting an urgent call to the closest snake catcher in our area. Ultimately, the creature picked up the vibe and had checked out before the catcher arrived at our place and we never saw it again.
Meanwhile, Mom was in the kitchen whipping up enough food to feed a small army for the next couple of weeks, including turkey, ham, various soups and salads and a few desserts to top it all off. It was a generous and delicious spread and the temptation to refrain from feasting like Jughead Jones and Homer Simpson with the munchies was going to be hard work although Dr. B’s orders to not overwhelm the bowels by shoveling too much food down my pie-hole in one sitting never left my mind. I had absolutely no intention of spoiling my progress so far and so I stayed disciplined.
My sister arrived in the afternoon and stayed with us for the next few days. It was just like old times again.
After a day spent cooking, cleaning, gardening, watching Christmas films and everything in between we enjoyed a family dinner before getting dressed to attend the local church’s midnight service. We passed the five or so hours between after dinner and the beginning of service with conversations and also tuned into some of the rather cheesy Christmas Eve specials that they had on television. Pops also took a one-hour nap before he changed clothes. Me? I gutted it out all the way until after the service. Staying up for that long isn’t always easy but I got used to it over time, especially since I’d adopted a ‘night owl’ phase during a majority of my twenties. My parents used to shake their heads at my weird sleeping habits but truthfully, I did some of my best thinking and reflecting in the hours shortly before, during and after midnight, when I knew that the whole world was in dreamland and so I was guaranteed some uninterrupted time for myself.
Besides, more often than not my hyperactive brain takes quite some time to calm down and drift off, in most cases at least twenty minutes after lights out. On bad days, it can take longer than two hours and I end up lying in the dark, wide awake thinking – and sometimes worrying – about random stupid shit that probably won’t matter in the long run. I guess it’s my brain’s way of purging itself before finally nodding off.
Of course I have come to value the power of sleep and rest and try to get to bed now as early as possible, ideally before 10pm, and looking back those boneheaded aspirations to be a rebellious night owl may have contributed to the colitis. Sleep is a vital part of the body’s recovery and perhaps my stupid immune system panicked and thought that my body was at war with some phantom intruder and sprang into action, only to mistaken my bowels for the enemy like some damn rookie moron in the platoon asking to be court-martialed.
Stupid youthful ignorance.
But fuck it, no point getting hung up on the past. In life we win some and lose some.
Gotta own your failures as much as your victories, Boy. Be accountable for that shit.
Anyway, my family and I sat through that one hour service in the middle of the night, fortunate to find vacant spots to sit as the church was packed to the rafters with families young and old. Shoot, some of the kids below the age of ten in attendance were still full of beans at this hour and I was unsure if they had slept during the day, were buzzing due to the Christmas season or had already ingested one too many candy canes (perhaps all three?) but this would be the one time of the year that they are allowed to stay up long past their bedtime so I guess they’re making the most of the experience.
Christmas Day was celebrated at my aunt and uncle’s home before spending Boxing Day at my sister’s apartment. Both gatherings were rather small compared to my childhood since time brings plenty of change and over the years some relatives have moved interstate or overseas but we kept up traditions as best as we could and found ways to keep up with some of our other family members living further away. In both scenarios the food was plentiful and might as well have unfolded in a full house given the boisterous nature of the conversations and anecdotes. I’m more of a listener rather than a talker when it came to these gatherings but it did feel good to spend time with the family and share stories, laughs, jokes and good food with them during the festive season. Both days also involved a contrast in the type of food served, with the food that my sister, cousins and I grew up eating served up by my mother and aunt while my sister served up something a little more ‘modern’ and not quite as calorie-dense and heavy but nonetheless still delicious and which my devoutly religious aunt joked was her penance after a day of living sinfully, food-wise, the day before.
Numerous photos of the meals that we enjoyed were also taken and sent through social media to other relatives to show them what they were missing out on! We received more than a few hilarious responses for our troubles.
Oh, and true to my word, I enjoyed myself during those feeding frenzies and helped myself to generous servings but I stopped short of stuffing myself until I was more stacked than a teenager’s closet. It was a difficult lesson in willpower but I stopped once I felt that the balloon was about to burst. Ever since the colitis I’d come to loathe the feeling of a sore and heavy stomach. I’d all but completely recovered from this disease but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel somewhat panicked whenever I felt a disturbance of any kind in there.
Boxing Day ended with a quiet dinner at home with my parents before calling it a day at around 10pm. It had been a great few weeks, from the Christmas gathering at the Wing Chun Academy to the one-week holiday in Tasmania, culminating in Christmas celebrations with the family and of course, I was pleased to have been able to reclaim my health in time for these few weeks. There were five days left in the year 2018 and I was feeling good, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.