A Time to Re-gather

The views from the Panaroma House, as you approach Wollongong City from the escarpment top highway, are stunning. The generously sized car park can host a circus tent. The 360 degree experience that envelopes you, as you stand above verdant slopes, the ocean horizon and what seem to be be toy-like houses and container ships, does provide a sensational perspective of geography, psychology and priority. Sharon and I downed our red wine, I thought more could be done for this place and we let our cares of the world go away.

Inside the restaurant, a most smiling little boy of Italian background was carried by his older brother on the arms, followed by a sister and nanna. The youngest sibling exuded the spirit of the season, obviously embracing the company of his family and relishing in the innocence of his age. This was despite the child having a stump of a left arm. He did not draw attention to it and I did not not notice it until after a while. I admire his spirit, especially the glow from his eyes, his happy demeanour and in his enjoying the moment.  At this very stage, I only realised and recalled what "happy holidays" actually can mean.

Some of the waiters at the in-door Piazza restaurant facility at the Bankstown Sports Club south-west of Sydney CBD are obviously and stubbornly proud and make a show of ignoring selected customers.  You may try to call or signal to them in a  friendly manner, and they intentionally look away, smug in their perceived achievement of ignoring customers. Even as we arrived or left, they took much effort to ignore us. They were working for the only Italian place open in this Piazza that day, for the other facilities were closed.  I was so glad to have encountered them, for it reminded me to be more appreciative and thankful for others who did not behave like this. Like the Celtic chap at the bar counter in the club, or the Indian student at a petrol station, who has been working non-stop, both since Christmas Eve. Like our mates, family and others who do try as far as they can to be, and are, nice to us.

The musical duet performing at the Koppen Terrace were engaging as they belted out retro hits on  a lazy public holiday afternoon, in another part of the Club.  Here was such a contrast to those waiters - the two of them sang and played their guitars with such an enthusiasm, it seemed they knew their passion in life is to pass on their source of joy to others, even if for fleeting moments, through song and engagement with their audience.

Another day, another place. The marinated ham slices prepared by Ely and Ray were a hit with all of us at the dining table in Carlingford. Cousin Susan had made a very crispy and aromatic roast pork that day, and I was seated next to a an Apple engineer who worked on support for IPhone products at a secret location in Sydney CBD.  Edward was sociable, loved his curry and was even an alumni of the university where I work. I did not have to drive back that evening, so I chilled out more than usual, as I was staying overnight with Susan and Boo Ann - and next morning had my looked forward breakfast, that of toasted Lawsons bread slices with coconut-based kaya spread and Boo Ann's very thoughtful fruit blended drink to start the day.

Alternate days of heat and overcast coolness characterised the Christmas long weekend.  At best, it was humid daytime followed by relatively cooler nights. I had joined the Campbells for lunch - it was a gorgeous weather time for the various kids running around (like Emerson, James, Ben, Nick and Tom) in a Queensland-like setting of their home. Danielle had cleverly-made paper strip decorations of festive balls hanging from the ceiling of the recent extension to the house.  Shane was responsible for getting the family ham ready - and it was tasty on the carvery plate.  Bridget's blonde yellow hair was shaping up well even on a warm afternoon - and Nievy was enjoying the water slide with the others.  At Chris and Charmaine's, I was delighted to actually see the gingerbread house, sit with Cait and Ash and meet their friends.

It is this re-gathering and reaffirmation of attitudes, approaches and people that count in our lives which will hopefully ensure that illusion would never start.  Without illusion, we value better what we already have and re-channel our personal energy away from distractions and what does not matter.  I value a buddy who tries to go out with me, despite having inter-state visitors and relatives - and I do not mind if he cannot for now.  Recently I came across someone from Sydney's eastern suburbs whom I have known for a long time now, but just realised (again), how refreshingly engaging he is with friends, customers and mates. I enjoy interacting with Miguel, whose English language skills are better than my ability to articulate in Spanish, and that despite what perceived barriers arose from this situation, I find myself communicating with him, and he with me, out of sheer will and fun.

Like the spunky little boy with a stumped arm, I have understood better the festive message for me - to re-gather all our wits, energy and sense of fun to share them with others, and never to take good things for granted.

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