I was glancing through my emails on my phone when George wandered into the hall at Westfield Drive. We greeted each other as George sat down beside me. “Must be a party on today” said George, as he glanced across the room. Before us were a row of tables neatly set up with white tablecloths and decorated with a Christmas theme. There was a shortbread biscuit in a clear plastic sleeve for each person. The top was tied with a red ribbon. A small card of welcome with the words “Wishing you Joy and Peace this Christmas” was attached by a ribbon to the plastic sleeve.
George turned to me and said; “I still play nine holes of golf on Wednesdays. It’s what keeps me going. How I look forward to meeting friends, hitting the golf ball and just enjoying the outdoors with green grass under my feet”. I was reminded again how much I enjoyed my conversations with George.
Peter was looking for the portable microphone for Megan who had just arrived with more things to carry into the hall than she had available hands. The last of the bonbons were unwrapped and placed on the tables. Peter quickly had the mic working as the one-two test was heard to echo around the hall.
As I passed by Barbara, Malcolm wished me happy birthday. He then congratulated me on reaching 90 years of age. “You don’t look ninety” he said. I was a bit taken back by his warm congratulations. My daughter had told me I looked an old man, but I was not that old. This was all a bit odd I thought. I quickly assured Malcolm that, while I might look old, I was not that old. Clearly Malcolm was confused.
Megan with microphone in hand was attempting to get everyone’s attention above the noise generated by conversations everywhere. By this time I had joined Frank and Joy at their table. Shortly after, Sadegh and Rex joined us.
Megan welcomed everyone, then proceeded to wish Frank a very happy birthday. We all joined in to sing happy birthday. When asked how old he was, Frank was not at all interested in having his age mentioned to those gathered. Then, some quiet whispers began to circulate around the hall. The penny dropped. The name Manson and Mason are very similar. It was not my birthday, it was Frank’s. One can only be left wondering who it was that turned 90 last Friday.
Glass jugs of punch appeared at the tables as the smell of freshly cooked food lingered. Bonbons were broken open and a range of coloured hats appeared on heads. A hot meal of turkey, ham, roast potatoes, peas and carrots was quickly served to over 60 people by the well organised caterers. Christmas pudding donated by Sharon Hyne and covered in custard followed soon after. It is worth noting that Frank, the birthday boy, had three spoons of cream on his plumb pudding and Sadegh had two helpings of baked potatoes.
Megan was back with microphone in hand to announce the arrival of members of the MUC choir. They assembled by the piano and accompanied by Jim Large and led by Ron Gaudion, they performed two items, ‘Marys Boy Child’ and an IONA Christmas song ‘Once in Judah’s Least Known City’, sung to the music of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. So well were they received, that by popular demand they were asked to sing again ‘Marys Boy Child’.
Tea, coffee sweets came out as the carols booklets were handed around. Lauris stepped up to the piano and with Megan leading, sixty voices were raised in joyful song to remember again favourite carols and the memories they evoked.
All too soon, that last sip of tea, a brief farewell to a friend of many years, and the Christmas luncheon was coming to an end. Vehicles and drivers were organised and slowly people began to find their way to the front door, some lingering briefly to speak with a friend from another table.
In no time the chairs were stacked up, tablecloths folded, and tables stored away. That hall which had provided the space that generated so much chatter, so much joy, with so many memories had fallen quiet. I was reminded again that it is the people who bring with them life and joy expressed over a simple meal shared with friends.