For readers who may be in the Northern hemisphere, he explains that in Australia families and Christmas are ‘top of the list’ at this time of year because it is also the beginning of summer holidays and the end of the academic year.
So the warming weather reminds Mark Tronson of his 60 previous preparations for Christmas, which have also involved school and Uni exams for himself and his children, preparation for numerous different types of family summer vacations, end-of-year prize-givings and sports presentations, school concerts, school formals and parties (again he remembers his own and that of his children, particularly the ‘Debutante Balls’ of his three daughters) ... and of course choosing, making, and wrapping Christmas gifts.
He is fortunate now to have two grandchildren, and has realised how much they keep alive these personal family traditions.
However, Christmas is also an expensive time of year, with gifts to buy as well as all the expenses associated with the summer holidays and end-of-year events. It all costs money, lots of money. Should the credit card get a good going over, January can become a nightmare, so ordinary people are constantly trying to find ways to curb their spending or to find more creative methods to save money at Christmas.
Grand-parents are naturals
Grandparents know a few tricks of the trade, particularly in the ways of saving money. They have the time to look a little more carefully at where things might be less expensive and many have experience in a variety of crafts and now have the time to make treasured hand-made gifts.
The Tronson family has had a very long tradition of ‘making do’ and ‘making gifts’, and this continues because Mark’s wife, Delma, is also a talented craftswoman. Her passions are sewing, making elaborate hand-crafted cards, and seemingly (to Mark’s admiring eye) being able to make anything from what is at hand. Just recently at the Church Melbourne Cup Day luncheon, she won a competition for the best ‘fascinator’ made from supplied ‘recycled’ materials.
Observing other families, Mark sees that there are many things that crafty grandparents, now with more time on their hands, make for their extended families. Clothes are never far from the gifted sewer's touch, and how many times have any of us seen a grandmotherly figure knitting furiously at the bus stop, on the train, when visiting, in fact almost anywhere?
Many a grandad has a lathe or other wood working machinery and has tools in the shed, even if he has to unveil them from protective coverings and give them a loving bit of reconditioning. From such creativeness come such items that later become family heirlooms for future generations.
“Unfortunately, although my father had those skills, I have missed out on them,” laments Mark Tronson. “Although I am neither a wood or metal worker, I am a scavenger – more like my mother – and I am always on the look out for some item that is out of the ordinary or of such interest that I could turn it into something quite different and a wonderful gift to someone.”
He remembers one family Christmas long ago when his son, then about 6 or 7 years old, was fascinated by a roller coaster called ‘Thunderbolt Rides’ that used to be at the Gold Coast Dreamworld theme park, which the family had recently visited.
The little boy made it clear that a “Thunderbolt” for the back yard was on his Christmas list.
Mark purchased an old second-hand push bike for $5 and, with the help of a handy-man in the local congregation, got to work on it with fresh tyres, a bright yellow paint job, high mudguards, and bits added here and there until it became a most remarkable “Thunderbolt” bike!
With the help of another friend, the family kept it hidden until Christmas morning, when the delight of the little boy lit up the whole celebration for the proud parents!!
Mark and Delma Tronson look forward to having similar joyful experiences for many years to come, from the simple things they make for their own grandchildren.
All those at Well-Being Australia hope that all their readers can have similar simple pleasures with their own families; and they wish everyone the most wonderful and Holy Christmas and Holy and peaceful New Year.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html