That year, our family had a particularly busy and social Christmas. Back in November, I had received a call from my Cousin Peter in Australia to say that he and his family were coming to Canada for a ski holiday and would love to see us. I was delighted to hear from him. Years before, in the days when I was a free-wheeling single girl, his sister, Julie, had come to Vancouver and we had had great fun together. Therefore, I looked forward to meeting Peter, especially since he and his wife, Marliese, had two daughters, Catherine and Janelle, who were close in age to Caroline and Katie. The family had been living in Singapore in recent years, with a lovely home complete with maid-service provided by Peter’s employer, so I hoped they wouldn’t be too taken aback at our chaotic home.
It transpired that Peter and Co planned to arrive on December 18 and be in Vancouver until January 2, when they would head to Whistler to ski. Then they would return to town for two days mid-January before heading home. It also transpired that they were hoping that we could put them up while they were in town. This I had not expected, but with great trepidation, I agreed. The trepidation was twofold. Although by the 18th we would have finished our run of private puppet gigs, we would be performing our public show at the Shadbolt on December 23rd, which meant we would be in our production week when our guests arrived. The second cause of trepidation was, of course, Max. How could I get through two weeks of house guests without an incident? The prospect was daunting.
However, my fears proved groundless and the visit turned out to be wonderful. On the first day, I issued two directives to Catherine and Janelle:
1) Unlike Singapore, we don’t have servants in this house so everyone cleans up after themselves;
2) On absolutely no account is anyone to touch Max. You stay a minimum of two feet away from him and never try to play with him. You say, “Hi, Max,” and then completely ignore him.
The girls nodded cheerfully and appeared to comply. Peter and Marliese were the perfect house guests. They were easy-going and insisted on taking turns at helping with chores. They cooked their own breakfasts and organized their days, but joined us for mutually compatible activities such as dog walks, shopping or a theatre trip to the Playhouse to see The Importance of Being Earnest. Marliese helped me finish sewing the puppet costumes, and on show day, the whole family came along, helped set up our theatre, and acted as ushers. The show was a sellout. We should have done two performances as we could have filled the theatre twice, and what a treat it was to have eight enthusiastic workers pitching in to help instead of our usual four. After the show, we struck the set in record time, and then went Christmas shopping in the evening.
Christmas Day was fabulous. The four giggling girls tucked down in Caroline’s room on Christmas Eve, and the Christmas morning stocking opening was a party in itself. The heavy snowfall was a thrill for the Aussies, who had never experienced a white Christmas before. Mum and Dad came over for dinner, and later in the evening, after we’d driven them home, there were still enough people to play games and tackle a jigsaw puzzle. As our girls continue to say to this day, “It was the best Christmas ever!”
The week following Christmas was lovely too. More friends and family came to visit our houseguests, and in between the socializing and the shovelling, we went for long rambles in the snow. The girls accompanied us to Caroline’s skating lessons and enjoyed watching her prowess on the rink. Then on New Year’s Eve, we threw our usual house party, but with the cousins helping, it seemed a breeze compared to the usual amount of work. New Year’s Day was easy too. After a long lie in, everyone pitched in to clean up after the party. Then we took Max for a walk along the Fraser Foreshore, after which we spent a lazy afternoon finishing the jigsaw puzzle.
When the Aussies set off for Whistler, we really missed them. Max, who had managed to be relatively angelic during their stay, reverted to misbehavior and found some fish guts to roll in on his very next walk. We were busy, too, as we had to brush up Die Fledermaus, the Sequel for the Vancouver Guild of Puppetry New Year’s party which was to be hosted in our home on January 8. There were financial items to wrap up after the Shadbolt show, too, plus preparations for the next round of shows scheduled for the spring. Before we knew it, January 19 rolled around and the Aussies were back for their last two days. We celebrated their last evening by all going out to the Souvlaki House, which was something of a disaster for me since I became extremely ill from underdone chicken, so I was very fragile the next day when we drove them to the airport.
Since the holiday had gone so well without any dog-related problems, we brought Max out of the car so that he could say goodbye to the cousins, albeit at the usual designated two-foot distance. I was hugging Peter and Marliese and saying our farewells when suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced round to see Catherine going bonk, bonk, bonk on Max’s head, roughing up his ears, and bidding him a fond farewell. When she looked up and saw my horrified expression, she grinned and said, “No worries. I’ve been doing that the whole time we’ve been here.” Everyone howled with laughter and Max looked smug. So much for Mummy being in charge!