Welcome Anil. Great to have you sharing your first Christmas memory with us. And it’s a very Aussie Christmas!
Our first Christmas ever
I came to Australia in 2011 with my husband Ozan. That year on Christmas we were living with the loveliest family; Ertan, Stephanie and Daniel Kagan. Ertan is a Turkish relative of mine but I had only seen him just a couple times, back in Turkey. Now he has lived here for over 25 years with his Australian wife Stephanie. Their son Daniel was the cutest teenager back at that time. Now he’s an adult. Well, almost. They treated us like the second and third children of the house.
As a part of this family, far far away from our own, we were invited to their big traditional family Christmas lunch. It was going to be our first Christmas ever!
Before heading off, Stephanie gave Daniel’s presents. I thought only children receive gifts but then she gave us some too. Oh wait, we were children too! There were remote controlled helicopters for Ozan and Daniel. And for me a water colour pencil set, an amazing sketchbook and some other amazing drawing staff. And for Ozan and me, some Australian wildlife posters and toys.
The lunch was at Stephanie’s aunt’s house. I don’t remember who prepared the meal but I think all adults were in the kitchen while Daniel and I were decorating ginger breads. I don’t remember eating them though. Were these only for decorating? Anyway… On the meal they tried to teach me how to eat prawns properly but I was hopeless (I still am). Everything was delicious, except the Christmas crackers. No, I didn’t eat them. I didn’t get most of the jokes inside them but the paper crowns were funny. I don’t know why nobody wore them. I did.
Then everybody gave presents to each other. What? Wasn’t it only for children? We didn’t buy anything for anyone. Anyway, children are excused. Oh and thanks for the chocolate!
While we were enjoying water-guns and helicopters, Stephanie and her mum, came in to play baseball. I thought it was a game invented for American teen movies only. Apparently it was real. And the players were hilarious. A super fast granny, a hyperactive teenager, a 45 years old woman and a Turkish guy, who had no idea what was going on, were running around. I just watched, but never understood what they were running for. (To describe you the picture I had in mind: grandparents don’t run where I came from. They even hardly walk. The game they play mostly is backgammon.)
We came back home, exhausted and sunburnt but happy. We stuck the posters Stephanie bought on our wall; “Venomous Australian Snakes” and “Common Australian Spiders.” I played with my brand new painting toys. Ozan broke his helicopter (then Daniel’s.)
I still have my awesome watercolour pencils and sketchbook, almost unused. I don’t have the heart to use them, except for special occasions, like remembering that first Christmas day:
PS: When a 2.5 metre long snake came into our room, we tried to identify her looking at our poster. We couldn’t because it was a lovely carpet python, which didn’t make it in the “Venomous Australian Snakes” list. We were scared to death anyway.
Anil Tortop is a children’s books illustrator and lives in Brisbane, Australia. Her latest books are River Riddle and Granny Wait for Me! She also works as an animator and character/concept designer, but has been called away from this affair as her relationship with children’s books becomes more serious. Nowadays, she lives with her husband in Brisbane. In their small home studio together, they call themselves ‘Children’s Booksmiths’. You can find Anil at her website: aniltortop.com.
More on the Carolinas later but Pam Vaughan (official photographer for the New England conference last weekend) has just sent me oodles and poodles of photos … so if you don’t want to see piccies of me in action – then look away now! There are photos of me with friends, of me panelling, photos […]