Day 88* of the Shoe Challenge – Christmas Day Off Duty Sandals

Those of you who know me also know how much I hate the whole Australian tradition of wearing thongs or more correctly, rubber flips flops, to work.  Comfortable feet are happy feet but there is a time and a place for rubber footwear and during the working week in an office is not either.

It could be that this is because I have odd feet with vestigial little toes and more often than not forget to have a pedicure.

But the thing that puts me off about people wearing thongs to work most is the grimy feet factor.   Sydney streets are no cleaner than those in any other city after all.

However,  there are times that even I will relent and bung on a pair of thongs. Not to work though, I haven’t managed to overcome the ick factor of getting my odd wee feet out for public inspection yet.  On weekends and public holidays, my feet receive Get Out of High Heels Jail free pass.

Today was Christmas Day.

Today my parents are here with me in Australia. The last time I hugged my father was 5 years ago. I last held my mum just after the Minx was born 3 years ago.

On this day two years ago my mum had just found out that she had breast cancer.  From finding a lump to undergoing the panopoly of procedures that doctors have to use to destroy healthy and cancerous cells took about 6 months. The road to recovery has taken considerably longer.

It’s not easy watching someone’s illness unfold in emails and being stuck thousands of miles away with not enough money in the bank to fly back in case, just in case.

Sometimes it seems like the last few years have been chucked at me by some vengeful spirit out of complete ornery badness. Then I realise that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. My mum is living proof of this.

For me, without my parents, Christmas is empty, hollow, melancholy. My husband has been an orphan for the last three years. So my husband and I have learned to celebrate Christmas entirely for the sake of our children with our own burgeoning family traditions. Through time, our traditions, while not lifting the deep sadness that I feel being so far away from my family, have helped me to focus on looking at what I have, not what I am missing.

Our traditions include:

1.   leaving out Oreo (R) cookies, milk and carrots for Santa or his formally appointed agents or representatives (they always leave a bit of a mess behind):

2.  Going to Mass as early as possible to focus on the spiritual significance of Christmas and delay the frenzy of ripping and frenetic activity that gift unwrapping necessarily entails.

It is fair to say that I am the only one willing participant in this going to Mass exercise. The six year old, in particularly, starts asking loudly if it is time to go home yet from about 20 minutes in at which point I wonder whether getting him a set of Day of the Dead Rosary Beads might buy me a bit more time before dragging him out:

Day of the Dead Orange Skull Rosary by ARTISTAMUERTA on Etsy

3.  Home for breakfast of either pancakes or French Toast.

The 6 year old snarfled 5 slices this morning because “Grandma makes the best french toast in the world“.

5.  Opening presents

while everyone of legal drinking age gets stuck into the port:


Between the port and Christmas dinner, anything goes.

Today anything was kite flying.  There was no wind so we went for a bush walk instead. I was wearing thongs.


Great Plains Leather Sandals - not great for bush walks

My feet were mockit when I got back and I didn’t care.

Possibly the best Christmas day celebration that I have ever had.

Now I am off for a bath.

Happy Christmas x


* Strictly speaking the Shoe Challenge is meant to be for work days only.  Nothing like breaking with a few traditions though, right?

** Mockit is a great Scottish word for filthy, dirty and unwashed.

14 thoughts on “Day 88* of the Shoe Challenge – Christmas Day Off Duty Sandals

  1. very charming story. It was also a very splendid Christmas day for me too because I missed you too. I think as I get a little older my mind goes back to what was familiar to me as in, for example, mass. I liked the old Latin Rite mass and the more formal relationship between priest and congregation. The best masses I attended were in South Carolina. In S.C. Roman Catholics are not particularly prized as near neighbours and there are not so many in the State either. So, the Church, of neo-Gothic appearance, was very small and the Congregation equally small, just enough to fit in comfortably. Anyway, morning mass was a pleasure, the priest, friendly but, still a priest, and none of your “luvvy duvvy” stuff. The mass was traditional, the church doors were left open to allow the scents of shrub blossoms to filter through on a gentle cooling breeze. After Mass we could have a coffee and a doughnut and a wee chat with an intelligent priest. I enjoyed going to mass each and every day before going on the the University to take my first design class. I also liked the formality of the Latin prayers and traditional hymns. The hymns here in Oz sound very odd to me with the words rather clumsily related to a bunch of ill assorted notes. The congregation singing along as best they could with the usual rusty soprano leading the choristers. They invariably still sing with all their hearts and beings but, apart from the strength of the lungs, far too loudly and, of course, with occasionally phlegm cracking notes sprinkled here and there. Then there are odd Christmas carols with words that simply do not fit the music at all. However, such criticisms are not festive so I ask your pardon for making them. best Christmas wishes.

  2. I so love your eloquence. My family is just 4 kms up the road, but my in-laws are at the opposiste end of the earth. I know how lovely it is to have the people you love best in the world with you for Christmas. It is always a time of great joy for us, tinged though with a seasoning of sadness as my children are away from half their grandparents. Those hrandparents would get such a buzz from seeing them go nuts on this day of uber-celebration- there are some times – many, actually- when email and Skype and phonecalls and photos just don’t cut it. Merry Christmas to you and your extended family. xx

  3. Great read. How wonderful to be reunited with your family this Christmas. I can’t imagine so much time passing without seeing my parents. Must be very hard to be so far away.

    As for thongs, I hate them too. My peeve is probably due to the fact that people only wear them when the sun is shining.

    And I would totally go to church with you if I could score a pair of those rosary beads. Those are awesome.

  4. First off, love the sandals! Yet I agree, people tend to dress inappropriately to any number of venues including, but not limited to, work. Here in Florida this is especially a problem. I can’t tell you how tired I am of men who see no reason to dress in an appealing fashion when they are out in public. And they wonder why they are alone.

    I am so glad you had your parents with you this Christmas!!! In 1997 my brother was killed by a drunk driver, which immediately and permanently challenged my ability to ever enjoy a holiday. That first Christmas all I wanted to do was lock myself in my room and cry all day. But I had three children at the time and had to think of them…

    We have no family here in Tallahassee, so if we want to see family for the holidays we have to either travel, or someone has to travel here. Since my brother’s death we have spent every Thanksgiving, save one, with family. I do not like to travel for Christmas, but in the early years after my brother’s death my parents would travel here either before or after the holiday, though they were always home on Christmas day so they could go to the cemetery.

    It has been many years since my parents have been here for Christmas. My dad died in 2008 after a six-year battle with an incurable cancer. My mom doesn’t want to travel over the holiday, which I can’t blame her. She now has two graves to visit on Christmas.

    Like you, my sole purpose for celebrating Christmas is for my children. After my brother’s death the hardest thing to do that Christmas was to decorate because there was nothing festive about that time to me. I did as little decorating as possible, and have continued that “tradition” myself however, my children are now old enough to do the decorating of the tree and the house so I leave all that to them! And they do a bang-up job, for that matter!

    We too have had to formulate our own family traditions. My daughter and I bake cookies every year to give to neighbors and my husband’s clients (as well as to munch ourselves). I cook a huge Christmas dinner, preparing the turkey and stuffing on Christmas Eve to save time and aggravation and then my daughter and I cook up the other sides on Christmas day. I was so stuffed after Christmas dinner this year.

    With my daughter having moved out in September (she is 26) it was wonderful having her here over the weekend (she stayed over all weekend!). We are best friends and doing all the cooking together kept it fun.

    When life brings changes, as it will inevitably do, we adapt. That adapting may include finding ways to remember a loved one that has passed on. I have many ornaments on my tree in remembrance of my brother (and now my dad). I don’t think it is necessary, practical, or wise to try to ignore these events. Rather, we can use them to add meaning to our holidays and traditions. Though sometimes, we just have to cry.

  5. I’m so happy that Uncle A and Aunt M were there for Christmas! Ever since Chris and I moved to NYC, we’ve missed having Christmas with family. At first, it was wonderful. No one around to dictate how the day had to go. No agenda. If we wanted to spend the day in our pajamas (and trust me, we did), we spent the day in our pajamas. We ate what we wanted, when we wanted.

    Then, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th years away kicked in. Things weren’t so free-wheeling and fun anymore. We started to feel the loss. We wrap and ship pressies home to SoCal for the family. We skype on Christmas day. However, none of this can take the place of being in the same room, feeling the same energy and joy, having a real face to face conversation, and hugging your family.

    Dad loved Christmas, this has been established many times. One of my last memories of my father was on Christmas. He was already so very thin from the cancer and the chemo, but he came over to my aunt’s house for Christmas, the whole family together. We opened presents, popped the Christmas crackers, wore our silly hats, and it was a wonderful evening. Dad died less than a year later. He may have already been looking decidedly ill, but the memory of him happy on that last Christmas together will stay with me always.

    The same goes for my mum. She was also quite ill on her last Christmas, but she was well enough to enjoy one more Christmas with her grandson.

    They are both gone now. Dad 15 years, my mum 9 years. Sometimes that is unbelievable for me to think about. That both of them have been physically out of my life for such a long time. The memories and the sadness come back so strongly at the holidays, it is sometimes an actual pain. But then, we start to remember them and holidays past, and there is some comfort in the talking and the memories.

    One of these days, Chris and I always seem to promise ourselves, we will make it back home for Christmas. One of these days, the planets will align themselves, work will cooperate, and we will find ourselves sitting with family for the holidays.

    I’m so happy that the planets aligned for you this holiday season. There’s no telling where life will take us, but it’s up to us to make wherever we land our home. That home may be thousands of miles away from family, but we have to make it work. The sense of something missing will always be there, but in making new traditions and new memories, some of that pain can be lessened.

    Now, that is my teary story. All I have left to say is this…

    Growing up in Southern California, I wore flip flops constantly. When I first moved to NYC, I avoided wearing them for fear of contracting some hideous flesh eating disease from the filthy streets and mystery puddles of moisture you encounter around this city. However, my inner beach girl has resurfaced in the last couple of years, and I have succumbed to the call of the flip flop. (Notice I said “flip flop”, not “thong”. One goes on your feet, the other goes on your *****. I feel this is an important distinction to make).

    Lastly, your feet are perfectly acceptable for sandal/flip flop wearing. Get a pedicure, buff out those heels, and live it up.

    Happy Holidays!

  6. As each year goes by my relationship with Christmas becomes a little more … interesting.

    My mother died suddenly here at our home on Boxing Day 2007. Dropped dead of a huge stroke while playing with my youngest son. Christmas Eve we had been to Taronga Zoo with her for a lovely day, she was staying with my eldest brother. We picked her up on the morning of Boxing Day and drove back to Newcastle so she could see our new home for the first time.


    Since then, my mother-in-law (with whom I have a fraught relationship) has assumed that we will simply spend Christmas Day with her from now on. Every year.

    Well, it simply is not going to happen. And my mother is the reason why. The vast majority of my father’s own family had died by the time he & mum married. His one surviving sister used to insist on visiting their mother’s grave every mothers day. My mum, as a young mother, got to the point where she found mothers day a bit of a trauma. She was a mother, too, but her mothers day was being spent in a cemetery. So, she put her dainty foot down and said, “No more.”

    Well, no more to my mother-in-law’s matriarchal fantasies. It is crucial, whether our own parents are still with us or not, that we create tradition and memory for our own children. My MIL would deny me and my children that for her own desire to be ‘celebrated’. We don’t get on, it’s as simple as that, and from now on we will do our own thing for Christmas. If it happens to fit in with her, fine. If not, tough shit.

    Here’s the other reason my relationship with Christmas has become … anxious.

    This Christmas just gone we found that Mr 9 also has a heart problem. Not as severe as Mr 7 who had to be completely ‘re-plumbed’ when he was just 8 days old, but still serious.


    To Christmas.

    Fuck you.


  7. Hi, there! Happy New Year, etc. I’m so happy for you that you could have your parents with you. I have found myself longing more and more for the family that I thought I’d emotionally separated from long ago. I saw my brother over the holidays for the first time in more than ten years, and it moved me so much more than I expected.

    I wish you all the best, you and your beautiful little feet!

    • I have just introduced my mum to you via your blog. “This lady is a proper writer” I told her. I want to be you when I grow up. The IKEA poem is one that I am going to recite to myself when I get the screaming meemies from my inability to find anything in my midden of a house. Of course, I could get rid of stuff…

    • Hiya OzChewingGum – welcome to Law & Shoes. It was a pretty special Christmas. There were a lot of tears, but I am a great believer in the healing power of family and a good greet with them. Santa’s reindeer managed to keep the poop off the floor for which I am enternally grateful.

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