Reading about sports commentaries for Language & Communication, and suddenly I'm transported to my childhood, and spending Boxing Day at the races at Te Teko, near Whakatane.
Every year for Christmas most of my mother's family (and some of my father's) made the three-hour trek from South Auckland down to a tiny caravan park called Awakeri Hot Springs. I'm not sure who first discovered the park or why we all went there, we just did, for as long as I can remember. I'm also not sure what the appeal of a hot spring park was in the middle of summer...But I can still see the steam rising from the pool in the crisp early morning air...and picture our regular campsite in my mind, even though it must be over 15 years since I was last there.
Most of us had regular campsites that were near each other. My mother's parents had a caravan that they left in storage there every year, that was brought out and set up for them before we arrived. We had what's called a mini-camper: basically a tent on a trailer that folds out like a big accordion, with the trailer forming a bed. My sister and I slept in bunk beds in the awning. I remember being concerned about how Santa would know where we were, but Mum assured me he would find us. I also remember when my sister brutally informed me that Santa wasn't real (my *younger* sister, I might add), and our agreement to keep pretending anyway to get more presents!
But most of all, I remember the Boxing Day races. This was as much a part of the Christmas holiday ritual as anything else. My grandparents took their racing quite seriously. I just loved seeing the horses and the colourful jockeys and always wanted to go to the warm-up ring to get as close to the horses as possible. We were given a small amount to bet each year and I always bet on a grey horse, or if I couldn't find a grey one, the one with the most interesting name (my betting tactic hasn't changed, just ask the guys in the Betting Club at work!). I really didn't care if I won or lost (although winning was always good, a small win at the track would keep me in K-Bars for the rest of the holiday): I just loved the pageantry of it, and the sound of the commentator chanting, and the excitement.
The caravan park is still there, I think. One day I'd like to go back, just to see what it's like now, with the passage of years and my adult eyes. I wonder if it's the same people who run it. I wonder if any of my family still go back. I'm not sure why we stopped going.