CHRISTMAS has always been a great opportunity for families to get together.
It is a time where you can sit back, get comfortable, and bring in the new year with those who matter most.
And at one home in Heathcote, it truly brought new life to the phrase “a packed house”.
If you live in the same area as 85-year-old Jean Ring, you might have heard booming noise coming from her backyard on Christmas Day — as if you were next door to a rock show at the pub.
But it was just the sound of 33 distinct voices chatting away and catching up.
Five generations of the extended Ring family all together for the first time in years.
“You couldn’t really have a one-on-one conversation with anyone because it was like bees buzzing,” matriarch Jean said.
“Everyone was talking at once and laughing, it was really great.
“It’s been years since we’ve all been together.”
And while you would be forgiven for assuming that organising such an event would be a logistical nightmare, Jean said it came together easily.
“It just came up in conversation,” she said.
“I said, ‘let’s get everyone together’. They came from Queensland, Tasmania, Bendigo and Melbourne.”
Simple as that.
A marquee was set up to provide some much-needed shade, as well as 32 chairs (one guest was a baby), five large tables and two extra-large food tables.
A tent was also put up for those who could not fit in Jean’s three-bedroom house — there were already nine family members bunched together on air mattresses and couches.
And when it came to the food, Jean’s daughter Denise said that was a simple process as well.
“Everyone supplied something, so it made it a lot easier for us,” she said.
“There was definitely no shortage.”
“We had five chickens, seafood, salad, potato bakes, ham, lamb, pork, turkey, desserts … we had everything conceivable. It was a team effort.”
And while it was an enjoyable day for everyone involved, for Jean it was a prime opportunity to get everyone together while they could.
She said being 85 years old (with plenty still left) comes with a realistic outlook on life and what is really important.
After all, Jean lost her husband to cancer 18 years ago, as well a son and grandson in the past 10 years.
“No-one knows what tomorrow brings, do they?” she said.
But when asked whether there was a plan to bring the gang back again next year, Jean replied with a sharp “no”.
“It was definitely a one-off,” she said.
So, she will gladly settle for a framed family photo up on the wall in her beloved Heathcote home — a nice reminder of the noise, the smell of the food and feeling of the early summer air.