Christmas afternoon we head to the beach in true Australian style. From the carpark, it seems that there is a thick, long band of seaweed. Nonetheless, we run down the sandy slope to the beach.
Robyn (Jarrad’s mum) and Jarrad’s stepdad (also Peter) are with us for Christmas. Together they, Jarrad, and the four kids run into the water to swim. Me? I lie down in the shade on the sand to listen to an audiobook in blissful peace.
My book has barely started when I pause it because of a commotion. Jarrad’s stepdad has noticed two dark shadows next to his legs in the water. And the fins. For a few long seconds, he wonders if he is about to be lunch for a pair of sharks. Then it dawns that they are dolphins.
The thick band of seaweed is not seaweed after all. It is salmon! The dolphins are herding the salmon. Every so often a dolphin will pick one salmon out of the school for a snack.
Almost before we know it, the dolphins have headed out to the deeper ocean again. We lose sight of them.
Jarrad’s stepdad walks up the steep sand dune to listen to the cricket in the car. Jarrad, Robyn, and the four kids are still swimming and splashing in the water.
I’m sitting up now, ipod away, watching for any dark shadows or fins. Ten minutes or so pass before I see the dark body leap up out of the water before disappearing back into the waves. I shout to Jarrad and the kids, “Dolphin! Dolphin!”
Jarrad runs out of the water for his camera. The kids move, mesmerised, towards the salmon. The school of fish part to swim around the people, seemingly just as anxious about people as dolphins. A group next to us grab their fishing rods and throw the line in amongst the salmon.
From the carpark, Jarrad’s step father has a bird’s eye view. Later, he tells us “There were three dolphins. It was amazing to watch the team work. It was like they were almost playing with the salmon. They were definitely herding them, the salmon were going just where the dolphins seemed to want them to go.”
The first salmon is caught on a fishing line as we all continue to try and get a closer view. I look at three-year-old Edmund and notice that he is in the water up to his arm pits. One more wave and he will be washed under. I run to him, grab him, and he struggles to turn around to face the dolphins and salmon once more.
I’m now wet, but I notice my six and nine year old daughters. They are near Jarrad, who is taking photos, and oblivious to anything that isn’t a dolphin, salmon or water. They are in up to their waists, and mesmorised by the dolphins and salmon. Lucy and Susan both continue to move deeper in to the water, even though they can’t swim well. I know that there is not long till they will be in trouble with the water.
I race Edmund to his grandmother. “The girls! Take Edmund!” Robyn looks around, sees them and starts running, “I’ve got bathers on, I’ll get them!” A young woman who we don’t know is within ear shot. She runs off towards the girls, too. She reaches them just as a wave nearly knocks Lucy over. I thank the woman over and over.
The kids stay closer to Grandma Robyn and I as we continue to watch, mesmerised by the scene in front of us.
The dolphins disappear, but the salmon remain close to the beach. A second, then a third salmon is caught on the fishing rods. Robyn and I joke to the man, “You’re not going to be able to eat three salmon.”
“Do you want it?” He asks.
“Oh, yes please!”
Hours later, Jarrad asks the fisherman, “Would you mind if I borrow your rod to catch one to replace the one you’ve given us?”
Jarrad walks into the ocean with the surf rod and has barely had the line in the ocean for a minute when Robyn and I back on the sand notice the rod bending, and Jarrad struggling to reel it in. Lucy runs over to him, and the fisherman shows Jarrad how to extricate the fish, the first one that Jarrad has caught. The fisherman says he doesn’t want the fish, that we can keep the second salmon as well.
That night Jarrad and his step father gut the salmons, and cut one into steaks. The other salmon goes into the freezer for another night. We cook the fresh salmon on the barbecue for Christmas dinner.
We think it is the best Christmas dinner that we could imagine. The kids refuse to eat any of the salmon, eating only the salad. What an amazing Christmas Day! What a delicious Christmas dinner!
Christmas in true Aussie style – at the beach, and a barbecue dinner!