‘Dad would have loved Barney so much’
AMONG the presents Barney Ross Gilbride, known as Boo Boo, or just Boo to his friends, will receive for his first Christmas this year will be a cattle branding iron; identification number R9Z.
That's his grandfather, Ross Geitz's, cattle brand, and Barney's mother, Laura Geitz, wants her little boy to have it; to have something belonging to her much-loved father who died on May 13, 2013, after a farming accident at their property near Allora on Queensland's Darling Downs.
"Dad would have loved Barney so much," Geitz, 30, says. "He would have been head-over-heels for him, and I know he'd love Barney to have his iron.
"It's just another way of keeping Dad with us, a way of helping Barney get to know his grandad, even though he'll never meet him.
"That's why I love taking him to the property at Allora, because Dad's presence is so strong there, and I can see and feel and show Barney things that were special to him."
Geitz adds that Barney will also, as per family tradition, be given his first cow to begin his own herd - although the cow probably won't be wrapped up and put under the tree.
The pull of Allora at Christmas is strong for Geitz, who is back part-time training with the Queensland Firebirds getting ready to rejoin the Brisbane netball team for the 2018 season, kicking off in April next year.
She's just returned from a visit to the picturesque Downs property with her husband, Mark Gilbride, 36, and Barney to visit her mother, Juanita, sister Carla and brother-in-law Tim, and their two children, Harry 5, and Ellie, 3.
While there, the two Geitz girls rolled their sleeves up and tackled their grandmother Betty's original Christmas plum pudding recipe.
"Carla and I made it together; it was a really special thing to do. It's the full, old-fashioned steamed pudding recipe, where we boiled the fruit, let it cool down, then put it in calico bags to hang up under the house.
"We felt very proud of ourselves once it was done - can't guarantee it will taste as good as Gran's though," she says, laughing.
But they won't be spending Christmas Day at Allora - instead the Geitz/Gilbrides will be throwing open the doors of their home in Bulimba, in Brisbane's inner east, to their extended family, with Barney turning 10 months old on the day.
"We will keep it as simple as possible, just chilled and relaxed," Geitz says.
"We'll go to church in the morning, then everyone is bringing something, beautiful hams and heaps of roast vegies, loads of seafood, prawns and oysters, then desserts, cheesecakes and Gran's plum puddings, and then we'll all lie on the couches groaning like we all do every year because we've eaten too much."
While the absence of Ross Geitz will be acutely felt, the arrival of Barney has brought much joy to the family and, to his mother, a sense of deep and profound contentment.
"Oh, I don't even know how to explain the level of love, it's so hard, isn't it, to describe? But I look at him, and Mark and I think how lucky we are, how precious this time is, how special it is to become a family.
"Barney just wants to throw everything and bang everything and be in everything, but at the same time he's so chilled, so relaxed, so happy. It's rare to see him not smiling - or eating."
Geitz says she wants "four or five children", even with the sleepless nights that go with it. "Barney is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me; I just love being a mum and I would love a houseful of kids at Christmas, the noise, the chaos, I really love that idea."
But Geitz also says that, like most first-time mums, after the arrival of her son, she floundered. "The first six weeks, I remember Mark thinking, what is happening here? How do people do this and live to tell the tale?"
Geitz says she's learnt to "listen to everyone, but also listen to your own instincts. Whatever works for you," she says firmly.
"Everyone has a different journey to parenthood and a different child, so while it's good to listen to what people say, ultimately you have to do what works for you and your baby. Do what makes you happy and what makes your baby happy."
For Geitz, what makes her happy - in between being Barney's mum, playing netball, and working as a brand ambassador (she has sponsorships with Suncorp, Samsung, Rebel Sport, Queensland Country Health, A. V. Jennings, and is a Commonwealth Games Ambassador), and running netball clinics with former Firebird Clare McMeniman - is teaching her son about the world's wonders.
"When I was a little girl growing up in Allora, Christmas always came at an exceptionally stressful time on the farm because it was harvest time.
"But at night, it would smell like summer and you could hear all the crickets, and everyone in Allora would put up their Christmas lights.
"A man named Ted Cowley (currently the Allora Show Society Patron) used to take his horse and carriage around the town and you could book your family's spot on it and he'd pick you up, and off you'd go to see the lights.
"It was magical, and that's the sort of thing, the sort of childhood I want Barney to have, those special family experiences and things that will always mean a lot to you."