Three Days Before Christmas: A short story
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
Three days before Christmas , A short story
by William Skinner
I must have been around nine or ten years old, although childhood friends believe it could have been even much younger. I recall that Christmas in the island was about deadlines. Talk about productivity and creativity all blended into one production that you could never forget. Believe me, when people say they miss the ole time Christmases it is really another way of saying they miss hard work!
The entire village went into Santa Claus mode. The Christmas music was in full blast coming from a box they called redifusion; school boys called it Redeyefergusson. Never quite got that but I called it so too. As soon as school break for Christmas, we knew the hard work was coming. First, growing up in post independence Barbados was no joke, we were more British than de British! So, Britan, as we called, it had snow and we had to have snow too.
Our snow came in the form of some white marl form a quarry we only knew as Manning Quarry. Bucket after bucket had to be transported from down in the gully, we actually called it a gully, where the marl hole was located and transported to the houses. Once there we transformed the yards and in front house to lily white. Now those buckets were the same ones used as containers for the imported red butta from over and away and the handles were from a very strong wire , so they could be a bit hard on the palm of our hands.
However, bringing the marl was in addition to weeding all the bush from around the house; giving the chattel houses a fresh coat of paint; caning chairs; changing the congolium in the kitchen and shed roof, that’s like the dining area of our modern homes and of course making sure that the pit toilets were cleaned of their human deposits. Most villages had their specialists for this very technical work. Some say dirty but I say technical because as a youngster , I rememba a gentleman clean a pit and then eat a cheese cutter without washing his hands ; he ate the cutter right down to the piece he was holding between his thumb and another finger. That’s very technical stuff.
So with handy men in great demand and the Christmas music blasting from redeyefergusson, we finally get in the home stretch and we smelling the golden apples and starting to see all the old baking pans make their appearance. I don’t know why but with all this preparation, nobody was ready three or four days before Christmas because everybody seemed to want to carry the ritual right up to Christmas Eve. Everybody hustling and bustling going into town and rushing back almost on a daily basis and all we hearing as children is: do this, do that, bring this, bring that. Very close to child abuse. Yes we enjoyed Christmas to the max but we worked our butts off too.
And then like magic Christmas Eve arrives and suddenly around four or so in the evening everybody house shut down and the real competition begin. We as youngsters still outside playing but we soon will get the call to come inside because outside of people getting their last minute supplies and handy men trying hard to please everybody with fixing this and fixing that, the time had really come to put on the finishing touches to the inside. So the mahogany chairs get a good coat of varnish and the look pretty pretty and the congolium in the kitchen and shed roof shining but rolled up waiting to get put down at the last minute. In the mean time, the baking pans done grease down with a white thing we called lard; it meant that the time for baking the cakes and sweetbread was approaching, and making sure that the ham is prepared for the great boil, everything was set for Santa to come down the chimney that could not be found on a single house!
So Christmas morning arrives and all the hard work like it pay off because the big surprise is who got the best looking curtains and in very rare cases who use back de same curtains from last year. The funny thing was that we dropped to sleep Christmas eve with: the house in disarray; de ham still boiling; the oven still baking the bread; not knowing what we going to wear to church Christmas morning and some Christmas trees still not up. But we woke up the Christmas morning and like magic everything spic and span and the presents under de Christmas tree.
Suddenly I hear a voice say: Boy, wake up um is three days before Christmas and you aint do nothing yet! Yuh got to bring marl; weed around the house; help the carpenter put up the paling; go next door and see what old Ms. Brathwaite want yuh to do; yuh gotta to go down in the Bayland and get the golden apples from Ms Headley; ah got to carry yuh in town to try on a pair of shoes; yuh still don’t know the words to the poem yuh reciting at the church Christmas concert…boy yuh got plenty to do and um is three days befoe Christmas and you laying down dey dreaming . Get Up and do something ! Not a ting ‘round hey en get do yet.