THE Christmas holidays were probably the most memorable of all my childhood experiences.
From the special choice of food and drinks that were prepared to the music that played at that time of year, there seemed no greater ambience than that set by the Christmas season.
From around mid-November, there were signs of Christmas all around. Signs and banners were stretched across main streets in the city, stores were stocking up on more than just the basic necessities, and the sidewalks became more clustered with shoppers.
At home, the smudged walls, floors and ceiling finally got their annual dose of serious dusting and scrubbing to remove all the dirt, grime and spider webs that marked the year that was.
I lived with my grandmother Elaine and, as grannies go, nothing was left to chance. In December, she would open the large earthenware bottles which contained sliced five-fingers (carambola) and rum. That was a key ingredient in her fruit cake recipe which brings to mind that whole cake-making experience that still resonates with me years later.
About two nights before Christmas, Granny would have my cousins, my brother Brian and I assist her in mixing the cake batter. It was an experience none of us kids took lightly. We all knew that whoever got the job of beating sugar, essence, eggs, butter and carambola into a rich blend, also got the chance to swipe an index finger worth of the good stuff when Granny wasn’t looking.
After mixing, the batter was poured into several pans and doomed to hundreds of degrees of heat. Within a few hours, the rich, smooth aroma of Granny’s recipe would fill the room. It would be at least one more day’s wait, though, before any of us would be able to feast on the cake, or the pepperpot, or the mauby, or the sorrel drink that she would prepare that night.
I remember the brittle Christmas tree that had long served its useful purpose being lit by red and green and blue and yellow lights. Granny was a woman of tradition and that tree was doomed to honor the Christmas tradition until its last bulb no longer worked.
On Christmas morning, we woke up to the realization that Santa Claus did deliver gifts after all, albeit not the gifts we told Granny to tell him we wanted. (Years later, I found out that Granny never gave the jolly good fellow our messages; she merely bought us a few gifts that her meagre salary allowed.)
Nevertheless, some of us did get those water guns and cap guns and other toys that marked our childhood fantasies of playing “Good Guy, Bad Guy” roles. The girls got dolls that cried and burped and changed clothes dozens of times a day.
Sadly, the day soon ended and with all the eating and drinking and playing and being good around Christmastime just so we’d get a gift, it was back to being naughty again. Ah, how I (and I’m pretty sure my cousins and my brother, too) miss those good old Christmases we spent with Granny.