Sunday, November 23, 2008

On the first day of Christmas

Well not quite. This morning, in one of those weird feel good moods the Christmas tree went up. Previously denial had been the order of the day. Since there are no young'uns anxiously awaiting the arrival of St. Nick, other than sentimentality or tradition, a Christmas tree and decorations serve little purpose, other than to give the dog further distractions. It is more trouble than it is worth, like making Christmas cakes or pastelles. Why bother?

J9 reminded me that it was almost the start of Advent, so if there was any "Christmassing" to be done, this was the time to get it together. So over the first freshly brewed cup, the hound and I explored the nether regions of the spare room cupboards and dug out the tree in it's Carib case, decorations from shoeboxes and washed Ma Wallah's crystal punch bowl. The side board upon which the tree resides was given the requisite application of lemon polish. This is as close as it ever gets to the manic Trini custom "nicening" up the house for the season. For you foreigners, Trinis go through an orgy of window washing, rug beating, carpet shampooing, floor polishing, painting etc BEFORE putting up Christmas decorations, lights, new curtains and changing out cushion covers. This is our version of spring cleaning and believe me, it is something all Trini children dread because they know, for the weeks starting in mid-November to almost Christmas Eve, the insanity will prevail.

That said, I admit that it's something that I've never really subscribed to; when I had husband and household, we didn't put up curtains, nor did we ever do anything around the house than maybe some artsy fartsy Christmas decorations. One year we had a nine foot live Christmas tree that we hewed down from the forest, illegally, stuffed into the back of our sub-compact and drove home with tree on the gear shift, all the seats and just about filling the whole car. For months after we kept finding pine needles and a permeating resinous smell. The neighbours would peer through our glass sliding doors, sans curtains, to view the monster and it became somewhat of a neighbourhood tourist attraction. You never knew who you were going to come face to face with pressed up against the glass when you came down the stairs.

Another year, the artist, the real one not me, made a wooden tree with electric twinkle lights stapled on so that after dark you saw the outline of a tree. Then there was the year of the papier mache, banana Christmas tree, that one was mine, which stayed up until Carnival because it took so long to make that we didn't have the heart to take it down. The year of the "stained glass" doors,when we painted a large poinsettia and candles on the sliding doors was a particular favourite, the neighbours couldn't see in for a change. Our only other real Christmas tradition, other than the artist not remembering to buy his wife a present, was the pre-Christmas ham, baked in our toaster oven because we didn't acquire a stove until nearly four years after we moved in. The ham was usually bought in Tru Valu Valpark around the last week in November and baked by the first. One year we had to saw it in half to get it to fit and then cook it in stages. Hilarious, we stayed up late, the all pervading smell of baking ham making our mouths water, puttering around until it was done and then breaking out the rolls. Of course by the second week we were loath to see a ham far less to have anymore. Is it any surprise that last, acrimonious, relative filled Christmas I balked and produced a large beef roast.

My first experience of real trini garlic pork came from my first post divorce landlord. Of Portugese descent, he, and his Columbian wife introduced me to new things, but the garlic pork was out of this world that first Christmas morning when my fellow tenants and I joined the family for breakfast. Fried crisp with lashings of scrambled eggs, smoked ham on the side, Consuelo's arepas, queso blanco and freshly brewed sorrel, it was my new start. And though there was no tree in the living room that year, life was good.

Christmas is a time for family, for coming together, for forgiving, so many things to so many people. It is also one of those times with the highest suicide rate and known for provoking depressive bouts. One year, in the midst of event managing what felt like hundreds of Christmas parties, here was little inclination to do anything for my own house. Having fluffed three hundred and fifty bows there was no way I was going to do anymore. The boys on my crew gifted me with a bag containing a couple dozen beautifully made bows for my house and Rans, my boss, gave me a Christmas present that I can never thank him enough for. It makes you realise that what's important, it's not the price of the gift, the amount of food or how big the show, you know what's important to you.

This year, my little three foot Christmas tree, bought in a pit of pique three years ago when I decided rather arbitrarily one day that a tree was going to go up, looks like Helen Bhagwansingh's Christmas shop exploded on it. It is gaudy, obnoxious and would probably give Martha Stewart hives, at least there are only two colours, red and gold to go with the green. But it is a happy little thing, out of reach of Zeus who would roll the decorations around with great relish, a beacon of cheer in a rather sombre space. But it's there, despite my Christmas grinch spirit, because really, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The dozen pastelles and fruit cake have been ordered, they'll be packed into my suitcase and taken to my brother, this is as close as he gets to celebrating Christmas too. And for a change I'm not so worried about the world, to borrow from one of my favourites, "throw your arms around the world at Christmas time".

6 comments:

Gabriela said...

When Christmas is coming, I start feeling sort of blue. I can't explain why exactly, but I really get moody.
But don't think I get along the holidays by myself. There are lots of people I care for and lots of people who care about me, and I love giving them presents because I know what's important to me.
Thanks for the sharing!

Marcus the Coffedude said...

God Coffee....you really reach in don't cha? I admit I am a bit of a scrooge/grinch at Christmas in my adult life. For me my childhood Christamases were so glorious and exhilirating that the reality check when you hit adult-hood really, really hurt. The end result is that I am a bit conservative and measured with my kids at Christmas and aim for more of a consistent approach all year around as opposed to only good stuff at Christmas and the rest of the years sucks.

Oh yeah they get great gifts and the tree will be up by the 2nd week of December (no sooner! bah humbug) and we will have the ham and maybe even try making a couple of pastels ourselves etc. but nothing overdone and everything focused on our little family being together rather than on the sheer intensity of traditional Trini christmases.

Marcus the Coffedude said...

b.t.w. coffee, I am readingthe "Catcher in the Rye" again so this may be contributing to my Grinch-like outlook!

Marcus the Coffedude said...

ok, ok...I just read Wuzdescene's post on "pastelle" and I suddenly dont feel Grinchy anymore!

http://wuzdescene.com/2008/11/23/pastelle.aspx

Wuzdescene said...

Whoa .... de Coffeedude hit de nail on de head fuh me ... dat first paragraph .... is exactly how I feel .... well up tuh de 'really hurt' part ... cuz I doh have kiddies ....

.... and putting up a christmas tree was always the worst part of Christmas for me .... that is ..... until I learnt to make one .... out of balloons .... so since is only me .... and de whole tree ting doh really matter .... I now do my balloon thingy .... and it makes me feel very happy with myself .... and my overflowing talent :-)

PS: I don't do ANYTHING else ... no extra cleanin up ... no new curtains .... no ham .... no pastelle .... no presents .... no cards .... no nuttin! .... yeah I'm a scrooge!

Wuzdescene said...

oh .... and Coffeedude .... da'is you brudda .... I still in grinch mode ...

.... cuz altho I absolutely LOVE pastelles ... I think I turned myself off of them .... by showing them too much LOVE .... cuz I would order them all year round .... so they kinda lost their Christmas appeal ... but glad tuh see ah instill ah lil Christmas spirit in you tho ....

so is no Pastelles fuh me dis year ... ah fed up of dem ....