Christmas in Mayo

Hi Guys….. I have a surprise for you. Well!! TADA!!!! One of my clients that I coach was a journalist with a published short story and today I’m sharing that story with you. Why you may ask? Good question. I’m sharing it to kill a few birds with one stone (I hope you’re familiar with that saying, if not ah well). So in coaching my clients I normally try to encourage them to get back into doing the things they love. It not only fills them with joy but it allows them to realise that even though time has passed you can still do whatever you want. So one….sharing his short story has excited him back to the time when he wanted to write an anthology of short stories, so based on this new drive we may get to read a few more. Second, from his story you get a glimpse into how life used to be and maybe kinda still is in the Country areas of Trinidad.

In Trinidad you’re either from the country or town, from north, south, east or west. His story brought back nice feeling of Christmas for me but my Christmas was totally different to his, because he is a country boy (like my husband) and I’m a town chick, so I didn’t do the things he mentioned. He is from the south while I’m from the east, but let me stop writing and share the short story. I hope you enjoy it and there maybe some things mentioned you don’t understand, but I’m sure you will get the gist. If you like the story give it a thumbs up in the comment section of my blog and check you later, love you guys.

CHERISHED DREAMS OF CHRISTMAS IN MAYO

A small rowdy bunch stood outside the iron gate at our home in Mayo Village, shadowy figures looming out of the darkness on Christmas morning. It was about 5:30am.

As fas as I could remember they were always there to greet us and seemed to appear out of nowwhere. All you heard were the dogs in the village barking, and before you knew it they were at the gate.

In the dawn I could barely make out the faces of Papa Flood, Slade, Aunty Patsy, Uncle Richie, Reuben, Pappy, Tantie Beryl, and Mandrake, the only East Indian in this riotous assemblage, and several other intoxicated villagers.

Pappy, who was already in his 80’s, was tall and sinewy, Papa Flood whose passion was hunting had teeth missing, spoke with a whistle. Slade, a robust looking individual was always picking fights and Aunty Patsy who chattered ceaselessly.

“Philip,” shrieked Aunty Patsy, calling out to my father. “You doh see us out by de gate? You better come and hold this dog.”

She was already a bit inebrieated from other early house visits and her speach was slurred. This eccentric group, somehow blessed with stamina and an insatiable appetite, was able to parang throughout the night.

Now mayo is a very small village so it was no problem to parang at a house twice during the course of the night. Whether the “paranderos” knew that was another matter.

It was considered a crime not to open the gate, and you were expected to come out no matter what the hour. My father, groggy from the night before, would rush out to greet them. Angela, my mother on the other hand, reluctantly made her way to the living room.

Newspapers had to be spread quickly on the wooden floor because the varnish had not yet dried. As the village crowd made their way in, I heard mummy shouting: ” All yuh better walk where the paper is. The varnish still wet.” Actually, she was the onlu sober one in the bunch, so what she was saying must have sounded like gibberish. By this time, my father, grabbing a bottle and spoon, joined the noise.

But this was Christmas in Mayo, what it was about: fmily and friends coming together for a bout of merriment, bacchannalia and abandon, a time when strictures were loosened.

It was a little rural village that took on a pulsating life of its own at Christmas. Just on outskirts of Tortuga, Mayo bristled with activity. The characters here one would meet no where else.

But even before the tuneless parang songs were sung at out modest home, our family had attended midnight mass, a solemn affair that didn’t last too long. My three younger sisters and I were all dressed, bundled up and marched up to church.

Whether we were sleeping or not made no difference to my parents.

“De best place to meet Christmas is church,” I remembered my father saying.

The Priest, Father Ging was not too keen on long sermons so before you knew it, it was over.

In those days having your father in church was a big thing. Apart from the older men, most fathers were conspicuously absent. My father though never missed a Midnight Mass.

Under an umbrella of stars and with a chilly breeze blowing, my father with my youngest sister in his arms, and holding my hand, trudged back home with his family. Mummy walked at his side.

On the way, scents and sounds punctuated the air. Some people would still be putting up curtains and some were already asleep. The parang band could be heard in the distance.

By the time we got home, tiredness took its toll. We eargerly anticipated Santa Claus’ arrival. As I made my way to the bedroom I often took one last lingering look at our spartan home: the new curtains were up, the smell of baked bread wafted through the air and the ham was still in the oven. The world itself seemed to take on a whole new glow. For a moment time stood still.

What stands out the most in my mind is the christmas tree that stood in the corner – a dried branch in a pot of sand. From it hung home made decorations made by my mother. In those days the tree remained unlit.

Our sleep was usually cut short by the paranging at our gate just before dawn. If signalled the arrival of Papa Flood and the rest. By the time they left, the ham was already whittled away, all the rum bottles were open and all that remainde of the manicou was the oil it was cooked in.

The floor with the wet varnish had footprints all over it. It was as if a whirlwind had passed.

The rest of the day was spent gorging ourselves on homemade ice-blocks and sweet fudge. A swim in the Mayo river which flowed at the back of our home was mandatory.

My Father always made it a duty for us to visit his mother, who lived almost poosite the Mayo cemetery. She was the most genial grandmother one could ever come across.

Looking back now, these simple people were part of the fabric of our lives. Each of them I held in awe. At that time they all seemed larger than life. even when my father joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the rum stopped flowing at our home, they still came.

These cherished memories live on and every Christmas I relive them. I can still hear Pappy’s quatro strumming and Auntie Patsy’s shrieks. The Old Church where we all celebrated Midnight mass has since been replaced by a new one, the house to house tradition has died out and Christmas in Mayo is quieter now.

Most of the stalwart characters have since passed on – Slade, Pappy, Flood, Patsy, Mandrake and my father – my idol. But these were memories of boyhood dreams I now cherish as a man.

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