Tuesday 26th July, 2005


It always ended too soon

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By Lisa Allen-Agostini

Mummy worked for Daddy’s company, a muffler and water tank factory in Laventille, about ten minutes’ walk from our house in Morvant.

Saturdays I’d make my way to Daddy’s factory, in the ground floor of his house, and spend the day sitting in the office, prowling around the factory floor or running in the razor grass in the big back yard.

August holidays were two months of Saturdays.

A smell—of dust and thick engine grease and welding rods and rust and ozone—clung to everything in the factory, including me and Daddy and Mummy, by the end of the day. The office was no exception.

Enveloped in that smell, I would play grown up and sit in the office sometimes, studiously recording the numbers of the vehicles that came in for work on the twin ramps over the six-foot-deep pit where the mufflers were installed.

Oxy-acetylene torches flared in front, roaring dully and pitching orange sparks over the welders in their thick, round goggles and navy-blue coveralls. In the back, arc welding, this with red Lincoln plants and zinc-coated rods, also pitching sparks, but smelling like singed hair and sounding like science-fiction: “ziewzzzz….”

In the grassy back yard, Daddy (for reasons perhaps buried in his Quinam upbringing) kept two goats. They stank awfully and ate everything that wasn’t metal, but they produced the sweetest milk I’ve ever had. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me, about ten years old, grinning and hugging a brown goat, in the grass, next to some old iron.

Though we did go to the US a couple of times, most holidays found us only going as far as Tobago.

We took the boat over, Mummy and my brother and sister and I, playing all-fours on the rolling deck with strangers who tried to pick up my sister. My brother, always seasick, hated it. I loved the fresh, salty, open smell up there; loathed the dank diesel of the car deck, the cloying vomit reek of the corridors.

In Tobago we stayed with another brother, visited yet another brother. Spent days toasting to deep chocolate brown on the fine white sand of Store Bay. Up to now I don’t care for another beach. Face the waves, dive into them. Swim out. Come back in.

Two weeks of that and then back home on the boat again, laden with bene balls, rich, dripping magenta-red mango, peppermint sticks and pink and white sugar cake.

Home, skin peeling, buying new books and new shoes; holidays always ended too soon.

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