Sunday 24th December, 2006

Denzil Mohammed
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What matters

One year, I spent Christmas all alone. I was vex with some people home. Indignant, self-righteous and bitter, wanting to hurt both others and, somehow, myself, I stayed by myself. It was one of the most selfish things I had ever done.

There’s an “I” in every sentence here; it was selfish not only to others but also to me. Everyone was denied something, me most of all.

There is no more cliched or hyperbolic time of year than this. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all when carolling we-going with much mistletoeing and feelings of good cheer.

There’s parang, soca parang, Scrunter, Sprangalang, sorrel, ginger beer, ponche de creme, Shandy, and all those ancient music videos of Kelwyn Hutcheon and the girl with the enormous perm. (She had a set of big hits, whoever she was.)

There’s just so much going on all around us that it’s impossible to exclude oneself from it.

Almost impossible.

I focused on exams, work and my hair. I worked right through the holidays, even on Christmas Day.

It wasn’t nice. In fact, it was unbearably painful. But I had made my decision and was sticking to it. If I wasn’t embraced as I ought to have been, I wasn’t giving of myself to anyone.

Prodigal son, indeed.

Power of memory

Going to and from work, in the heat of midday traffic, when everybody and their nenen was in a mall, I would sit in the car, seething. And suddenly a memory would spring to mind.

I remember the year I bought a $300 glass for my mom. Yes, a $300 glass. Time was running out, the mall was getting tight-tight with people, and I needed something fast.

It was a pretty glass. I don’t think my mother every drank from it. Never again went back to that store.

Returning to my off campus apartment, I could not help but notice Ms Bhagwansingh’s ode to electricity. It was and still is practically blinding, but remains one of those sights everyone looks forward to seeing.

My house in south was the Christmas house, I envisioned as I passed by. The prettiest house on the street. It had icicles on the eaves, coloured lights on the trees, garlands in the porch, the works. Mom always had that creative flair.

I heard the tree that year was done in white and gold and burgundy. I never saw it.

Somehow it became a habit for me to listen to Camille Salandy’s solacing voice on the radio every Christmas Eve as I drove from town. She played the most enchanting choral music, and it set my Christmas mood—quiet, serene, contemplative. It’s one of those things that was so mundane, and yet meant the world to me.

That year, I realised how much the silly little thing meant to me.

When I woke up on Christmas morning, it was very, very quiet.

Christmas Day was always special, and a Trini Christmas was just the best.

For once, the whole family would actually be in the same place at the same time. There would be so much food, I’d not know what to start eating. The pungent taste of home-made sorrel was familiar and pleasing—it tasted like Christmas. Pastelles would slide out of fig leaves. Somebody would end up singing.

It never mattered, the gifts. In fact, for the past few years I had asked for nothing. (I had learned my lesson after getting that mini water gun in my stocking one year.)

Gifts didn’t matter that much on a day like Christmas. The day was too big, gifts would pale. What made the day big was family—human relations. The one year I had none of it was the one year I realised how much it mattered.

What if the people I loved were no longer around? How foolish and selfish could I be?

I’m going home for Christmas tonight.

Dedicated to:

Mark Baldeo

Christopher Pile

The family of Vindra Naipaul

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