Talk Ole Tobago and Trinidad
I HAVE been asked to share this with readers of this column by an anonymous correspondent who admits to not being the original author of what I find to be a rather fetching bit of nostalgia. I find, too, that I am being urged by a fair number of my readers to publish more of this kind of thing. I suppose that there will always be people who hanker for the past even though that past is being seen via a backward glance through a receding and increasingly rose-tinted telescope. I wonder, though, given the better times in which we indutiably live (I mean, how many people, these days, have to grow up on “bush tea’’? ) what is it about the now that makes people long for the then. Perhaps you have an idea that you are willing to share (email@example.com). However, before putting pen to paper or finger to keys:
Close your eyes, and go back . . .
Before the Internet or the Mac,
Before Uzis and crack.
Before Nike and Reebok, before the NBA.
Before Sega or Super Nintendo.
Before burglar proofing and KFC.
Before soca, dub and chutney
Before children’s rights and women’s lib.
I’m talking about hide and seek at dusk.
Looking through the window, sitting in the gallery,
Licking your lips over hops and condensed milk.
Going to Saturday afternoon confession.
Drinking chocolate tea and cocoa tea and green tea and shining bush tea.
Carrying sandwiches in a brown paper bag to school.
Eating chilibibi and press with green and red syrup, with or without milk.
Bathing in cold water from a barrel with a calabash.
Hopscotch, butterscotch, hoop, Jacks,
Police and Thief, Rounders !
Pass-out cricket in the road with a lime
Lying on the floor reading Mandrake and Katzenjammer Kids and Mutt and Jeff.
Borrowing books from the library.
Hula Hoops and jawbreakers and kaiser balls.
Bathing in the rain under the guttering.
Going for walks on Sunday afternoon.
Band Concerts. Window shopping.
Wearing old pants to the beach and collecting sea shells and pretty stones.
Wait. . .
The excitement of catching candle flies in a jar and batimamselles.
Putting the ti-marie to sleep.
Killing birds with sling shot, cooking and eating them.
Pitching marbles, running jockey in the canal.
When a calypso on the radio in Lent would have caused a scandal.
When going to town was a major outing requiring serious preparation.
Spending holidays by your grandmother and aunts.
Castor oil and senna pods at the end of August to clean you out!
Eating caimite and mammy seepote and downs and sapodilla and sugar apple and tying up your mouth with lalay.
Climbing trees,and skipping rope and eating a bucket of long mango.
Making a Christmas tree from a guava branch with cotton for snow.
You thought apples and grapes only grew at Christmas time.
Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, keeping an eye out for soucouyant and la diablesse.
Sliding down the bannister, jumping on the bed.
Having a pet chicken, duck, rabbit or goat and crying when it became a meal.
Being tickled to death.
Running till you were out of breath.
Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt!
Being tired from playing....remember that?
Going to the Chinee shop for Trebor and a penny sweet biscuit.
There’s more . . .
Scratching your mother’s head.
Fighting for the bowl when your mother made a cake.
Churning coconut or custard ice cream on Sunday and licking the palette.
Peeling cane with your teeth.
Remember when . . .
When there were no sneakers, only watchekongs and you washed them every Saturday and whitened them.
When you knew nothing of Rottweilers or pit bulls, only pot hounds.
When a penny was a decent allowance, and another penny a huge bonus.
When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny.
When fashionable young ladies wore crinoline and boleros.
When your mother wore stockings that came in two pieces and had garters.
When all of your male teachers wore ties and female teachers had buns.
When you had to be rich to have a car or a radio.
When there was no TV and you went to sleep at seven o’clock.
When there was no designer water.
When laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.
When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries, and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.
When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.
When every kitchen had a safe with wire mesh.
Milk came in rum bottles and had to be boiled and the cream was a great treat.
When they threatened to keep kids “down’’ if they failed...and they did!
When your mother used to say that your licks hurt her more than it hurt you.
When adults spoke in code so “little ears’’ wouldn’t hear.
Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, or gangs.
Disapproval of parents and grandparents, godparents,tanties... was a much bigger threat!
If you can remember any of these things, Well, sir/madame, I swear you must be my age!