Mark Wignall | An ounce of love and a pound of happiness
We are mostly Christian and definitely Westernised, so Christmas means the same to us as it does to many others globally. Some of us may want to share more love as the intangible magic of the season pulls us into its joyous fold, but we have to compete with greed and the need to take more than we are prepared to give.
More than anything else, we need money, and the street vendors, the small shops and bars, the merchants selling furniture and appliances and jewellery want us to put a good chunk of that cash into their pockets.
Some of us are newly in love and others have not been so lucky. Emotions are in increased ebb and flow at this time. Some want to party and dance and drink and make a lot of noise. A few of us could do with a private, quiet hug and soft words in our ears. Those who are at the wrong end of happiness will want to sleep until the season has expired.
Most people like you and me will find that Christmas prods a return to our childhood, that period of our lives that is somehow associated with an almost fairy-tale happiness. I am certain that psychologists have explained that, and it is there somewhere dressed up in fancy jargon.
The cool Christmas breeze is no more, but I am certain that at this time, residents of Mandeville and its environs and those living in the hills of Clarendon and in the sleepy old town of Moneague will be waking up on Christmas morning slightly on the cold side. I envy them.
I won't have a Christmas tree. It is just two of us and, it seems senseless. Inside of me, though, is my late father making a big fuss over getting his tree just right and conspiring with the Santa Claus guy to feed us knockout drops on late Christmas Eve just so that we would never get to see him loading all the goodies under the tree.
As a young adult, I played the same Santa game on my young children and found myself fussing because I could not get my tree just right. At this time, they are no longer young, so now, they get the chance to play the same game their way with their children.
If there is no memory, there is no fairy tale in a storybook, and there is no greater love than the one existing now. We need to reach back and clutch at Christmas morning, early, with the family walking down King Street and me decked out in the smart outfit Daddy bought me.
Firecrackers, jonkanoo, fee-fee, stealing a drink of cider, getting the batteries ready for the gadget Daddy bought me. Just going and going, not caring too much about time and feeling the sort of freedom and happiness that only a child can experience at Christmas.
Where is Christmas when you're broke?
"If me have $20,000 in mi pocket, mi a'right," said a gas station attendant to me late last week. "If mi nuh have dat, mi feel like seh mi waan run weh."
"Yu know what I want fi Christmas. Fi stay home an do nutten," said the operator of a small shop in a lane off Constant Spring Road. "Mi at di shop from 7:30 a.m. to 10 at night fi seven days a week. Mi jus want me pickney dem grow up so mi can get some rest. An mi caan rest at Christmas. Mi haffi out here fi ketch any spending weh a gwaan."
Many employees are looking for something extra this Christmas, like the ones that went before. A bonus, maybe, or gifts from high-end customers. Last Tuesday, a security guard operating in a plaza came across to me as I exited my car, bared a fist at me and we did the usual fist bump.
I thought that he recognised me, but it was no such thing. "How yu nuh tell mi seasons greetings?" he said. I picked it up right away, but I didn't have much cash on me, so I laughed and walked away.
As much as we have complained for years about politics and 'bollo wuk' at political campaign time and at Christmas, the politician who doesn't have an oversize pocket at Christmas is doomed. It is culturally ingrained in many of our people that they are entitled to 'a likkle work' at Christmas so the politicians have to tread lightly.
A man who is able to take home a five-pound chicken and give to his woman will remember the politician who gave him the bushing work which, in turn, bought the chicken. The superwealthy will cruise to their summer spots in the cushier areas adjoining the north coast resort towns while the man who cuts grass for a living will feel that he is properly part of Christmas as long as he can share a drink with friends and a meal with those he calls family.
"Don't carry yu car here," said a car-washer acquaintance of mine. "Dem gwine charge you $1,200 and me gwine get $200 out of it. Jus come here and pick mi up, and me will wash it and shampoo di inside at you yaad fi $1,000," he said. I had no problem with his deal.
"Missa Mark, mi naw bruk dis Christmas and nobody gwine use my labour fi chicken feed."
The key to staying safe this Christmas
It was 1967 and I was 17, and I was travelling, on foot, with a 'posse' of young men my age. It was the day before Christmas Eve. The oldest among us was Boogum, 25, a working man doing all the spending.
On Red Hills Road, Boogum came across his younger brother and was trying to convince him to leave the group of gangster-like fellows he was hanging out with and join our group. The younger brother insisted that he was OK, and after heated discussions, our group moved off.
Early the next morning, we got the tragic news. Boogum's younger brother was dead. He was a passenger in a car driven by a youngster who had no licence. And apparently, he was doing what most teenage boys in cars do: speeding foolishly.
Just by the Water Commission treatment plant on Long Lane, there was a huge tree with a very pronounced root system on the left hand going down the hill. Young boys well liquored up and a speeding car at 3 a.m. The car mounted the sidewalk and that was it. Instant death.
If you travel to the country, it is imperative that you arrange accommodation there because travelling back at any time after midnight creates its own problems. People are usually in a drunk and joyous mood, especially if they are in the car heading back in your direction.
If you have to drink to excess, do it close to home, where those who know you will get the best chance to see you make a damn fool of yourself. But at the very least, you will be close to home. A friend of mine would, many years ago, utilise the services of his wife to do driving duties for him whenever he was 'loaded to the gills'.
The thing is, his wife would regularly complain that he never took her any place, and she genuinely loved his company. So they would both go to parties and dances and cocktail gatherings in tow. He would whoop it up with his friends, she would laugh, he would drink, she would laugh even at jokes which she didn't get, and he would drink some more.
But they always reached home safe, and there was much love between them. Stay safe and enjoy your Christmas.