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December 23, 2020
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December 23, 2020

Christmas memories & recipes

By Camille Mc Milan Rambharat

As I face Christmas 2020, my most enduring memory is of my mother as she prepares
for her all-night baking, going through her marked-off pages of her treasured Five Roses recipe
book by Sylvia Hunt. As her four children gallop through the kitchen, part Christmas excitement
and part just the happiness of having each other, fighting and playing interchangeably.

My dad stands on the wooden plank, placed on top of the two upside-down barrels at each end,
he paints the living room with white Berger paint, mixed in a large white plastic container,
stirred occasionally with a stick as he went along the long wall. As he painted, his beloved twin speaker
boxes strategically placed on opposite sides of our front porch blasted through the gorgeous sunny
afternoon in our quiet neighborhood.

The LP spins on his top-of-the-line turntable supplying the Christmas songs from Daisy Voisin, Jim Reeves, Sinatra and his lookalike—the Mighty Sparrow. The smell of ham and turkey being cooked and the rum drinking with a punch-a-creme. And all through this, my mother flicked the Sylvia Hunt pages. She swore by the sponge cake recipe.

COVID-19 has cut a lot of traditions but not that Christmas longing for family. My eldest brother’s sudden
and untimely passing during COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year was sad, particularly as none of his siblings were able to travel home to say our final goodbyes. The thought of our mother left without any of her children at her side and the unimaginable agony a mother goes through when she has to bury any of her children especially her firstborn was sadder. Our relationship had its ups and downs as most siblings do but I miss him every day. Being the only girl, he was my protector. I took it for granted that he
would live a very long life and that time was on our side.

Now, standing at my own kitchen counter, my childhood memories begin showing previews
like a projector unto the wall of my mind. Its bright white light blended beautifully with the
sky-blue colour from the reel. The slide which stood out the most was with my brothers and I
helping our parents get the house ready for Christmas in our early years. Our parents were
serious about Christmas, especially our mother. We’re joking around giving each other little
nudges as we go back and forth unpacking Christmas groceries, including one case of apples, grapes, from our father’s vehicle.

In all my present emotions I reconcile on this reflection: that I am alive and beyond grateful for
being here today with other family members and friends. It’s been the most difficult year experienced
both mentally and physically. COVID-19 had serious mental and other effects on family and friends
along with our children. Separation has continued to break me. I long for regularity again
but a much gentler and loving world.

I miss the paint, the floor polish and the frenzy of the Trinbago Christmas. But above all, I miss
the tight family bonds, a Godfearing dad and a protective big brother. Sylvia Hunt’s pages no longer turns;
time marches on.