SHORT STORIES: Christmas in GT with ‘Anna B’ – By: JeanAnn Field-Ridley

– By: JeanAnn Field-Ridley  –  As We End The Season; A Look Back

Anna B was my mom. She it was who made Christmas ‘happen’. Of course, Dad was chief financier, bringing in his teachers’ pay after he had let it warm his pocket for a few days – reluctant to part with it knowing that he would be left with an empty pocket for the rest of the month. We were, in fact, poor. But we children never knew it. Because Anna B never missed a beat. At Christmas, the toys were there. The pepperpot was there. The ginger beer and mauby were there. So were the biscuits and sweets! But most of all, what Anna B gave to us was Anticipation!

Anticipation has a magic all its own – not to be distilled by reality. And our reality never disappointed even though objectively it should have! After all, we never did get that beautiful walking, talking doll we saw in the store windows when we went window shopping at night. We never got that beautifully equipped doll’s house! O the magic of that house! Did such things really exist? After all, we never did see one outside of the glass case.           

But who cared for those things on Christmas morning when we unwrapped that beautiful flaxen-haired blue-eyed waxen-faced doll (talk about inappropriate images!) Or when we got that little frying pan and teapot adorned with painted daisies! We forgot about those beautiful images or, rather, were not these little shining newbies an extension of those very glass-window unattainables?

Look! We had attained- A new doll, a new teapot, a cap gun for the boys! These spelled Christmas and Christmas had come to our house! Life could not get better. Or so we thought as we shared that one doll between us four girls. Did the four-way sharing cause us to feel deprived? Not at all. One hundred percent of this beautiful doll belonged to each of us 100%. It can be likened to the concept of each child being our Heavenly Father’s favorite child, even while knowing that each of his earthly siblings was also his Father’s favorite child. For real! We were happy. We were content. The impossible had been made possible.

In those ‘prehistoric’ days Christmas in GT was heralded by the sound of Christmas songs on the radio or in the stores downtown. It achieved a more clearly defined form when we heard Mom making her Christmas Shopping List (how many of those things had had to be left off eventually?). But things really got kicking when the first night of window shopping arrived – after being canceled a number of times. We children waited patiently, discussed it ad nauseam with the neighbors’ children, knowing that one day it would happen.

Those trips around town would start as night began to fall. We would make our way on foot through the streets of Georgetown, alongside scores of other families similarly bent. We would look our fill at the displays in the shining shop windows, drinking in all the possibilities. It was a feast of sights, and we had our eye-bellies full, returning home tired and happy.

Then would come the Big Day! It was a day of sights, scents, and sounds. First up, as we exited the bedroom door into the hallway, was the sight of a transformed living room – one year it might be billowing all-white curtains covering the open windows. All around our feet would be a carpet of shining, stained mahogany wood. How many times during the run-up had we heard Mom admonishing the boys to get the floor polished before Christmas?

On that day, the mecca for our hurrying feet would be the Christmas tree corner. Of course, en route, our peripheral vision could not fail to snag the newly redone furniture – chairs re-caned and wooden parts either stained or polished and of course, there were the sparkling brass plant pots and brass knick-knacks. All had achieved the mandatory mirror finish. But time to enjoy those would be for later.

The Christmas Tree was our number one priority. Adorned in the splendor of glowing bulbs and winking tinsel, that tree never failed to take our breath away. The beloved painted bulbs carefully kept from year to year, winked at us from beneath its shroud of angel hair, whose waves and sparkle we half-believed belonged to our big brother’s girlfriend. That’s what he told us. How could we be dumb enough (or mesmerized enough) to believe him? It was as possible as Santa coming through the keyhole. We, in the tropics, with no chimney, had been reliably informed by the older ones that that was how Santa Claus made his way into our homes. We were happy to believe, pushing our doubts aside.

At the other end of our little house was the center of all activities – the kitchen. And Mom- Anna B! It was like Santa’s workshop, spilling out goodness into the rest of the environment. This was where the culinary side of Christmas magic was being weaved. The pepperpot, garlic pork, baked and stewed chicken, sweet and sour pork – they were all here in various stages of done-ness. This was where all those Christmassy smells were coming from. Then there was the ham – the piece de resistance. The crowning glory – the main reason mom had joined the box-hand (an informal banking arrangement between family and friends). Then there was Mom. Dearest mom! There’s not another like her! She had not slept all night. Now she was standing over something, stirring but nodding off. Of course, she would deny it vigorously. But this was Mom. While we children slept, she had conjured her Santa tricks, brought out her interior decorating skills, and worked her culinary magic.

Mom’s expensive ham had been the source of much joy and distress. It elicited fulsome praise from Mr. E. the family friend- Dad’s friend actually. It was Mr. E who had crowned Mom with the sobriquet ‘Anna B’ or sometimes ‘Anna with the Light Brown hair’, following Mom’s brief flirtation with hair makeovers. Mr. E had become a fixture at our house. We were never surprised to see him there whether late at night or early in the morning.  I do believe that he even checked in with us first before going home to his family. Mr. E and Dad would have long discussions into the night. Christmas eve being one of those nights. That was when he would generously sample Mom’s unfinished ham. I can still hear her distressed voice complaining sotto voce that Mr. E, was eating too much of it. She would have to rearrange the pattern of cloves with which she usually finished the glazed top of that poor ham.

Finally, there would be Christmas Lunch! Drum roll, please! Unlike the rest of the year, the table would be laid with all sorts of impressive stuff. White paper napkins were stuck in the glasses placed at each one’s knife edge. Special crockery would be brought out and then to the children’s delight there would be splashes of color – the color of sweet drinks! Yes, ginger beer and mauby were nice enough, but colorful fizzy bottles of drink were the treat that capped the lunch. A bottle -red, orange, even green was placed between every two settings. Who cared that these bottles had to be shared with one’s dining neighbor! The liquid tumbling over the ice cubes into the glass was a sight that satisfied almost as much as the fizz that went up our noses when we lifted the glass to our lips! Heaven had come to our house. Heaven had come to GT.

It’s time to raise a glass to all the Anna Bs of the world, past, and present! We appreciate!

PDF Copy: Christmas in GT with Anna B – By: JeanAnn Field-Ridley

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