Guyanese are known for their sense of humour. We laugh even in the midst of worries and this is what makes us stand out from the crowd. The holidays just past offered a lot of humour for those of us who have outgrown the night clubs.
There I was preparing to visit some relatives for the traditional Old Year’s Night party when I got a call from a friend. She wanted to know where she could get a rubber for her pressure cooker because she wanted to finish her cook-up before the dawn of the New Year.
I asked her whether she thought that I had some hardware store and she became angry and accused me of being of no help. I had already checked my pressure cooker rubber. In fact, I always keep a spare in my fridge, because someone once told me that the fridge is the best place to keep rubber since it would not dry rot.
The problem with my friend was that her rubber simply burst because she was using a knife to remove it from the cover.
Another friend courted disaster because she was gossiping while the pot was on the fire. She later told the world that it was a good thing she had company in the house and one of them smelt the burning meat.
You do not drink alcohol and cook, because you could drop to sleep and court disaster. And you do not try to do anything that would take your attention from the pot.
I remember the days when hair straightening was done with a hot comb. Those were the days before weave became popular. Today women with short hair suddenly have a full head, some with curls and others with simply coils of rope or whatever.
Natural look was not the vogue. Every woman wanted to look as though she was born with straight hair. It mattered not that when she went to the party later that her dancing partner would smell burnt hair mixed with pomade. Of course some of them added curls with a curling iron. Imagine the fun when they are caught in the rain.
I saw my fair share of women whose hair got a dose of rain and simply reverted almost to the original style. These days they use something that contains caustic soda and smells like caustic soda. But the fun for me was seeing people as old as me with jet black hair. In fact, my old music teacher, Lynette Dolphin never had a shred of gray hair in her head although she was close to eighty.
This time around hair gets the colours of the rainbow, regardless of how old the woman looks. Men are not to be left out. There was another friend who simply shaved off the gray that dared to grow outside the dyed area. The fun comes when the hair outgrows the dye and unaided becomes rainbow-coloured.
My stepfather blacked his hair the old-fashioned way, with the bottom of a pot. There were times when he mixed a cosmetic stick with Vaseline. He too could not walk in the rain because his clothes would become dyed. I have seen many men wiping away the running dye from foreheads and eyebrows to the back of the neck. That in itself provides unending humour because these things happen mainly on Old Year’s Night when everybody tries to look his or her best.
Suits are fairly commonplace these days, but they were very common back then. I played marbles for buttons and my stepfather’s suits paid a handsome price to keep me in the habit. So there he was going to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve night. He put on his pants and buttons were missing. My mother had to find replacements while glaring at me. Don’t ask what happened to me.
The jackets were no less fortunate, so invariably he had a jacket with mismatched buttons. As fate would have it when I got children of my own buttons were no longer the craze and pants had zippers by the crotch. But I had shoes and my growing sons took a liking to them. They would wear them and put them back without cleaning them.
Nigel McKenzie would always remember the day when my grandson embarrassed me. I was at a wedding reception as the Master of Ceremonies. The venue was Water Chris. My grandson perhaps with the eyes of a hawk blurted out, “Grandfather, you shoes ain’t clean properly.” Try as his mother might to shut him up he would not be silenced.
But there were others who suffered a worse fate on other occasions. Many have gone to an Old Year’s Night party only to have the soles of their shoes leave them making extremely close contact with Mother Earth. Many women ended up walking as though they were crippled because one heel simply collapsed.
These past few days, however, provided the most humour. For a woman to be asked out on Old Year’s Night is to “get pick.” I saw one woman sitting on her verandah with her hair well styled. She was still there long after midnight. The man simply failed to turn up. I could only hazard a guess that he had other picks and he made his choice.
One year I was at the Police Old Year’s Night ball. Everything went well until dawn. When I looked around some popular people were slumped in their chair dead to the world. The alcohol had flowed unending. The fun was to see the wives trying to get them up. There were the slaps, the sprayed mineral water in the face and eventually the feet failing to move steadily to the mode of transport that would take them home.
Were there any such scenes this past New Year’s Day? I can’t say, because by five that morning I was in my bed a little worse for wear. I too had my fair share of alcohol, but I made my way home unaided.
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