Inside merchants are having a hard time keeping the shelves stocked. People are running around like ants in a flooded nest, snatching up the latest new and improved imported junk. Christmas lights and trees, ceramic ornaments, tinsel and wreaths, the holly and the ivy. Santa Clauses and Rudolphs. Reindeer horns and elves hats. Name it and they will buy it.
Presents for ungrateful children, friends and relatives. Cards for the boss and frenemies at work. The gardener, baby sitter and maid. The pastor, bus driver, bartender and taxi driver. The lawyer, doctor and bank manager. None is exempt, if you cross their minds you will get a card or worse, a call on Christmas day.
They are complaining about the prices and glaring at the poor cashier, who in turn glares at the not so bright supervisor who is too busy glaring at the gleefully grinning manager to notice. They rush out of that store and into this one in an ever-increasing frenzied state. It continues all day until the moon and stars chase the sun from the skies. Then it is homeward bound to decorate their private prisons in middle class heights, terraces and parks all across Barbados.
Inside the houses it seems as if the movers are arriving soon. Chairs stacked on each other, tables covered with all type of boxes. Opened boxes displayed items similar too those bought earlier that day. What madness is this? You rub your eyes in disbelief. As more boxes discharge their contents on the table, you recognize the older versions of the new and improved replacements bought today. To your untrained eyes there is little, if any difference at all. A growing suspicion that this lack of ability might be one reason you are now on the outside looking in.
Just as quickly as that thought occurred, conformation came when a car pulled into the driveway carrying a Christmas tree. One house with two Christmas trees. You knew then that you deserved being left outside for you never thought that a house needed more than one Christmas tree. The man, helped by a boy I assumed was his son, since he wore a similar sheepish grin, planted the tree on the lawn. It was about ten feet tall and the futileness of planting a tree that would not grow was evidently lost on them for they seemed extremely pleased with themselves when it was finish. They were now trying to strangle it with lights that the mother (elementary of course, striking resemblance, sheepish grin etc.) had brought out after the boy had yelled; “Mum, Dad says to bring the lights”
She had run out of the house as if she was trying to catch the postman, with a box filled with assorted lights, extension cords and decorations. She had dropped the box and with not so much as a Merry Christmas, ran back into the house as if the postman was chasing her. Always in a hurry, that one. You could tell by the way the other two were frantically throwing decorations on the tree. The glare that so withered the cashier’s spirit seemed equally effective at increasing productivity, for in less than no time, the man and his son were scurrying into the house no doubt to hopefully better their efforts in the corner of the living room.
The neighbours behind elaborate burglar bars, peered through windows flabbergasted at the affront to good old-fashioned Christmas decency, vowing to get a bigger, better and brighter tree. Next morning these neighbours will block roundabouts and give other motorists the finger. They will step over vagrants lying on side-walks and ignore Salvation Army volunteers and their kettles. Security guards and shop assistants will incur their wrath. Acquaintances, friends and family wished “Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year”. Like a bad chapter on a faulty DVD disc, this will repeat everyday until Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve, there is last-minute shopping done, presents wrapped and delivered. New curtains hanged, new mats placed at the doors. New shower curtains, new bathroom sets. The refrigerator stuffed with assorted drinks and juices . Some will bake cakes that day, many more will pack supermarkets to buy them . Ham, turkey, pork and chicken readied for baking later that night.
As the sun exits and the night makes its entrance, it brings to meat lovers and vegetarians alike, the mouth-watering aromas of meats baking. It brings excitement and laughter to children as they admire the Christmas tress and lights and hoping that they receive what the wished for.
As the night progresses, some children cry themselves to sleep as they grow weary watching and hearing other excited children laughing and playing. Christmas Eve only brings them sadness. They know that there is no Santa and even if there was one, he only goes to those other children houses. He has never been to their house. He does not care how good they were all year. No one cares.
As the night gets darker, some parents also cry but they do not sleep. They are hoping that Santa finds their children, they were so good this year. The teacher said they were improving. They had struggle all year and desperately needed a smile. Just one smile would do. Surely someone will remember them this time. Surely someone will care.
Christmas night was at its darkest when he arrived.
“How many?” he asked.
“Four Sir, two adults and two children.”