i didn`t always loathe christmas. it wasn`t always a thorn in my flesh. for the first sixteen years of my life, christmas was one of my favourite times of year.
my mother and i would fly from trinidad to jamaica on the first flight after i got my report book at christmas. getting there was always half the adventure. i think on average it would take us between 12 – 14 hours to get from our front door, to my grandparents place. the night of our arrival, i would be exhausted, but spend the evening in my grandfather`s lap [when i was younger] as the adults filled each other in on the year`s events, i would be asleep midway through the gabfest but it always part of the fun to listen to my mother`s jamaican accent reassert itself as she spoke to my grandparents and the cadence of the voices i succumbed to exhaustion.
and i need to get the rest, because the next couple of days were spend in fervent cake preparation. my first official job in the christmas cake preparations was the grinder of fruit. my grandmother believed in soaking her fruits for a year, so we would buy the prunes and raisins and sultans and cherries and i would spend half a morning slicing and grinding the fruits into a large metal tray, next my grandmother would come and add a copious quantity of run and leave it on the sheet of galvanise outside the kitchen window to soak.
then out of the cupboards would come the fruits that i`d ground the year before and the giant pot that all the ingredients were mixed in. as i got older i got to mix the sugar and the eggs and the butter and the flour as my grandmother rinsed her jars and resealed the current years, fruit and alcohol combo therein.
while the batter was being mixed, either my mother or myself would be greasing the pans. most years we would make a minimum of 20 cakes. they were popular. when it came to black cake at christmas, my grandmother was the undisputed champion and not only did we have to take a number back to trinidad with us, there were people who travelled the length and breath of jamaica to get slices of cake and a glass of sorrel at christmas.
my last task in the cake making venture was lighting the oven, just before my bed time i would light the oven and watch as my mother passed pan after pan to my grandmother to put into the oven.
the smell that permeated the house throughout the night and next morning is still my best christmas memory. it was rich, heavenly smell, a combination of hard work, lots of love and the joy of a family tradition.