The Trap Door
I was playing on the lawn of my home with my hoop when a little man no taller than four inches stopped at the curbside to ask for my Papa. He looked very smart in a jacket and trilby hat. I thought I was seeing things. My Papa was not in so he rode off on his pedal cycle. To this day I have not mentioned seeing this little man to anyone and I did not see little people again until I discovered the trap door.
After Grandpa passed away, Grandma wanted us to come and live with her in her 200 year old cottage. We lived in a one room house with a brick oven it was difficult but we managed so the thought of moving to Grandma's house was like moving into Government House. Momma was so happy that she cried. We soon got used to our new surroundings and one day when Grandma and Momma were having tea on the verandah it gave me the opportunity to poke about.
Next to the kitchen was a door that was always closed, I was curious to find out what was behind it. There was a creaking floor board covered by an old mat in front of the door I moved the mat so I could avoid stepping on the board only to find hidden beneath it a trap door. I eased open the trap door and peered down and as my eyes became accustomed to the dim light I saw all these little people scurrying about I was so shocked I closed the trap door replaced the mat and ran outside to sit on the steps to gaze out to the ocean and ponder on what I had seen.
This was about one month before Christmas and soon I was caught up with all the preparations and thoughts of the little people were pushed to the back of my mind. I had to collect the cedar wood for the outside brick stove where Grandma cooked the Christmas pudding before she left for her annual holiday with friends in St. George's.
I helped Papa bring the potted cedar tree into the house to decorate. Momma made decorations each year to replace those that had become worn or broken and I helped by colouring them with crayons. One Christmas we had a storm that blew a bird's nest out of a nearby tree and we used that as our tree topper. This year was going to be special as Momma was working on a banana leaf doll with hair made out of pampas grass. It was tradition that after the tree was decorated we would all sit around the tree reading Christmas stories Papa with his shot of black rum, Momma with a glass of homemade wine and me ginger beer made by Grandma fermented with rice it was really fizzy.
We lived off the land and sea we caught our fish grew our vegetables and any surplus we shared with our friends and neighbours they did the same.
Papa would dig cassava and I would help by washing and then hand grinding it squeezing all the milk from it through a very fine cloth. We set the cassava on block ice that we purchased from Stalls earlier that day and on the way back we picked Mexican pepper and Palmetto berries to decorate the fireplace mantel shelf. Papa would check the shark oil daily to make sure that it was going to be good weather for Santa to deliver our gifts some years the weather had been bad but Santa always managed to come through. Now that the Christmas chores were done and Papa was in his chair sleeping after downing two black rums and momma was deep into her book my thoughts returned once more to the little people and the trap door. I crept away from the room I moved the mat once again carefully lifted the trap door and peered down.
The little people were still scurrying around, I could see presents in piles all shapes and sizes and colours and the biggest surprise I saw Grandma she was a little person. I quickly shut the trap door before Grandma saw me returned to the living room kissed Momma and Papa goodnight and went upstairs to bed. The next morning was Christmas Eve time for us to hitch our horse onto the box cart and travel to the sea shore to collect crabby grass and wild sea coast parsley for our Christmas lunch and seaweed for our banana trees.
The smells of Christmas were coming from every home we passed. I went to bed early on Christmas Eve after one quick look at the fireplace to make sure the fire was out and that the egg nog and mince pie were ready for Santa and my stocking was in place at the foot of my cast iron bed it was one of momma's old ones. Although I don't remember sleeping I faintly heard jingling of bells in the distance and opened my eyes to dawn's soft light. My stocking was full with an apple, tangerine, brazil nut, walnut, hazelnut, candy cane and one penny. I crept downstairs to sit beside the tree and empty it out. I noticed that Santa had eaten the mince pie and drunk the egg nog. No-one else was up and my thoughts went again to the trap door and the little people. I thought I would sneek another look. Things did not seem the same no packages no little people and no Grandma. Everything was swept clean I replaced the door gently and went back to the Christmas Tree and my stocking and the gifts from Santa one for Momma one for Papa and one for me.
My only chore on Christmas Day was to set the table, I could then play with my friends down the road. Christmas lunch of roast chicken, stuffing made with fresh thyme and sea coast parsley, pork with crackling cassava pie and Crabby Grass with fresh carrots was served at 3.00pm to allow Grandma time to return from St.George's. The grown ups would have home made wine and I would have mineral. Papa would always bring a case of mixed mineral home at Christmas it was the only time of the year we had it. After lunch we sat around the fireplace Grandma in her favourite chair Momma and Papa on the couch and me on the floor ready to hand out each gift. There was never a gift for Grandma she always said all she wanted for Christmas was for peace and happiness for all.
I was allowed to open my gift first I looked across at Grandma she was sleeping it was the same every year I loved the wrapping and took time to gently open my gift without tearing it the longer I took the more excited I got wondering what was inside this year I got a book. Papa 's gift was fish hooks and a ball of fishing line and Momma received an apron embroidered with Bermudiana she was so happy as her old apron had been repaired so many times it resembled a patchwork quilt.
Grandma slept on wrapped in her tartan blanket we left her there cozy by the fire and made our way to bed tomorrow was Boxing Day and The Fair Momma would make box lunches with the leftovers from the Christmas lunch and add mince pies coconut and glass candy.
I would meet with my friends and the highlight of the day for Momma was the hat show. Momma would decorate hers with wild flowers while Grandma would always use herbs cedar and cockle berries. People would laugh at Grandma but Grandma didn't mind she always had the winning hat! Grandma won so many times that this year they made her the honorary judge. We played marbles and spun tops and the best part of the day was the box cart races. The girls preferred hop-scotch and jacks. The fair was almost over but in the distance we heard the sound of drums getting closer and then onto the field came the Gombeys on their way to Flatts. We danced and our parents threw pennies to the ground. Dusk descended and Papa lit the candles on the carriage and said it was time to make our way home we all said as we did every year this was the best Christmas ever.
As I snuggled closer to Grandma I began to think of the little people was it a dream were they real would I follow Grandma and become a little person at Christmas and help Santa one day I'll think about it later but for now I'll just enjoy the moment.