Everybody was busy during the week, with school and work, but on the weekends...I loved the weekends because we actually got to be a family. It’s one of the times that living with aunts, an uncle and cousins came in really handy.
Now, doan get mi wrong (Now, don’t misunderstand). I had to go through some torture to get to that happy gorged place I called paradise because the weekend also meant waking up early to blasting gospel music. Children everywhere recognize this as the universal signal that the weekly deep clean has begun. It wasn’t any different at my house.
Each of us had to strip our beds, get our dirty clothes and head outside to start washing. We had to grab our whites and underwear and soap them up, then put them in the pan and in the sun. Once the clothes dem get sun fi a while, it was time to finish hand wash them and then rinse them an put them on the line to dry (Once the clothes had been sunned, it was time to finish washing them and then pinned them on the line to dry). In the meantime , while the whites and underwear a sun, wewas washing everything else (colored clothes and linens) with the powdered soap and then hanging them on the line to dry, too.
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After clothes finish wash( After we finished washing our clothes), then it is time for the house. My job was to dust all the dressers, chest of drawers and the figurines and to clean my room and, on a rotating schedule, the verandah.
Can I tell you how mi hate dem likkle sumting dere cos you haffi pick dem up one by one (I hated those figurines because you had to pick them up one by one) dust or wash them off depending on the instructions that week, then tek up the doily, change or wash it and mek it dry (then take up the doily, change or wash it and let it dry), put on furniture wax and then put everything back the way it was again?
As much as mi did hate the dusting, mi think mi did hate clean the verandah (as much as I hated dusting, I think I hated cleaning the front porch) more, well the original verandah at least. It was one of the stained red one dem, which mean seh every week we had to sweep, wipe, then use a old rag to apply the wax to the verandah and then use the coconut brush, pon wi knee and rub and shine it (It was a stained red type, which meant we had to sweep, wipe, then use an old rag to apply the wax and then use a brush created from an old coconut to shine the floor). Naw tell nuh lie it did pretty bad when it finished, but never like the process at all (I have to admit it was beautiful when it was finished, but I hated the process).
Afta all a dat (After all that), everybody was tired, but the houses were spotless and the real weekend could begin.
On the weekends, I could roam from one family unit to the other and eat my fill. I’d start at my grandpa’s, then make my way to my aunts and cousins before finally finishing off at my house. Each weekend, I was guaranteed delicious variations of the best Jamaican breakfasts. Somebody might be making fried dumplings and kidney, somebody else might have porridge, I might get a simple egg and bread sandwich in one spot and then hopefully I could round it off with banana fritters.
Yup, I loved the weekends, but the best weekends of all came when somebody, anybody announced, “Come mek wi run a boat nuh.”
I don’t remember the first time I heard somebody suggest we “run a boat.” I just know that ever since that first time, it has caused a feeling of euphoria to overtake my entire body. Nope, not exaggerating, I feel that happy.
“Run a boat” is the Jamaican equivalent of a cookout or large family gathering focused on food. Everybody either chips in money or donates food kind and then the labor is divided, until finally the meal is finished and we all come together and eat.
Normally, the menu is made up of whatever is cheapest and can be stretched to feed the most people. Popular boat menus include dutty gyal (tin mackerel) or chicken, really, chicken back (bony parts of the chicken). Usually with a boat u mek (you make) some massive boiled dumplings (again, no exaggeration. I’ve seen some dumplings the same size as a child’s head) and food (ground provisions like irish potato, sweet potato, yam, dasheen, anything that could be sourced cheaply) known simply as “food”.
So, it comes as no surprise that this particular Saturday when some blessed person said, “Come mek wi run a boat nuh” that I was immediately in heaven. I kept fishing around the adults as they came up with a menu and finally pieced together that we were going to have curry chicken and “food” on the menu.
“Yes, my favorite!”
After my snooping, I happily skipped off before anybody could find work for me to do peeling something, cutting something or going to fetch something. My knees were still quite unhappy because it had been my week cleaning the verandah and me and that wax, rag and coconut brush had had a warm time.
Speaking of, I went to go check and make sure nobody was walking on it before my mother could see I had shined it to perfection. Those brothers of mine were notorious for forgetting to take their shoes off and walk along the side of the cement part of the grill to avoid messing it up.
“Sigh,” still shined to perfection. I headed off to my room to grab my journal and write.
“Kim, come ere to mi please (Kim, come here to me, please).”
So much for writing in my journal. As I headed out to my mom, I saw that the big stones, coal and industrial sized dutch pots had been brought out. My mom was working on the fire while my Aunty Mary had started to wash the ground provisions, peel and then cut them up.
“Yuh Uncle Dane gone guh buy the chicken fi di curry, so guh inside ( Your Uncle Dane has gone to buy the chicken for the curry, so go inside) and bring some onion, tomato, thyme, garlic and di seasoning dem come, please.”