‘The Mighty Sparrow’ was blaring on the loud speakers creating a sense of electricity conducted through the hot and humid heat, which hovered over the procession. There was a certain joy-itch in your bones that infected you whether you were ready to scratch or not as soon as you stepped out into the street. Theresa had to lift Franc up unto her shoulders so that she could see what was going on behind the masses of people who coloured the side of the street.
The crystal steel pan beat was ear shattering, and almost vibrated into the clear, blue sky. The day was burning hot and you could see tall colourful floats for miles. “The Mighty Sparrow’s” song was the one about the intruder at The Palace in London. Everyone in the parade was swinging their bodies to the overpowering soca fever, which burned in your flesh and put you in a trance-like state of bliss as soon as you heard the steel pans in the distance.
“Phillip my dear
Last night I thought it was you in here
Where did you go…”
The first float was this huge butterfly made of sparkling, glittering rivers of colours, which calmly flowed in the breeze as it was pulled along the fiery hot asphalt of the main road. This float was displayed by Bermine (which is now meant to be called Guymine actually, after its nationalisation).
The Bermine floats are always a source of awe and excitement as theirs’ are often made by overseas based Guyanese designers. Behind the butterfly, danced hundreds of Bermine workers, all dressed in equally vivid little streams of florescent shades. It was perfect! Franc was screaming and pointing at this float, twisting her little body from side to side as the itch hit her, the itch I was never allowed to scratch.
“…There was a man in me bedroom
Wearing yuh shoe
Trying on the Royal costume
Dipping in Royal perfume…”
We learned in Primary school that ‘Mashramani’ was an Amerindian word for celebration or something like that. Mammy said before we left the house that she could remember when, “These big celebrations used to be on our Independence day, just like all them other countries’ big Independence celebrations. Nowadays, there’s nothing happening on we Independence day coz Burnham changed all ‘o dat. Why the whole country gat to celebrate his birthday like this, I doan know.”
“…There was a man in me bedroom…
And I thought it was you.
He big just like you
He fit just like you
“…A man in me bedroom
He came on the bed dou dou
And I took him for you…”
The ‘Mighty Sparrow’ continued.
The sugar workers’ float came next as another waterfall of dashing, angry colours. There was a red tractor, dressed up to look like a boat. This ‘boat’ pulled a trailer packed with people depicting the many working place ‘scenes’ of the Sugar Industry. There was the cutting of the cane, the transport and shipment, storing and grinding, then finally the conversion into sugar. Again, hundreds of sugar workers, pranced, (some of them already drunk, maybe to depict the ‘scene’ of when sugar is converted into Rum) to the constant spiritual beat of the steel pans.
There were dozens more but by the time we had settled into the parade, Mammy said she was tired so we had to go home with her.
It would be the last time I would hear his voice for more than a decade when Christopher shouted over all the noise and bustle to say that he was going to stay and walk on to Burnham Park, where all the floats were headed for the judging and prize awards. When he came home that night, I had already gone to bed, and when he packed his stuff, I was at school. I wouldn’t see him again for 13 years after he’d left prison and after my whole existence had been ripped apart, turned inside out and stitched back together again. But of course at 13, this was the other part of my story that I couldn’t know about yet.
We trudged on home, and when Franc realised what was happening, she screamed to rival the steel pans.
“The palace guards
Were playing hopscotch in the yard
Abandoned the throne…” as we reluctantly stumbled home.
I listened to this song about the monarch on the blaring loudspeaker, and thought that if ‘God Saved the Queen’ - whatever it was that He saved her from, He would save me too, after all, I was named after her daughter.
When we walked into the yard, Brother Mac, sister Mac’s husband was sitting on his veranda having a very amicable conversation with his false leg. By the time we got upstairs and had opened the door, he had gotten up, chucked his white leg under his black arm and walked inside with his cane. As the years have moved on, I’ve grown up enough to realise that this man is just as normal as anyone else, he just likes to have a good conversation sometimes. There is nothing in anything else that he does or says to indicate otherwise.