As I sit here on this tranquil Saturday my mind goes back to a time now long gone when I enjoyed many Saturdays not unlike today. Saturdays were always s a time of simple fun and happiness that made one realize the blessedness of being alive. This was especially true if you were a pupil in achool and went to church on Sundays. Saturday was basically the only day of the week that a young person had as their own free time.
Because we lived in a farming community on a post-colonial island, it had become the norm for the mothers or housewives in the village to go into the capital city every Saturday to sell the produce from the family farms. It was the traditional duty of the men or fathers in the family to work the lands on weekdays and the women go to the markets on Saturdays.
And so the journey would begin very early on a Saturday morning. One of the reasons for this was that transportation in those days was really limited; oftentimes it was only one wooden bus or minivan that had to to make several trips to carry all the women to the city. Because the market would open quite early, at about 6 AM, and it was the person who was early would get the best selling spaces, competition was stiff for catching the early worm.
So we would get up while it was still dark and carry the ground provisions, which we called “load,” out to the road or, frequently, to the nearby village. After mommy was gone we would all go back home. Daddy would usually go to the mountain farm lands as usual. So al the children would be left at home on their own. My only big sister would wash the family laundry and cook. The washing in the early days was done at the village river where the other daughters of families would also gather. It used to be really fun and playful.
I remember that my older siblings would put me and a neighbour’s daughter into a container made from hardened plastic that we called a “banana box” and placed the box in the river. In those days the river would be stopped or dammed so that we had what we used to call a “deep hole.” It was here that much of the frolic took place.
Eventually the washing would finish and all families would head back home where preparations for lunch were being made. Our Saturday lunch would often be a cook-up or “boileen” where bananas, dasheen, eddoes, yam, pumpkin, dumplings, and corn pork would be brought together in a smooth sauce-rich dish.
It was on Saturdays too that my brother and I were asked to go to the area post office. This we looked forward to because we would often embark on our own childhood adventure afterwards, especially if there were no mail to bring back home. With our hands free we would roam the length and breadth of surrounding villages, raiding mango or other fruit trees. If rain was falling we would run full tilt in the stinging rain, eyes and mouth wide open.
There was a time when the homemade wooden scooter was the in-thing. Although mommy had said not to go riding, my brother put me on a scooter belonging to one our neighbour’s children. We lived in the middle of two steep hills. As we proceeded down the hill below us, my brother voiced alarm that the brakes were not working. He tried to bank the scooter only to send us both skating down the hill. The result was that I got a fine “pork” or bruise on my belly. When I looked it was literally white meat being seen. Not even any blood as yet. Then the stinging started. I had to bear the pain in silence for the rest of the day. Once our parents had found that out it would have been licks like peas.
With the arrival of electricity and television in our rural village, Satudays became our TV day. The morning would start with watching any movies being shown during the night when we awoke to see mommy off to town. Then mid-morning I would look forward to watching William Tell. Later there would be several hours of music videos from MTV which I didnt particularly care for. But after that, my brother and I would watch David Carradine in Kung Fu. Then there would be two feature presentations of Saturday afternoon movies. The movies would be shown by genre. So, for a couple of weeks there might be westerns, then it would be mysteries or Tarzan movies. I particularly used to enjoy the Tarzan movies, the Bud Abbott and Lou Castello movies, and the John Wayne westerns.
By the end of the second movie we would be hearing the trade mark “wooo-hooo!” shout from the next village where the van would often leave mommy. Then we would join our neighbours’ children in a mad running stampede down the hill with our slippers going flap! flap! flap! We used to raise the dust off the pitch.
We all looked forward to mommy bringing home the groceries but especially the cake and sweet bread. Each of us would get a slice of coconut or red belly cake to feast on. But then there would always be the fish that needed cleaning. Nobody wanted to stand outside cleaning fish, taking off scales, removing gills and guts while being mercilessly bitten by sand flies or mosquitoes.
Later in the evening we would enjoy roasted breadfruit and stewed chicken back, a taste which I still can’t get enough of to this day. Around dinnertime the whole family would gather to watch the WWF hour with the champoin stars Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant and a host of others. Wrestling was just enjoyable.
It was on a Saturday that my best friend in primary school introduced me to the classic TV series Knight Rider and The A-Team. I in turn introduced the shows to my family. Other happy family shows of the rural Satuday era incuded Street Hawk, Airwolf, Baretta and the animated series He-Man.
Those days may be long gone but certainly the memories and the happy effects of those times still put a smile on my face as I write this. I hope all of my readers do have their own happy memories of Saturdays past, even if they were not spent in a rural setting.