Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the first post by author Apple Gidley and this week Apple talks about the melancholy sometimes felt when families live on different continents.
St. Croix – Pixabay.com
It is January 5th, Twelfth Night, the eve of epiphany, but here on St Croix, it is known as “Three Kings’ Day” and is marked by the adult carnival parade – a not particularly chaste celebration of the Magi’s first sight of the infant Jesus.
But as with most things Crucian it does have its roots in history when the enslaved were given time off to celebrate Christmas. In the 1700s the streets of Christiansted and Frederiksted would be filled with costumed singing and dancing merrymakers, who would also visit other plantations to spread the holiday cheer. The modern manifestation has been in existence since the early 1950s when Three Kings’ Day marks the end of the month-long celebration with ten days of fun at the Crucian Christmas Carnival. Calypsonians compete for the title of king or queen and this year was won, for the fourth time, by Caribbean Queen aka Temisha Libert for her calypos, Promise and Karma. The first advising the incoming governor, Albert Bryan, to say true to his election campaign promises, and the second perhaps warning of what would happen if he doesn’t! Moko jumbies keep bad spirits at bay, cultural activities and fairs showcasing arts and crafts, food and drinks, keep the revellers happy, fed and lubricated. The final day, “Three Kings’ Day”, sees shimmering scantily clad men and women chasséing down the streets of Frederiksted to the steady beat of music belting out from trucks. It a noisy fun-filled spectacle that sets the crowds up for the coming year.
Twelfth Night, or the beginning of Epiphany, was always a subject of debate in my childhood home. Do the decorations come down on the night of the 5th or 6th of January? According to the Church of England it should be the 5th and so, over the years, I have come to adhere to their ruling. I can only assume the confusion came about due to one parent counting the 12 days from the day after Christmas Day, and the other from Christmas Day. Perhaps having the international date line between their two countries had something to do with it.
Whatever the reason, I find the day a little melancholy. The tinsel is down, the fairy lights are stored away despite knowing a fuse needs changing, the baubles that have survived the cat’s delighted playing are packed away and my favourite tree decorations are wrapped in tissue and bubble wrap and wedged into stout boxes ready for any eventuality. The whole enterprise reminiscent of an international move, which was my initial reason for such careful storage practices. For many years we did indeed move every twelve months and I’d be damned if my Christmas decorations didn’t travel with me.
Perhaps the melancholy comes from knowing my global relocations have spluttered to an end. That is not to say I am unhappy in life or in my current location. How could I be? I am healthy and happy, as are my family. I have the Caribbean glinting in the sunlight and trade winds rustling the coconuts palms outside my study. A new book being released in March adds an element of satisfaction, and the thrill of starting another engages my mind in pages of what ifs and maybes. But the excitement of wondering what country we might call home the following year was intoxicating, and I miss it.
Or perhaps my melancholy comes from saying goodbye to a houseful of friends who have stayed with us and shared our 12 days of Christmas – a noisy, busy, laughter-filled time of tempting smells from the kitchen and far too much rum and wine on the gallery.
Or perhaps it because this year we did not share our Christmas with our children and grandchildren who are scattered around the world. That, perhaps, a direct reflection of their upbringing in different parts of the globe. We all lead our own lives and only rarely do they truly entwine for a few precious days of shared memories, and when new ones are made to be stored away, like the decorations, and brought out occasionally for delightful reminisces. That is the price we all pay for a nomadic existence. And whilst I might think ruefully, and with a smidgeon of envy, of families who each year gather around the same Christmas tree in the same house in the same town, I know that is not our family.
We are global nomads. Each married to or with a partner from another country. We live in three different countries and as different cultural mores are navigated, with some becoming amalgamated into our own family culture, I reflect on the differences. But more importantly I reflect on the shared values.
Because as Three Kings’ Day draws to an end, my melancholy vanishes and I have my own epiphany. It doesn’t matter where we live, or who we live with, or what language we speak. What matters is that when we do share time together, whether in reality or the virtual world of FaceTime, we are a family despite the miles between us.
©Apple Gidley 2019.
I am sure that many of you, like me, relate to this, having been nomadic most of the last 40 years and missing key celebrations with family and friends.
Books by Apple Gidley
About the book
The Danish-owned island of 1870s Saint Croix vibrates with passion and tension as Anna Clausen, a young Anglo-Danish woman, returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death. Her heart sinks at what she finds on arrival. Her father is ailing and desolate and her beloved plantation, Anna’s Fancy, which has been in the Clausen family for three generations, is in shambles.
The unwelcome lust of one man and forbidden love for another makes Anna’s return to Saint Croix even more turbulent. Despite the decline in the sugar industry she is determined to retain Anna’s Fancy but must first win the trust of her field workers, of Sampson the foreman, and the grudging respect of Emiline the cook and local weed woman.
Fireburn tells of the horrors of a little-known, bloody period of Caribbean history. Anna weathers personal heartache as she challenges the conventions of the day, the hostility of the predominantly male landowners and survives the worker rebellion of 1878, 30 years after Emancipation.
Rich in description, Fireburn is a well-researched novel that shines a light on a historic period in Saint Croix that has received little attention in literature until now. Gillian Royes, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay
One of the recent reviews for Fireburn
Great historical novel blending the local lingo and people with European settlers. Book was fair and objective. Good research on historical sites in St Croix and England.
Never got an explanation why the principal language in the Danish West Indies was English even though the Danes owned them for over 100 years before selling them to the U.S.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Also by Apple Gidley
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Apple: Goodreads
About Apple Gidley
A transient life has seen Anglo-Australian Apple Gidley live in countries as diverse as Papua New Guinea and Thailand, Equatorial Guinea and the USA, and another eight in between. Her memoir, Expat Life Slice by Slice tells of the highs and lows of that nomadic life – one she wouldn’t trade for all the proverbial tea in one of the places she hasn’t lived, China.
Gidley’s roles have been varied – editor, intercultural trainer for multi-national corporations, Her Britannic Majesty’s Honorary Consul to Equatorial Guinea, amongst others. She started writing full time twelve years ago.
Gidley writes a regular blog, A Broad View, and has two published novels, Fireburn and Transfer, which are set on St Croix, and she has stories published in various anthologies and is working on a book of short stories. A novel, set in 1950’s Malaya is currently with agents and she is now working on another historical novel set in Poland and India.
Connect to Apple
Thanks to Apple for sharing her post with us all and I hope you will head over to explore her archives in more detail..thanks Sally.