Garnalma Press

Toronto, Canada

© 2019 by Yolanda T. Marshall

Mass Games in my small days

March 14, 2014

At the age of 8 years old I served my country. No, I was not a child soldier, but a soldier of Masquerade, my rich Caribbean culture of Guyana. I endured over a month of practicing for Mass Games, an event where many Guyanese students and Army members would perform dances and gymnastics of the sort in a large stadium. Not every Guyanese were privileged to participate in Mass Games and this is why I am very blessed to have such an experience. The President and all the political officials came out to witness the vibrant parades of this historical carnival which took place for many days. Being a part of the youngest groups to perform, my reward was the fact that I had fun in the sun. As a child, it was hard to phantom the importance of this Game. I can remember it as if it was only yesterday.

My costume was the trademark of my country. The colors of my short can-can skirt, made of tool material, represented the Nation’s past, present and future. The green imitated the color of our beautiful agriculture, the leaves of the fruit trees I often climbed and the tone of our rich rain forest. The white represented the many waters of Guyana. This color is one I can dispute now that I am old enough to realize – the water was not so white, but more so brown... but I guess it is meant to signify the mineral free water many Guyanese caught in their rain water barrels. The golden arrow or yellow was the color of my shiny one piece bathing suit. I know, it is not really a bathing suit, but as a child, that is all I can think of doing in it – swimming in the back dam under the bright yellow sun. Yellow is our wealth, our gold and shining glory. This color also reminded me of Uncle Brian’s bright yellow gold teeth which sparkled when he smiled. Black portrays the endurance of our people. I use to believe that black represented the many black-outs we endured. Those power outages are a norm, but it did call for many Anansi stories under a kerosene oil lamp. The color red showed our zeal for life, our blood-lines and our dynamic nature to build a better future for our generation to come. Red, in my childhood eyes, resembled the ‘floutiee’ I use to buy with a ‘bob’ (money, 25 cents Guyanese coin) from the street vendor in front of my St Margaret’s Primary school.

“She look nice, nah?” Granny commented after she placed the yellow bathing suit and color-color can-can on me. My skin was shining of car grease mixed with some coconut oil – this was to ensure I did not get ashy while I danced and practiced all day. My little black Yattin boots were decorated with shocking color yellow laces. My hair at this stage was chemical free, long and neatly braided into soft cornrow lanes with a big red flower. One thing I hated, but somehow had to endure was the lather and rinsing of my chest with fresh baby powder – I guess some Guyanese parents wanted to prove their picknie had a good bath... I do not know, but I still hate that powdered chest to this day. I had an Aunt who was a “sweetgirl” and she religiously wore white powder all over her ‘bubby ‘(breasts) – but that is another story. I removed the powder my Granny applied and made sure I was always early and ready to dance.

 

There I was, under beautiful blue skies where the Robin birds flew and the scent of freshly cooked food from the Vendors refreshed the cool breeze. The stadium attracted hundreds of thousands. Many viewers did not have seats, so they sat on the hard brick tarmac. Some sat in the fresh green grass. The performers on stilts looked like tall, tribal Africans amongst the masquerade and the East Indian dancer’s Sari glittered with gold.  The army soldiers plonked on their big, black government boots with guns on their backs. They were muscular – a few of them look a little ‘pagalee’ (not too right in the head). They danced with their guns as they marched to the chanting song of the Mighty Gabby:

Left, right, left, right,

The government boots, the government boots

Left, right, left, right,

The government boots, the government boots

.... Is it necessary to have so much soldiers in this small country?

No, no, no, no

Is it necessary to shine soldier boots with taxpayer's money?

No, no, no, no

 

This song was more like an insult to the Dictators of many Caribbean countries – including Guyana... but it served as great dance music for all calypso lovers. It was our Arm Guards time to have fun. The music was turned off as they got serious with their performances. The display of marching skills made them look like camouflaged robots.

The gymnastics of my people where unexplainable... the dancers flexed, whine and flipped all over to sweet Soca music and folk songs of my beautiful culture. The rhythm of their movements, the chants and colors all signified the essence of our diversity. We danced and danced one school at a time. Our waist lines moved with the beat and the costumes blended into a portrait no artist can imitate with paper and paint. One side of the stadium, a bunch of students used pictures, putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of the flag etc. It was well co-ordinated and lacked any mistakes. The flags waved and the crowd was going wild. Screams of joy and loud laughter echoed into the air.

There I was as a child, in front of the President, in the first row. I was placed at the front of the group due to my independent attitude. The teachers knew I will not run and cry and I was always up for an adventure. Desmond Hoyte made eye contact with me, pointed and smiled... I smiled back. He was our President at that time. The Mass Games began and I, beautifully dressed in the colors of my Guyana’s flag, ‘wuk up meh self’ to some old folk songs:

 

“Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 

Children Children? 
Yes Mama! 
Where you been to? 
Grandmama! 
And what she give you? 
Bread and cheese! 
And where is mine? 
On the shelf! 
How can I get it? 
Climb de chair! 
And suppose I fall? 
Me nah care! 
Bad Picknie! 
Me nah care! 
Wicked Picknie! 
Me nah care! 

Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 


On your carpet 
You must be 
Like a roses 
Sugar and tea 
Bright and shining 
You must be 
And save those kisses for me! 


Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 


There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
For she likes sugar and I like plum. 

So! Let me see yuh motion tra la la la la. 
Oh let me see you motion, tra la la la la. 
So! Let me see yuh motion tra la la la la. 
For she likes sugar and I like plum. 

There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
There's a coloured girl in de ring tra la la la la. 
For she likes sugar and I like plum. 

Oh skip across the ocean, tra la la la la. 
Oh skip across the ocean, tra la la la la. 
For she likes sugar and I like plum. 

Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 


Brown skin girl stay home and mind baby. 
Brown skin girl stay home and mind baby. 
I am going away in a sailing boat 
And if ah don't come back 
Trow 'way de dam baby! 

Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 

Sly mongoose, dog know yuh name. 
Sly mongoose, yuh ain't got no shame. 
Mr. Mongoose walk in the white man's kitchen 
Tief out one ah he big fat chicken 
Put um inside he waistcoat pocket, sly mongoose. 

Missy Gal, Missy Gal, Missy Gal, Missy Gal 
Ah wha mek yuh brazen so? 

Missy Gal, Missy Gal, Missy Gal, Missy Gal 
Ah wha mek yuh brazen so? 

Meh come from de country 
Down to de town and dah mek meh brazen so! 

Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 


O lard de bucket got a hole in de centre 
And if yuh think a telling lie 
Push yuh finger 
O lard de bucket got a hole in de centre 
And if yuh think a telling lie 
Push yuh finger. 

Small days is still on meh mind 
Small days is a good good time 
De neighbours got some little children 
And when de singing and dancing 
Ah does really admire dem! 
And what de singing? 

Miss Mary had some dry-head children, dry-head children 
Miss Mary had some dry-head children, dry-head children 


Children stop playing and come inside now! 
Girl! Boy! Go-lang home nuh 
Before yuh mudder kill yuh!”

 

 

Written by Yolanda T. Marshall

“Small Day” – various Folk singers

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