Caddy ol’ Punch ~ My “Gamma Cherry” Kite for Easter
It is a well-known tradition for Guyanese/Caribbean people to fly kites on and around Easter. Outsiders may question its origins or be amazed at our kite obsessions to celebrate this religious holiday. The seawall attracts thousands of kite flyers and vendors. Some of the elders in my family claimed that flying a kite signified the arising of Jesus Christ into Heaven. On Good Friday, Granny made sure we looked our best for the church. The Easter celebrations commenced with a beautiful concert. My cousin always wanted to play Mary, the mother of Jesus. She would adorn herself with an old cloth neatly wrapped around her head and a ragged bed sheet with a rope for her dress. I was a member of the choir and had permission to play the Pastor's guitar. My little fingers fastened to the C, F and G notes repeatedly. The little boy who played Jesus was not suited for this role. He was a devil and often used his height to bully the smaller kids. Revenge was ours as we made sure we trashed his skin on the wooden, homemade cross. At one point, he yelled out, "Yall can't beat Jesus suh hard, yuh gon kill meh." I had to remind him – Jesus died on the cross for us, so should he in this concert. I know, I know, but if you knew this knucklehead boy, you would "buss he tail on the cross," too. On Saturday, my Granny and the Baker had the unnamed street sweet with cross buns. Oh my, it was like Christmas without the fancy trimmings. A hot cross bun with some swank, aka brackish lime juice, was the treat of Easter. Happily, we sang the favourite nursery rhyme of the season:- Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns. If ye have no daughters, Give them to your sons. One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns. We could not afford chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies. In our neighbourhood, we did not paint perfect eggs into colours to play hide and go seek the egg. Easter for us involved cross buns, kites and church. My Uncle would say, "dem foreigners creating an abomination to God with dem bunny eggs, cause bunny nuh to lay no blasted eggs – wasting all dem good, good eggs when poor people starving around de flapping world. Wat a sin!!!" The children in the street would line up for their snacks before venturing out into the back-dam to pick Gamma Cherries and fresh coconut leaves. Our "Caddy ol' Punch" Kites were made of "pointer sticks," the pliable spine of the coconut tree leaf. Gamma Cherry is a very sticky fruit that is used as glue when applying the paper to the pointer stick-framed kite.
Ironically, this fruit was always blooming at this time of the year. We gathered together, sitting on the hot brick road. Everyone competed for the best looking Easter Kite. Granny made sure we had enough small change to buy some paper and poly twine from the corner store for our kites. If she had no money, we used old newspapers or our "exercise books" (school book) pages.
The goal was to build a kite that can fly without it dipping into a tree or trench.Our little brown fingers moulded the kite's frame, built its nose and bolted it together with twine. Squeezing the Gamma Cherries slowly onto the face of the kite, we glued shapes with the colour papers. The most creative minds made kites with shimmers, stars and dots using various innovative decors.
My cousin's ragged cloth dress used in the concert became the tail for many kites. Sparingly, we chopped it into long string pieces and placed it at the bottom of the kites with twine. Our kites had ears – shredded paper frills on each side. After all was done, our little brown fingers were sticky and tired, but anxious to get our kites in the clear, blue sunny sky. The kites were placed in the sun for a little bit as the Gamma Cherry glue dried. The grownups loved the view of various kites decorating the road. They would sometimes brag to their neighbours, "see meh chile kite, how it nice?! Ah shoulda name he Pablo Picasso when he did born". There was always some sort of drama amongst us during this ritual. One Easter, in particular, my little cousin decided he was going to eat our Gamma Cherries. He was a real "hungry-belly" boy. While the rest of us rejoiced with our new creations, his mouth was sealed shut. It took a lot of water and fresh lime to clean the gloop of Gamma Cherries from this child's mouth. Of course, after the un-gluing, he got a spanking to top it off. Fights would also erupt over who stole whose kite's parts. My Gamma Cherry kite sang its way into the sky. It was so powerful, it almost attacked a flying "Blue Sackie" (blue-grey tanager bird). Jerking on the twine to rev-it-up into the air, I ran backwards to unreel my ball of twine. My kite sang a buzzing calypso song, and I danced back and forth as it drifted higher and higher. Granny was so proud of me. The boys were extra jealous that year since a girl made their kites look like tree decorations. My Gamma Cherry kite settled with the wind and flowed peacefully like a star in the clouds. Tying her twine to the front step banister of the house, I watched her get close to heaven. Built with the produce of the earth, my Gamma Cherry kite spent one full Easter day closer to Jesus.