By Francis Quamina Farrier
CHRISTMAS decorations have already been put up at many private and public places all around the country. In homes, business places, certain avenues in the city and institutions, including the Palms on Brickdam. Christmas music is also being played on the Radio Stations; my favourite is, “Happy Holidays” by the Guyanese group `The Four Lords’.
According to one of the popular Christmas songs, “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year”, and residents of the Palms on Brickdam in Georgetown, look forward to all the wonderful things that occur at that special home for ‘seenagers’, during the Festive Season, when relatives, friends and corporate citizens, drop by with a wide variety of goodies, to bring joy, happiness and a measure of “the good life”, to those who have made sterling contributions to Guyana, during their younger and more productive years.
The first corporate citizen (of sorts) that kicked off the Christmas Season for the residents of the Palms, was the humanitarian organisation, Food for the Poor. They were there on Friday December 1, 2017, and it was a memorable event with singing and dancing and eating and drinking and jollification. For many of the residents, theirs was not a life of careless living that caused them to be in that institution in their golden years. Many of them still possess talents and abilities which, if tapped into, can still be for the further development of the country. For them, Christmases of the past, were occasions when they gave to others who needed some Christmas cheer.
However, before I continue with this feature of “Christmas Season at the Palms”, let me clarify an issue or two. First, I need to say something about that word, “seenager” which I used earlier. There are those who are 13 to 19 years of age and are known as “Teenagers”. Fifty years later they become “Seenagers” – teenagers who have SEEN so much during a lifespan of over five decades beyond their teen years, and have gained much experience and wisdom over the decades. I am proud to be regarded as a “Seenager”. I’ve seen quite a lot during my almost eight decades on Planet Earth. I have seen my country, for example, transform from a colony where those who ruled and held the top jobs, came primarily from Britain, thousands of miles away. I have seen British Guiana transformed from a colony into a Republic, where the rulers were born right here, and who are expected to give the masses a better deal, and “The Good Life”, as long as they work for it.
While the Christmas Season at the Palms has maintained many of the traditions of the colonial era, such as Christmas buntings and the singing of Christmas carols, there is much more of the Guyanese input, with some corporate citizens, such as Banks DIH Limited, turning up to take Christmas joy to the residents. Unlike the Christmases during the colonial era, at which cotton wool was part of the decor to represent snow, the National colours of Guyana are on display at the Palms.
I would also like to let you know, if you don’t already know, how the Palms got its name. That institution was known as, “The Alms House”, during the colonial years of British Guiana. However, because there were many palm trees lining Brickdam, which is the first street in Georgetown to be upgraded from a mud dam surface to one of bricks, (becoming known as Brickdam), President Forbes Burnham, renamed that institution for the elderly, “The Palms”.
Over the many decades of service to senior citizens who reside there, physical and other shortcomings had to be addressed from time to time. The most recent being a lack of efficient service which residents complained about, as well as the physical condition of some of the wards. It was back in 2015, when then Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Volda Lawrence, made an unannounced visit to the institution, and saw and heard for herself, the complaints of the residents. True to her word, the identified issues were addressed, and there was a much happier Christmas 2015, for the residents of the Palms.
Although I do not visit The Palms very often, whenever I do, I learn quite a lot from those elders, who could be described as human history books. All of these elders have stories to tell, stories of their lives which are part of the Guyana history, stories which can be written and told, not just at Christmas time, but all year round. They tell their very own stories of how they spent Christmas when they were children growing up in British Guiana. That is also a part of our unfolding Guyana history from my observations and information, there will be lots of happiness for the residents of the Palms, during the Christmas Season 2017.