Amelia Lau Carling’s picture-book, Mama and Papa Have a Store (Dial, 1998)/ La Tienda de Mamá y Papá (Groundwood, 2003)) is all about a day in her parents’ Chinese shop in Guatemala City. In a wonderfully evocative Personal View for our current issue of PaperTigers, Amelia shares some more memories from her childhood, as she recalls the celebrations “On Our Street” around this time of year:
We sat in the rooftop terrace around a small card table. We were the three kids my mother could rope into a chore that would pay us a quarter each. My feet dangled without touching the floor. Mama had cooked a pot of glue with cornstarch, water and lemon juice. The pot sat cooling in the middle of the table and a couple of old paintbrushes lay next to it. There was a stack of “Cohete El Aguila” labels and a case of firecrackers, each one a four-inch square of red paper and gunpowder. Our job was to glue a label on each packet. In the sky, a kite or two danced among the clouds. The air was crisp and the sun shone strongly. We whiled away the afternoon around the little table in silly banter, slapping on labels.
It was December in Guatemala, and we were happy to be in the middle of our summer vacation. School was out from October to January. Christmas and New Year’s Eve were coming, and pasting firecracker labels was only part of the excitement. We helped in the store, our Chinese store where a little of everything was sold. I stood on a stool to punch the numbers in quetzales and centavos on the old cash register and turned the crank on the side to make its drawer fly open with a cheerful brrring…”