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Father, sister, mother, brother Christmas
My name is Dave Ramlal and I design Christmas trees for important people in my life.
I spent 18 years away from home. I lived abroad for a while and then bought a home in Glencoe but I recently moved back to St James. Because my father got very ill and I need to be there 24/7, in case anything happens.
Steve Ouditt, the artist, also from St James, is my cousin. My father is an Ouditt but it’s one of those Indian things where the names get reversed – the grandparents are too drunk, I think, when they’re registering the kids. My granddad was Ramlal Ouditt but, for some reason, my father was registered as Sam Ramlal. So we’re actually not related to any Ramlals.
The kind of friendships they have in Canada is not like what we have here. My mother know your mother. Up there, they don’t meet their friends’ parents. We aren’t just friends, in Trinidad, we are family.
I definitely inherited good genes from my dad. He’s 89 but looks 75. I’m 49 years old.
I hosted a small Thanksgiving dinner for ten people at my home and a friend turned up in sweat pants and a little vest and I sent her home. My table is beautifully done with chargers and dinner napkins and flowers and candles — I worked hard to do all of this for you — you should dress for it! You can come for a lime in shorts and slippers and you’ll be fed — Indian house always have food! — but dinner is special.
I was born early on a Carnival Monday morning. I tell my mom I came out dancing.
My father was Christian and my mother Hindu and we grew up knowing both religions. I would have to say I’m not religious at all but I’m very spiritual. I talk to God every day, though I don’t believe in this personification of a human sitting on a throne in the sky. I believe in energy. I think we’re all energy, are all connected as energy, and there is a greater energy that controls us. There’s too much that points to that to neglect it.
I have a problem of not being able to say, “No” to people. So I would do big trees on small budgets. But I had to learn. It was messing up my business, buying more with my own money to make their tree better. What I needed was a bigger budget. So I learned to say, “This is what you can get for that price”.
For a lot of years, I had a job doing Christmas trees for people; until my fingers wore out! Sometimes people would have their trees and we’d just need to add. Sometimes we’d do the whole thing: look at the space and their taste and décor, determine the size and style of the tree, then go and purchase.
The most I’ve spent on a Christmas tree and decorations for someone’s private home would be, like, over $45,000. Every piece was hand-selected for them and had to be designer and had to match and coordinate. They wanted a magazine-esque tree. And they definitely got it!
It’s great to give people that “wow” when they walk into their living room and see their tree. That made a lot of money for me at Christmas time. But I grew up in a home where Christmas was the most magical time. Doing a Christmas tree together is the kind of thing that pulls families together: those are the memories you treasure. When someone calls me now, I say, “It’s not that I don’t want to do it, you know, but get your family together, make some eggnog and put up your tree!”
It doesn’t make sense having a whole lot of money in the bank and you and your family have grown apart.
The best thing about doing trees for people is seeing their face at the end. I unplug the tree, bring the family in, and then plug it in. The bad part is when they really don’t like it – because the budget was too small
A Trini is a happy person who appreciates life, loves to party and loves their belly. And loves their family more than anything else.
Trinidad & Tobago means my whole world to me. I feel very privileged that I’m a Trinbagonian. We take care of each other.
Read a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com
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