Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hangy Bangy

The island women did not wear shirts except to church, or for special occasions (like when the white family came to eat). After each subsequent pregnancy and nursing, their brown breasts would pull longer and longer down their bellies. It was Nathan, my older brother, who coined our family term for them; hangy bangies. For obvious reasons.

On their slow way to the gardens, the women would walk in single file down the jungle path. They carried their baskets on their heads and babies on their backs. Their breasts would slowly sway back and forth in cadence to the foot falls. To keep them from getting in the way when they bent over to work, the women would transfer their lava lavas up to wrap around their chests, holding everything safely in place.

I really don't know how it was for my father, a pious missionary, but when I first got to the island, it was impossible not to stare. I would stare and wonder; "Does it hurt to be like that?" I would watch in fascination as a toddler ambled up to its mother, grabbed her breast, and put it in its mouth. And then feed away, its jaws working as it eyed me suspiciously. I once even saw a woman squirt a stream of milk off to the side to prepare the flow for her child. Like a cow. But then again, I'm sure anyone who's ever watched a cow has had some of the same musings; "Do they get in the way?"

1 comment:

  1. I see this all in a book. And your picture as the cover.