Ship days were always exciting. Communications on the short wave would inform us of the government freighter's imminent arrival. News would spread through the village, hopping hut to hut like lice on the heads of siblings. Excitement would crackle, underlying everything with a subtle exclamation mark. Smoke filtered free from thatched roofs. The ship's coming! A girl pulled water up from the well. The ship's coming! A teenager thwacked coconut husks open on a sharpened spike. The ship's coming! Men traded drags on a hand rolled cigarette. The ship's coming!
Every kid who didn't have duties at home (and many who did, but shirked them off) congregated on the ocean side of the island, straining for the first sighting on the horizon. It would appear as a tiny black dot, minuscule, barely distinguishable against the blue. As soon as it was certain that it was indeed the ship, runners would sprint in gaggles through the village. "Keva'a! Keva'a! (Ship! Ship!)" they would shout.
It was joyful news. The ship brought loved ones long unseen, supplies, fresh produce that would soon be eaten. For us, it meant mail, food and other supplies sent by our SITAG support, and sometimes, if we were lucky, there would be a package from home.
Every so often, a church group or maybe family member would get together a care package for us and send it, filled with goodies, half way around the world. These were rarities (we got about three per year), and greatly coveted. You never knew what treasures the brown cardboard box would be hiding. Fajita spices. Kool-Aid. Stickers. Dollar store erasers and pencils. Travel size shampoos. Wrigley's gum. But if we were really lucky, there would be candy.
Real, American candy. And best of all, a mega pack of M&M's.
I am not ashamed to say that we were intensely covetous of those M&M's. To prevent WWIII from erupting in our hut every time the ship came in, we had a system to distribute treats. We were fair. Maniacally fair. So fair we were probably diagnosable.
We would all sit around the family table, and watch with eagle like scrutiny as Mom or Dad divvied up the candies. Literally, it would go by color. One brown for Nathan. One brown for Danica. One brown for Anna. One brown for Matthew. One yellow for Nathan. One yellow for Danica. And so on, until we all had little piles of the exact same number of the exact same color of M&M's. Because you know each color of M&M tastes different.
And then, we'd all four of us sit for a delicious moment, taking in the bounty, before dealing with it in our own ways. Nathan took his to share with a few select friends (who always knew, by the way, to hang out underneath our house when the ship was unloaded). Matthew would eat his in one fell swoop. Anna hoarded hers, keeping them almost until they lost their color, and using them as collateral in our sundry sibling wheeling and dealings. I would eat mine, one by one, keeping the colors even, in order, starting with my least favorite: Brown. Orange. Red. Blue. Yellow ... Green.
I would always eat the green M&M last in the cycle. Because the green ones taste the best.