Friday, July 10, 2015

In Which (My) Pride Comes Before (Her) Fall

The pantsuit was an impulse buy.  After all, a 30-something mommy cannot live in yoga pants alone, and every now and then, has the desire to break the shorts-and-tank-top monotony.  So when I saw it, with its beautiful turquoise and navy, flowy fabric, on sale, I kind of had to have it.  No matter that the strapless top made me feel a little exposed, or the fact that I would have to pull it all the way down if I happened to have to pee while out and about and wearing it. It was fabulous, and so this mommy bought it.

I wore this fabulous 1970's throwback to the library the other day.  It was the weekly story hour, and the kids and I browsed for books for about ten minutes before it was time to go in for the program.  Sophie (8) always goes straight for the graphic novels (that's my little nerdlet), and Xander (6) usually grabs every Fly Guy book on the shelf, regardless of the fact that he just read them all through a week ago.  And the week before that.  And the week before that.  Manasseh (3) is just happy to wander near where sister and brother are.

Except that when it was time to go in to hear the story, he decided he did NOT want to sit and listen to Skippyjon Jones.  He did NOT want to make a super hero mask.  What he did want to do, was to thrust my phone at me and say loudly, "Call Gigi!  CALL GIGI!  Baby talk to Gigi!"

Yes, my 3 year old refers to himself as Baby.  He is, after all, the baby.  He probably will be the baby when he is a 30-something father himself, although hopefully his grammar will have improved by then.

Fortunately Gigi is on this side of the Atlantic at the moment, so I sent her a quick text.  "Mom, you there?  Want to Skype?" and took Manasseh out to the play area that sits in our library's children's room.  Mom and I chatted while Nasseh studiously pretended to ignore her, and while the bigs were doing their craft.  Then it was time for lunch.

Our school district provides free lunches to children birth through 18, during the summer months.  It is a state funded program that ensures no child will go hungry in the summertime, when they don't have access to the free school lunches.  There are also breakfast and dinner sites around the town.  One of the lunch sites, conveniently, is the library's front lawn, where an ancient cottonwood tree casts its benevolent shade over the grassy slope.  The lunch ladies had set up a folding table and were handing out hamburgers and milk to the families and daycares filtering out from the library.  I spread our blanket near some friends, and we settled in to eat.

At this point I was grateful I had opted for my pantsuit instead of a dress, because here I was, breezily lounging on the grass, delightfully cool and free to sit however I wanted to, while smugly aware that yes I looked f.a.b.o.  The kids quickly ate their lunches, then ran to play as I chatted with the other moms.

They ran back.  "Mom, we found tadpoles!"

Stop.  The ever-loving.  Presses.

In this dusty, desert town, finding tadpoles is akin to finding, say, a fluffy unicorn calmly buffing its horn against your Ford Taurus.  It just doesn't happen.  But miracle of all miracles, we've had a magnificently rainy summer, and the drainage ditch behind the library had actual water in it.  And in that water, there were, indeed, actual tadpoles.

Of course we had to catch some.

So off we set to find the children's librarian, because as everyone knows, children's librarians are the packiest of pack rats, and always have the necessary things for any emergency, including plastic cups for tadpole collecting.  And she did not let us down.  The librarian produced not only a cup for each family represented, but an extra one for herself (of course she wanted some tadpoles, too), and one for scooping and capturing the things.

The drainage ditch behind the library is at the bottom of a steep slope.  A small pond had collected there, complete with some fledgling rushes tentatively and bravely setting root, like it was normal to have a marsh habitat in the middle of the desert.  An impossibly neon blue dragonfly darted past, dipped slightly into the water, and flew off again, leaving a spreading pattern of rings on the surface of the pond.  Dark shapes darted erratically through the murk near the shore.  There were, indeed, tadpoles.  We were all enchanted.

That's how I came to be stooped down in a drainage ditch, my sparkly teal toenails buried in murk, surrounded by excited kids holding plastic cups, fishing for polliwogs as the traffic roared past.  Feeling utterly ridiculous now in the jumpsuit that had seemed such a fabulous choice.  Apparently, it wasn't as practical as I had thought.

Disregarding the sweat dripping into my eyes and the pungent musk coming off of the water, I pulled the loose fabric tight between my crouching calves so that it didn't drop into the water, and carefully scooped the wriggly little buggers out of the shallows.  We got enough for each kid to have a pet-slash-science-experiment to take home, plus some extras for our intrepid librarian.

Apparently, however, I didn't get enough for the librarian, because she left this message on my timeline a few days later.

Oh the things we will do for Science.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Things I Carry

A fellow missionary kid asked today ... "What do you carry with you?"


I carry with me the warm sun, and the stale smell of coconut oil in my friends' hair.

I carry a beach full of dark shapes, blurred from distance and tears, as the canoe pulled me inexorably away.

I carry a light green My Little Pony and my sister's lavendar one, prancing together on a trans-Pacific airplane's fold-down trays, and the kind smile of the stewardess, and not being able to reach the air nozzel from my seat because my arms were too short.  I carry a shiny new Bible Storybook given to me by my grandmother, and her earnest admonition to share these stories with my new Island friends.  The pictures were glossy and I was careful not to spill Sprite on them when the stewardess handed it to me, sparkling in a clear plastic cup.  I carry the delight of that Sprite, too.

I carry pounds and pounds of taro pudding, eaten because it wasn't polite to refuse.  Eaten because I didn't know the words to say, "No thank you, I've had enough."  Eaten because a smiling, brown faced woman offered it to me, warm and kind in spite of her missing teeth and gently swinging breasts.  I carry her delight that the white child ate her taro pudding, and I also carry the hungry looks of the children sitting on the periphary of the hut.

I carry the first moment the language sprung from my mouth, words flowing ready and fluid from brain to tongue.  In that moment I belonged, and I carry the belonging as well.  I carry belonging to a village, to a unit, to an entire group of people.  I carry always being cared for.  I carry being part of something larger than myself.  I carry volleyball games and four square and picnicking on the beach and diving off the reef.  I carry looking down at my white skin and being shocked by the strangeness of it.

I carry scars.  A perfect circle on the top of my left foot marks the tropical ulcer that almost ate its way completely through my foot.  My right toenail is forever cracked in two pieces, from the time I hit it against a rock hidden in the sand.  The pointer finger of my left hand has a white crescent moon, from when the knife slipped while I was peeling taro.  A blue dot on my calf from when I tattooed myself out of curiosity.

I carry full moon nights when the light was ghostly and bright, and the thrill of walking with my friends past a shadowed group of boys, knowing they were looking at me.  I carry our overly loud laughter, and the boys' answering boasts.  I carry the stolen touches on my breasts and bottom.  But I never told.  I never told.

I carry the sea.  Diving down to scoop the tinkling sand, balancing my tiptoes on coral heads and bouncing to keep my chin above the waves, feeling safe in the omnipresent roar of it.

I carry clattering coconut trees and monsoon rains.  Smoke drifting silent and heavy around shaggy huts.  Packs of naked children.  Raucus laughter of women as they sit weaving mats in the shade.  Happily drunk men passing coconut toddy and dancing to 'Red Red Wine'.  Steaming coconut rice and fish soup.  Nets strung out to dry.  Delisciously muscled teenagers carrying their canoes down to the lagoon.  Public fights between spouses.  The church bells every morning and evening.  The village's hush as the Magnificat is sung from the church, in nasal harmony.

I carry the warm brown faces, and the suspicious ones.  I carry hugs against soft, bare breasts and snuffling kisses against my cheeks.  I carry wails of 'Alohai-e' as the canoe pulls me away, away.

I carry loss and I carry joy and I carry it all tangled up inside of me in a knotted ball of strings.