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.


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