Monday, January 25, 2010
love note #4: mittens and plantains
today began normally. i got coffee, my "healthy" donut, and began seeing clients. about an hour ago a woman whose family came to the US as refugees from the Middle East walked in the building with two very timid looking children. one had his arm in a cast and his older sister flocked over him using shockingly maternal body language for such a small and clearly young girl.
the adult with them came to the desk and told us that she had just taken these Haitian orphans into her home and would be adopting them within the year. our whole front desk made this collective sigh in response. it was the noise you make when you recognize both pain and beauty tightly woven together. it was the sound you make when you don't really know what to say, but wish to communicate that you are listening and that you understand behind this simple trip to a center for winter basics there is a story not easily told.
the children were given mittens, coats, boots and all the things that children living in and near the Rockies need. i could not help but watch the way each child interacted with the lobby. the older sister kept a close watch on her little brother and did not remove the scarf tied to her head that draped down almost covering her left eye. the little boy's eyes practically leapt from his face when the loudspeaker would blast out a client name and number. he touched his uninjured hand to his mouth as he tried to click out English sounds over enunciating each syllable. English to their Haitian creole ears must must sound harsh and percussive. Haitian creole flows; it is a language full of water.
as they were leaving one of the counselors went into the food bank and gifted the family an order of plantains. the girl looked up from her brother and grinned. she held the plantains a bit like a baby. she pointed at the fruit and whispered something to her brother. they giggled and leaned down to smell her bundle. in a world devastated a familiar food comes to mean a lot.
they left the center and people kept saying how amazing it is that they were adopted and out of the mess that is their home country. i had a bittersweet taste in my mouth. on one hand this adoption is a beautiful thing. they will have so many opportunities here and the orphanages in Haiti are overcrowded.however i cannot shake the reality that 13 days ago these children woke up in their home in port-au-prince. 13 days ago they had parents. 13 days ago they lived within the smells, cultural practices, and daily rituals of Haiti. 13 days ago they had concrete identities. now they are in small town Colorado. it must be like dreaming awake.
i can only hope that some of Colorado's natural beauty and the kind Coloradan people will make this transition easier for them. i can only hope that they will hold their culture and memories close to their hearts and that they will tell each other stories about the family they lost. sometimes when people have so many pieces of their identity ripped away they get to grow the aspects of their person that they still have control over. i hope for them that their bond as brother and sister grows and that each of them with their serious yet inquisitive eyes grow as learners and explorers. they are brave. in spite of all the pain inherent in their situation it made me glad to see them sharing secrets and thoughts about plantains and laughing together in this strange new life. theirs is a true love.