Monday, November 28, 2016

Pieces Of A Home

"I'm gonna sing this song
To let you know that you're not alone
And if you're like me you need hope, coffee, and melody"
 - New Day, by Robbie Seay band

I've been thinking about how I've set up a life here in Ecuador which is likely not permanent. My roommate and I just had our apartment painted, something we've wanted to do for some time. The living room is a blue-grey, the dining room is pale yellow, and the upstairs landing area is a pale sage green. I love it, while knowing that eventually I'll have to leave it. Other parts of this life which have been established which will have to be left behind include work and friends and favorite spots (parks, coffee shops, restaurants) and favorite traditions which come from living in another culture. Yet specifically I'm thinking about setting up an apartment: all the physical things which fill and help make a home. 

I won't have the option to bring with me the window seats, bed, and multi-drawer cabinet I picked out at a local furniture market. I'll have to leave the large desk I bought from a friend. It's possible the afghan I spent ages crocheting will be too heavy to bring, needing to be jettisoned along with a slew of other items. 

However there are a few things which already I imagine packing careful into my suitcases. I have a set of dishes I hope to bring: white with paint streaks of color dashing across them, and the French word for each color on the artists pallet painted in swirling script. I saw this set and fell in love. So I hope to bring them, any future damage not withstanding. Thus, upon moving back to the US and once again setting up an apartment in Texas, I will have clothes and shoes, various odds and ends both collected and gifted, enough books to set up as temporary furniture (some with me though boxes upon boxes kindly stored in my parents bodega), and a set of dishes for four. Also a French press. Throw in a frying pan and I have breakfast covered! I can even picture the shopping trip to get one: weighing the pros and cons of grabbing a cheap pan to make due versus investing in one, or a set, which could very well last me forever and a day. I know, you may be thinking, Why are you focusing on something as small as a frying pan when you'll have a whole home to furnish? Bird by bird, darling. One piece at a time. 

On my wall is a painting of a girl looking out at the ocean. Her hands are clasped behind her back and her hair and dress are being gently tugged by the ocean breeze. Yet my favorite part of the painting is that actually, the girl is not the focus, the ocean is. The painting is huge, stretching six feet long and about two and a half feet high. The ocean spreads to the very edges of the canvas and away while the girl looks out, surely enchanted by the vastness, power, and beauty. On my wall it's like a window, and I have every intention of taking the canvas off of the frame, carefully removing each staple from the back, then rolling it up to have it re-stretched onto a new frame and hung on some future wall in a hypothetical home. Because what home can feel empty when you have a window to the ocean? 

My head thinks practicality, while my hearts yearns for beauty. Between the two there is usually a satisfactory middle ground. 

I'm writing this in bed, typing clumsily on my smartphone because my computer is in the living room, my notebook is in the dining room and honestly I didn't think the stray idea I wanted to jot down would come pouring out of me like this. I look around and think how I've had many homes, yet I'm not a nomad or gypsy. I set down roots, I gather branches and build a nest I hope to be satisfied with for years or merely months, whichever finds me first. I can't plan exactly what will happen next. I can only dream that maybe the future will still hold a French press, books, a paint pallet dishes set, and a painting of the ocean. Though even if none of these things make it, it'll be okay. There are always other things, just waiting to be found, used, loved, and turned into a home.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Little Drummer Boy

"It is not a failure to be flawed
It's beautifully symptomatic"

 - Human, by Brooke Fraser

On Sundays I attend a large, charismatic church with the Casa Gabriel boys. Each of the three services packs in about 500 people: I've arrived late before and had to stand against the wall, the services are that full. Worship is a forty-five minute celebration. On stage, there always at least two dancers, twirling with flags or scarves. There can be as many as ten singers, several guitarists, a drummer, pianist, and one-to-three saxophonists. My favorite part? The pastor is one of the saxophonists. He wears a hat when he plays, then takes it off when he stands up to preach. I love it. Makes me happy every single Sunday.

Last Sunday I was standing with two of the Casa G boys, singing, when I noticed the flash of drumsticks three rows ahead of me. A teenage boy was sitting and drumming in the air along with the music. The drummer on stage was enjoying a particularly enthusiastic part of the song, and the boy in front of me was just as excited, if not more so. When he turned his head, I noticed the almond eyes of Down Syndrome. As the drummer on stage faded into the music, solo over, the boy continued to tap his sticks into the air, quietly entertaining himself. He glanced around the room, one of the few sitting down amidst a sea of people standing, singing, and clapping. The drumming seemed to be the only thing which truly interested him. I wished for another drum solo. I wanted to see him light up again, grinning widely as he abandoned himself to drumming the air with a purity of joy rarely expressed so openly in public. Instead, the music ended and everyone sat down. I lost sight of him among the crowd, and in trying to concentrate on the Spanish sermon.

 Not long after the sermon started, there was a loud, high laugh from the back of the church, followed by several other outbursts. People around me looked back, muttering about the interruption. Soon after, a teenage girl was escorted outside. She was giggling, and as she was led out it was obvious that her gait was stilted, uneven, something effecting the muscle control in her legs and arms. She too, it seemed, had some sort of mental challenge. For the boy, his drumsticks were enough to keep him occupied, at least that morning. The girl however wasn't so easily distracted.

I wish it didn't matter. I wish that, just as I loved to see the boy with his drumsticks, we all could just smile with understanding when a girl in the back breaks out in a high laugh, however ill-timed. Yet I too was looking around, thinking, "Who is laughing and why? Can you calm down and let people focus?" Instead we have our social norms and expectations. Anything outside of that, it seems, needs to be taken quietly outside.

I love that the boy's parents let him bring his drumsticks to church. I love that he sat and drummed the air, so happy. I even love that the girl in the back was laughing, of all things. It had a happy sound to it, those high outbursts. Whatever was going on in her head was amusing, and she couldn't help but express it. I hope to hear her laugh again, and as I'm standing in church singing along with the large band on stage, watching the dancers twirl up front, I hope to see the flash of drumsticks, and the smile of a boy who drums the air with contagious enthusiasm.