Cruising down the interstate in Missouri with my brother in law at the wheel, I'm thinking of the last family trip we took over a year ago.
I can see the guys hefting the luggage onto the pòt chay on top of the Toyota Prado, and mom in law bustling out of the little pink house with more. And more. I can feel the huge thorn that poked thru my sandal as I walked out into the raje behind the very last gas station on Route 9 on the way up Monn Kabrit, because that thorn patch was the last chance for a pit stop. I can smell the fried chicken and rice that mom-in-law brought along in her tin stacking bowls. My very sensitive pregnant nose could hardly handle it although I'm sure it was very delicious food.
We were headed to retreat in Hinche. I have such good memories of drinking hot chocolate in the church in the mornings, singing with my Blanchard friends in the choir, and all the jokes and speeches and fancy clothes and Bible quizzes with prizes. I remember walking to get pica pollo one evening with Pastor Elder and having Coke on the little balcony of our tiny hotel after dark. I would re-do that trip in a heartbeat.
We are on the way home from another trip today, but this one has been quite different. Although we did bring chicken legs along to eat on the way and we managed to hit a few fairly sketchy bathrooms, but no walking thru a thorn patch. We are 6 people in my parents Suburban instead of 11 in the Prado. And we're barrelling down a USA interstate covering 75 miles in an hour instead of creeping up a narrow mountain road behind a huge kamyon. The boys are driving this time and everyone is pitching in money for gas. I have a baby to keep entertained with bananas and goldfish crackers and books.
Instead of retreat, we've been at a Haitian missionary reunion. Zèzè says he qualified to go only because he's married to a former missionary, which makes me roll my eyes. It was a lovely weekend and I heard so much about legacy, how we are all a product of our experiences and the people who came before us.
I just want to say that I'm grateful for the legacy I've received. I suppose it started with our ansestors who had the faith to take a boat across the ocean to a new world. I have thought about them a lot during this last year of being in the middle of immigrant culture.
More recently, there was my Grandpa who was always happier in Mexico than the USA, and my Grandma who treated machete wounds and helped deliver babies and also managed to have 10 children of her own in only 13 years. I'm thankful that God gave my mom the dream of adopting a baby, and that my dad was willing to go orphanage visiting with her in Mexico until they found the right one.
And it was so awesome to hear your stories this weekend at the reunion. So many of you know my husband's family and even his grandparents, which I never met. Someone said when dad-in-law was engaged, he was so excited about getting married that he ran his bike into a parked car. That's just really funny to think about. I admire your courage. You dealt with hurricanes and earthquakes, walked so many miles of mountain paths, raised bilingual children, and spent years of your life away from your family with no smartphones to keep in touch. It's remarkable that you still talk about it all with such positivity. It's amazing to see the friendships you formed that are still alive generations later.
If you ever doubt that what you did was worth it, you can remember that in a way you created the family I have today. The long hikes across mountains. The sometimes awkward but oh so fulfilling relationships. The polite eating of strange food. The lonesomeness for home. The long stuffy nights that were too hot to sleep. The evenings of praying about a complicated situation. All of that made it possible for me to have the family that I do.
So thank you to all of you who gave me the chance to raise a little brown baby with wild hair that breaks out dancing as soon as she hears any kind of music. Thank you for giving me the chance to cook rice and beans and poul fri for a hungry gang every day. It's worth scrubbing the thick layer of grease off the stove and washing a chodie stuck with gratin. I will treasure these days of being the big loud family that turns heads in town, talking kreyòl to the American mail lady because I can't even remember which language is which anymore, and singing from the Chan Kretyen in the mornings with the person I love most in the world.
If anyone can say that going to Haiti changed their life for the better, it's me. And I hope that our family can leave a legacy like you have.