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Washing My Face

"I am washing my face before bed while a country is on fire. It feels dumb to wash my face, and dumb not to. It has never been this way, and it has always been this way.

Someone has always clinked a cocktail glass in one hemisphere as someone loses a home in another while someone falls in love in the same apartment building where someone grieves. The fact that suffering, mundanity and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable."

We're not going to talk about the fires today. Goodness knows we all know they're everywhere. Maybe some of you are in the middle of one.

But probably most of you are right in the middle of the mundane, just like me.

One good Friday, I splurged on whole red snapper from the frozen section of Walmart - the closest I could come to authentic Haitian style fish. Mom in law marinated them with loads of lime and spicy pepper and we grilled some and she made sauce with the rest. The table was so full with rice and white bean sauce and greens and platters of fish and plantains that I invited the neighbors last minute.

Ava and her daddy flew kites on Saturday and she was terrified the kite would be lost up there forever and cried for it to come down.

Easter morning we heard a wedding announcement in the quiet of the early morning after our sunrise service out by the cemetery. Zèzè said on the way to church that wouldn't it be awesome if one of the graves would open up just like the real Easter. No excitement on that level thank goodness. But the cinnamon rolls and coffee in the Fellowship Hall were delicious.

Last year we found a little sand beach by the lake and the guys met a bunch of Nicaraguan guys who were also here on the Biden visa program. They had a great soccer game. And Navelie peeled crabs for Ava and she crawled straight into the lake with her little pink swimsuit on. There was corn on the cob and chicken legs heated up on our little charcoal grill.

This spring we went back for mom's birthday and there were two little girls instead of one and both sets of our parents were along. Everyone flew kites and both dad's heated up tortillas on the discada and we had an actual table this time loaded with carnitas and rice and beans and a birthday cake.

After supper we drug kayaks into the lake and my dad sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to a very sandy, tired Ava who was riding in his boat.

Mom had a very happy birthday although two little girls would hardly let her eat. She still squeezed both of them and said, "This is how children are supposed to be raised."

We've also been celebrating birthdays at the new Jamaican restaurant. It's a jolly little building painted yellow and green and my daughter is fascinated by the stuffed rasta banana with dreadlocks hanging in the corner. We hope they get enough business to stay open but I've been practicing making brown stew pork just in case.

Dad in law wants to go to the zoo again before it gets hot. I think he's like Ava and likes to watch the monkeys best. I really don't know the Kreyol words for things like wildebeasts and warthogs and kind of doubt they even have words. So I end up just saying vaguely that it's a kind of pig or cow.

Last week Mom and Ava and I went out blackberry picking. Alli was in the front pack with a very sweaty pink little face and Ava was more concerned about the cows and horses and the big rooster with the hairy tufted head than picking blackberries. Some people told us we could pick their mulberry tree and wow! It must have been a hundred years old, with branches growing up to the sky then almost down to the ground again - the perfect little girl playhouse. I made mulberry lemonade for supper this evening.

And my point is why do I buy the red snapper even though I hear that on the island three chicken legs are selling for 5 USD.

And why do I feel a strange comfort when I plant a fruit tree or a bundle of sweet potato slips in the ground or when I see my green beans with their first teeny pods and potatoes blooming purple flowers. Like the cassava I planted here in Louisiana all coming up in hills with pigeon peas and Caribbean pumpkins around them can do anything to save this crazy world.

And why do I think of the piles of trash in Port au Prince making sludge after a rain and resent the plastic tubs my strawberries come in, when here the trash truck comes every Thursday. But somehow I still am motivated to use my cloth diapers and faithfully throw things on my compost pile.

How do you live life normally when you know there are people in the fire? And when you don't know when it might be your turn to feel the heat? I guess you just do the mundane things and the special things and you buy the red snapper and eat every single bite. You watch the moon compete with the bright lights of the Lake Charles casinos as you paddle your tiny kayak thru the dark water.

I agree with my mom. This is how children should be raised - enjoying every mundanely special moment. They do it so well. It is the grownups who think about the fires.

I've heard the hardest thing after you've lost a loved one is to hear someone complain about their family.

So maybe those of us in the middle of the mundane have an obligation to keep washing our faces every evening in spite of so much of the world being on fire. We really must pick the mulberries before they all fall to the ground and to build campfires even though the mosquitoes are a bit annoying and one of our greatest duties is to enjoy what we've been given.

My advice is to just buy the red snapper and please serve it on your best china. And if you eat at the Jamaican restaurant, be sure to leave a good tip so they can keep turning out the jerk chicken. Say hi to the rasta banana for Ava.

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Jolynn Sensenig
Jolynn Sensenig
Apr 20

I enjoy your descriptive way of writing and sharing your heart. Thank you for sharing it with us

Apr 22
Replying to

This looks like a familiar name and face 😜 thanks and hope your family is all doing well!

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