Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Together Again

Last week we were visited by Eva and her daughter Marthaline. Eva, her mother, and her three children were refugees in Liberia who petitioned to come to the United States. My sister and I, along with a few other inspiring women, were running People for Peace at the time, a peace and justice group we formed to protest the run-up to war (fat lot of good that did, eh?) and continued as a forum for peace and justice issues. We hosted speakers, events, poetry slams, and vigils. We were a small bunch in this conservative rural area, but we were mighty. We endured nasty counter-protesters who flashed signs at our 82-year-old co-founder that read "Appeasers KILL" - with 'appeasers' written 2 inches high and 'KILL' written 2 feet high. We endured yells from angry passing motorists - because, you know, we don't want our young men and women to get killed in an unnecessary war, and apparently, what, they do?! And all in all, we met some amazing people - mostly elderly, interestingly - and learned a lot.

One day my sister posed the possibility that we sponsor a refugee family, and some of our group committed to doing just that. Shortly after, Jackie picked up Eva and her family in Chicago and brought them home. We got them settled in a house apartment in a nearby smallish town and there began a new branch of our multi-cultural family as Jackie became their #1 caretaker and I became her back-up.

Marthaline, the youngest, was only 6 at the time, but she was a wild woman. She'd run and leap into my arms and climb me like a tree, gripping tightly with her legs around my waist, nearly strangling me with her arms, and burying her head into my neck. Marthaline's greetings were the best part of my visits.

After two years here, though, they decided to move to Minnesota to be near other Liberians they knew. Eva is an amazing woman - a single parent of 3 (her husband was 'lost' when they came to America - it was unknown if he was dead or alive - but now the government won't let her husband come because there's no official proof of their marriage), working nights, taking classes at a local college, all in a foreign land. I'd do well to think of Eva and all she's been through when I'm tempted to whine about messy counter tops or a weedy garden.

Last week Eva and her youngest, Marthaline, came to visit.

Photo: My sister Jackie, Eva, me, and Neecee, another friend to Eva

On Sunday night we all gathered for dinner at my mother's house, and the kids ran and played and ran some more. I love nothing more than watching a gaggle of children run wild on a balmy summer night. This particular night, the kids decided to have running races.

They'd start at the top of the barn hill and race across the backyard, around the house, and back up again.
They did this again and again, in different combinations.
And we adults were having a lovely time watching. From the deck. But then Eva had to go and blow it for the lazy adults. When the kids began challenging us, she took them up on it.

Go Eva, Go!

And then my sister got into the groove. Here she is getting beaten by our 14 yr old Colorado cousin, Lauren, who is also visiting for 3 weeks.
So then my boys started asking who was faster, my sister or me. "Well now that depends upon what race you're talking about," I replied. "I was the sprinter - Jackie was the long distance runner." This got them even more excited and they begged us to race. Jackie and I gave each other pained looks - we weren't sure it was such a good idea. But I said we'd race if ALL the kids raced, so we lined up:
There's me on the far left, Jackie toward the right.
And there's me holding my hands in the air like a champion. I didn't win, but my therapist says I should practice the power of positive thinking. "If you think it, it will be." Or something like that. Later, I kept teasing my cousin, "I think I beat you. I think I really won."
"What-EVER," she laughed.

Even the guys got in on it. There's Marcelo holding his own against Jonathan, and Rob bringing up the tail end...
Go honey, go!

But really, the best part of the visit, again, was how often Marthaline would offer a snuggle and a hug.

Who wouldn't love a face like this? Pure sweetness. And wild woman, through and through.


Colleen said...

The word paradise comes to mind when I look at those photos! Is that where you grew up!?

denise said...

You are indeed a kindred spirit, my friend. Every post from you I find that more and more.

She is a beautiful girl - and what an awesome smile!

piscesgrrl said...

Yes Colleen, that's where I grew up. It's just down the road from here, and only 1/4 mile from the main family farm where my sister is now the 4th generation (her kids are 5th!) to live. There was a small house on the plot, but when my dad was growing up he always knew he wanted to put a house there near the round barn - and so he did! It's a lovely spot. We've told my mom she's not allowed to move!

Denise - but of course we are! That's how come we found each other. Let's get together soon!

Silvia said...

Ooh--check out my post on a Liberian family in our area--mostly about the husband b/c he's an artist and the post is about his artwork. :)

EC said...

Just beautiful!!!

debra said...

This is a testament to the power of one. And one more. And one more.
And so it grows.

Linda said...

That nearly made me cry. What a beautiful story and a beautiful bunch of people.

K. said...

I love this post, and I love the pictures. They make me simultaneously feel like I was there and wish that I was. And sort of hate you for not adopting me into your family, but I forgive you.