“Mami, do you think I’m from another planet?”
“No, Honey. I think you’re from this planet.”
“I’m really strong.”
“Yes, you are. You’re very strong.” In our last house, she had to open and close the huge, heavy sliding glass door for all her friends when they came over. No one but her could make it budge. She’s carried my computer bag, our suitcases, giant chairs across the living room. I am not just pumping up her self-esteem. She is strong.
“Stronger than my friends.”
These days, she gives everything that comparative PUNCH. I don’t know how to break her of the habit, and I wrack my brain, trying to remember if I passed through a similar stage. Am I passing through it even now?
“And I’m short.”
“Just wait ’til we go to Guatemala, Sweetheart. We’ll see a lot of people your size.” She is suddenly quiet, pondering this. My nine year-old. She knows this; she’s heard it, but she may not believe it.
Because this is how she looked the last time we were in Guatemala — when we met each other for the first time — this is how she looked when we left:
And this is how she looks now:
What she knows about her birth country is what she’s read in books. Or heard from the people around her, the people who love her, the people who live here. In the United States.
But this Wednesday, we get on a plane – Kelly, Grace, Miss E, and Me – for a family trip to Guatemala. We are staying by Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful places in the world. She will finally have context, sense memory, her own impressions of this place: Where she was born, where blood relatives live, this place with people who look (who feel? who think? who act?) like her.
We will not meet her birth family. Not this time. Not until later, and only then if it’s something she wants.
Instead – together – we will learn the place a little, and feel the lake breeze, and mix with people who’ve lived there all their lives, and some who (like us) are visiting. We will drink coffee and walk and play games with each other at night sometimes. We will see people my daughter’s size, and we will talk – long conversations in small bits – while we are there.
We will share. Privately. Publicly. Slowly, I expect, when we come back home.
Or maybe the words will come all in a rush.
Each of us in our own time.
Filling in detail. Adding color.
Finding our footing, our phrasing, and our place as we go.
The simple truth is: We don’t yet know.