Thinking about the Africa time on my run today, wondering if in visual art one could depict the feeling of that instant when I saw Brady across the international area at the Atlanta airport, newly purchased native garb flowing, New Balance supporting, blade of dark hair pushed across her cheek and behind her ear. Her backpack was huge and heavy, falsely describing back pain. Badly muffling my scream of delight, others turned around and looked. She had been gone almost all summer, and she was eleven.
No, don’t think that one could depict what I felt in visual art, unless the art got so specific that it wasn’t art anymore.
Ciru (She-ro) had taken Brady to Kenya. Actually, her father had suggested she go, he who had subtle striped scarring across his face, done to him so family members did not have to bear them, a professor at the local college. Ciru was Brady’s best friend in elementary school. Ciru would call the house, and my husband always made a joke: “Ciru WHO?”, he would ask, as if there were Cirus spotted all around our small town.
Immediately approving of the trip, this fell into my plan for her. Load her up with experiences, more even than my disorganized life had produced. Let her understand what it means to be a minority. View different ways of living. Get her out of the small town for a while. Where I would be suspicious of almost anything local she might want to do, in cliques as was the habit, this was entirely different.
We did not know how fine the experience would be. We did not know that Ciru’s grandparents had a country farm with a tea plantation, and also a city residence. We did not know that she would get to attend school there, as it was still in session. She ate on white tablecloths and with silver, and a maid packed her things as they moved from one residence to the other.
Monkeys followed them down the road to school, and they had a frightening interaction with a rhino while in the car touring around for the sake of Ciru and Brady. We spoke with her twice during that time. It was huge to have such a little girl gone so long so far away. It turns out I was good at the big things, terrible at the little things.
One time calling from Africa she spoke with Sidney, her grandfather. By the time she got home, he was dead. In retrospect, we were all so happy that the precious telephone conversation happened as it did. This was 1997, the summer that Hong Kong was turned back to the Chinese.
Now my baby is going to have a baby herself.