Yesterday, as I told you, was Monday…Cleaning Day.
My father and eldest brother were sleeping (they had both been at work all night) and my mother and Sabrina went to the grocery store. While I was in charge, things went badly.
It was an argument with deep roots which looked like a tiny sprout from the surface. It looked like a tiff over house work when really it was a painful battle between two different souls-of two different countries. Two different people and the very blood which runs through their veins. Two people whose hearts sometimes forget that they are kindred.
She didn’t want to vacuum and she didn’t want to dust…I confronted her. She had to work. She had to help…Mommy had said so. Then I just burst. I’ll admit that I screamed.
The two of us stood in the laundry room screaming. I asked her why I tried to make her happy when I was never successful. Why? Why? Why?
She said that she tried. How?
She tried not to be angry when I was never happy with her work.
You don’t try to do well I replied.
And, as many arguments do, it boiled down to something. We dug up the roots and the tiny sprout was revealed to be something much older.
She hid her face in a rag a sobbed. I caught my breath.
The little kids, who had been cleaning up outside came in the den door. I had my back to the den. I didn’t want to turn around and offer a tear stained face.
“It’s raining.” They said. Of course it is. I thought. I began this storm.
The weather was perfectly appropriate. The dark clouds blocked out the sun just as our dark words were blocking out anything good. “Stay on the deck a while…it’ll pass.” I say. I know that it is calming…coming to an end. They obey, never seeing my face or the huddled figure sliding down on the laundry room floor with her back against the dryer.
Broken and beaten with the sharpest tool-words. She weeps and I weep but not yet together.
Her face is still hidden in that white rag. Her weeping sounds like a combination of a cranky baby, a hurt puppy but somehow like a widow. It was mourning. It was mourning.
For her country? Her language so long ago forgotten? Her mother? Her childhood?
That is an eternal mystery for me, but my little sister was sitting on the laundry room floor mourning.
We are like two pieces of metal…shaped differently that do not fit together.
When put together our jagged edges tear away at one another until finally, someday we’ll fit together. God will shave away at us, painfully, slowly, until we are smooth.
Our other sister, only twelve, walked in to witness the happenings. Standing there watching as if she had seen this many times before. Sadly, this wasn’t the first argument betwixt us.
But this part, what happened next is what I hope she’ll always remember.
I forgave her. Would she forgive me? How do I ask? In many ways, we still do not speak the same language. I had to show her…act it out.
I too slid down against the dryer. Her breaths were caught…snagging on overwhelmed emotion.
I put my arm around her and begged her to breath. Her face was still in her rag against her knees.
So much like a baby. And how do you comfort a baby? I knew the answer.
I decided to sing to her. What song is most comforting to a mourning child?
A song about Christ’s love. Jesus loves the little children.
And what else? What could make her feel at home? Jezi renmen tout ti moun yo-to sing it in her own language even if she did forget most of it long ago.
So I sang it, quietly. My voice cracking and flickering through my pain and sorrow.
I stumbled over a few of the words but I knew that they were there in her mind.
We rocked side to side, gently. Her sobs would die down and then, like wind, pick up again. Finally, aware that much time had passed and our littler sister had vanished (the hum of the vacuum could be heard from the living room) I got up to finish my work. I suggested she went outside for a while so that the little kids who were getting drinks in the kitchen wouldn’t hear her cry but she muttered something about not wanting to. So I left her.
I went into the bathroom and washed my hands. I washed my hands of it all.
I washed my face…a baptism…a re-dedication to what I was trying to live by.
Then I went and found a dusting rag and began to dust. The children were scurrying about the deck. The sun. It had come back. The son had not forsaken us. The clouds had cleared.
As I dusted I thought. This is The Life (The Roast Beef Life.) Truth and reality. Pure grief to wash away the deceitful intentions. Honest arguing. It was painful but it broke us down to size and made us fit a little better…side by side. We finished it together in the end. Nothing hidden…no drama. I knew that living “real” included true pain when I chose this life.
She reappears and asks if she can call Mommy. Respect for my authority…asking first.
I too respect my authority saying yes and then again by giving her a job I know she can accomplish-dishes. The kitchen sparkles and we both clean silently for the rest of the day.
Speaking few words but exchanging much communication.
We will heal and it’ll get better by and by.