Footprints to Zanzibar

Quite a Day

It was this past Thursday.  I showed up at outreach about three in the afternoon having called previously to let it be known I could stay only about an hour and a half that day since I had a Skype meeting to attend in my home at five.

The kids and I worked in small groups of three learning some beginning guitar skills and vocals.  The little ones kept surging out of their homework room and surrounding us, getting into the guitar case and touching the tuning keys on the instrument.  Break time was called, and an older child from an upstairs group thrust a plastic bowl of bananas and yogurt onto my lap.  I grabbed it in time to not see it spill into the dirt, set it down on the wooden preschool chair I’d been perching on, and stood to put the Yamaha into the case, then moved that to the family’s large downstair kitchen, on the side there, where I hoped the kids wouldn’t dare to enter, to further tinker with the guitar.

While I was moving, I saw my friend enter the property from the street and get mobbed by several children with various requests and comments.

A few seconds later she entered her extended family’s kitchen and heaved a big sigh.  I said, “What’s up?”

“You would never believe it,” she responded. “I left here at noontime to visit M. and A. (two of our kids, who’d had to be moved, by us, and the government, to a facility one year ago, because of the abuse they were experiencing daily in their living situations), and I stopped to buy some fruit, for a gift for them.  While I was buying the fruit, a bulldozer towed my car away!”

“WHAT?? That never happens here, I mean, everybody knows, you park wherever you want to for a few minutes!”

“It happened. So, I had to go downtown to TRANSITO, and try to get the car out of dock, and do this big palaver, and pay the multa…”

While she was still speaking, two middle-sized kids walked up to us, saying, “Tia, we can’t get on the Internet, with the computer (a huge ancient behemoth on its last legs) to do our homework…”

“Yeah…”   My friend gestured to the rickety wall outlet beside us at about knee height, in the front wall of the kitchen.  “This morning my brother went to plug in his radio here and, it blew the whole circuit to this side of the property.  No electricity.  And, I haven’t had time to look at it yet and try to fix it.”

“Well, sorry it’s been a bad day”, I murmmered.  “Unfortunately, I have to head home now and catch that meeting I’ve got.”

“Hang on a sec.  I’ll drive you home in the car.”

“No, REALLY! I want to drive you home.  We’ll take some of the 3, 4, and 5-year – olds with us.  It’s not far and, I want to clear my head.  It’ll do me good to get out for ten minutes.  And the kids will love it – they always do…”

So.  There is a general exodus to the street, of about 15 gleefully running and screaming tiny munchkins and L., our 14-year-old, who is so enamored of her first guitar lesson (and did SO well at it!), that she doesn’t want to leave me, and decides to go in the car.

As I’m folding myself in to the front passenger side, shifting two tots to my left knee while keeping them out of the gearshift, while heaving the cased guitar in thru the doorway onto the area of my right knee, I close my door on the old car with medium strength and, thank God!, a bit of slow caution.

“TIA!!!” Tears gathering flow and cries gathering strength.  Oh NO!  I’ve crunched little H.s hand in the car door!

We pile out of the car.  I scoop H. up in my arms and  start running in, saying to my friend who is running by my side, “Ice.  Let’s get some ice on it.”  All 16 kids trail us across the street and inside…

After a few minutes of ice and comfort, our little guy stops crying, the injured hand gets examined for the fifth time and – thank God – it’s only a little skin scraped off, and a bruise.  We all mill around for a bit, then troop down and out, across the street, and start piling into the car again.

At the back, left-hand passenger door wails and screams and the sound of a car door closing, then opening again are heard. ANOTHER four-year-old, A., has gotten HIS hand slammed in the car door!!!  We can’t believe it.  It’s true.

Same song, second verse.  Out of the car, into the property, ICE.  The sobs subside.  Everybody’s going to be okay.

We have a nice little drive over to my house; a few seconds into the ride five year-old Javier, on my lap, starts saying, “OW, MY EAR, MY EAR!” but it turns out to be fake. I get all the little kids counting jacaranda trees.  They are easy to tell apart this time of the year, because of their breathtaking heaps of lilac blossoms in the springtime, which is now.

My friend and I make eye contact, across almost a dozen little black-haired heads, and smile wryly, both rolling our eyeballs.


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