Tonight we celebrate. We sit around the dining room table, practicing spelling words- August, thrilling- and recite memory verses and then we celebrate. I distribute pieces of caramel chocolate and give a speech about J- making the strenuous trek up the hill even though she didn’t want to go to school and her back hurt, having a mostly good day when she thought it was the worst, promising to go every day this week. At each point we cheer and Phil pulls J’s hand to the air like a boxer and P laughs so hard she nearly chokes. Then we press our chocolates together and say cheers and J peels her piece in two, examining the caramel swirl inside. It feels like a great victory.
P sits at the table and draws small circles on white paper, yellow suns, signs her name PO. Then she cuts the paper into tiny pieces, stores them in her zippered bag. Begins again.
The days are cold. Grey skies. Frozen floor tiles. We pull out space heaters, socks, keep the windows closed. The girls still put on strappy sundresses, bare legs, flipflops, unwilling to change their Kenyan wardrobe for a small detail like weather.
Two men outside have pickaxes, brown pants, brown gloves. They dig the cement on the road, swing heavy tools over their shoulders, break through the unbreakable. A pile of rocks and dirt grows at their feet. Their backs don’t seem to tire.
M needs a horse. She has changed into jeans and a plaid shirt, found black boots and a cap, and now she needs a horse. The broom handle and Masai cane I offer are rejected, though they are the horses of the ages, her imagination sees differently, needs more substance. So we pull the wooden clothes rack to the yard, she covers the dowels with a brown sweater, climbs on top. Rides across the savannah.
P studies the map etched into the playground structure, talks to an imaginary class, asks for the capital city. It is Suzanne.
At night I walk down the back road, eager for the darkness, though my heart races. I forget to notice the sky, the ground under my feet, planning tomorrow’s grocery list. Then I remember to pray, breathe, speak blessings over the passing houses. I pray grace and light for sad neighbours, and when I walk past their window, lit in the night, they are laughing with a friend. Prayer answered like magic.
I am distracted from my writing by my reflection in the laptop screen. My hair is lopsided, the lines around my mouth deeper than I remember them. Behind me I see the lacy branches of a tree that I never noticed, it bounces as I type, looks like I’m in a jungle.
Baby, get her on your horse! Lap clap. She zips down the ill, pulls around to the play structure, cheers on her invisible friends. Purple flipflops, green tunic, yellow balance bike. She watches the kids on the basketball court, thinks she’s invisible.