The Laughter of Brown Children
If there is one memory of home that remains as vivid, clear and strong as the day it was made, that, for me, is the memory of brown children's laughter. The distance from home and the length of time away from it only seems to increase the resonance and timbre of the memory.
There are many occasions to remember. I remember the twilights where I would sit at the stoop of my home-community clinic in Barrio San Antonio and watch the children laugh and race each other, kicking up dust under bare feet, scurrying home, town-crying,"Marimar na, Marimar na" to signal the start of the town's soap-opera watching ritual. The men would gather at the corner store and in a while, the children, losing their initial excitement for the TV soap, would come back out to the streets to children's banter and to cajole from the menfolk some rock candy.
I remember the children's excitement when, one weekend, the adults decided to clear the empty lot across from the clinic and put in a swing in the guava tree. Armed with whatever tools they could find at home or borrow from neighbors, the children joined us at work, digging out weeds, trimming hedges, moving out rocks, until we could put an old tire up with some strong rope to make a swing. By late afternoon, we also had a couple of borrowed benches under the aratilis tree and the store-owner at the end of the street came by with enough piping hot Payless noodle soup to share with everyone.
I remember hot summers of children's laughter at the well, ringing out, as the children filled buckets, formed mud puddles and splashed and chased each other with cool well-water while the women finished their laundry with radio drama in the background. Inside the clinic, going about my work, I would listen to the outside noises of life and be comforted that even in sorrow, in sickness, or in death, it seemed that the laughter was never far behind. It was even there on the day of the early summer, when boys just graduated from elementary school would come, in brave and nervous groups, into my clinic, for circumcision, prepared for a rite of passage into manhood.
It seems much like the promise of the Little Prince to the aviator in Antoine d'Saint Exupery's, "The Little Prince." That no matter where the aviator was after their parting, the aviator need only to look at a star to hear the Little Prince's laughter, for every star shall laugh like him. And as much as there are millions of stars in the sky, so shall there be millions of echoes of the Little Prince's laughter.
So it is for me. Wherever I traveled, wherever I lived, I would hear very,very close to my ears -- in the oddest moments, in a split-instance of time, in reverie or in action, in company or in solitude -- the laughter of brown children --laughing in that way only brown children can. And I am bound, once more, to home.
New York City