I grew up in a Christian home. But my mother would swear on her life that we were not “that” type of Christian. I never really knew what that type of Christian really was, I just knew that I didn’t want to be that in the future.
Anyone who was not like us was waaaay too fundamental. I can remember my mother smiling her fake smile as we registered one more religious group. I was in charge of making sure the dorms were prepped with proper bedding and the toiletries in the bathroom were sufficient. Then I would have to go upstairs and set the table. Plates facing downward as to keep them clean for the big supper that was to be inhaled.
I loved the groups really. It was my way of being part of “real” life. The people from the south were always the best company because of their ability to sing and hold great harmony, and their accents were unforgettable. I looked forward to new people each week because I was a student at heart-and in real life. I loved to learn, to sing new songs, and get to know new people. I would eventually get their email addresses or physical addresses and then later spend hours writing letters to them. They were my connection to the outside world. I wanted so much to be out of the world I was in. I wanted to be able to converse like them, understand their jokes better, pray and sing like them. I was naive in my own way because I was kept in this little bubble and my mother had no desire for anyone to pop it. She liked the control she had over her husband, boyfriend and kids. She lived each day for that control.
We were very sheltered, my siblings and I were. Though today, if I were to speak with any of them, they would side with my mother. We were very Christian if i can use that term. But as I said before, we were not that kind of Christian. We were better than that kind of Christian.
As my mother showed her fake smile, she logged her groups into the really old Thinkpad computer we had sitting in the kitchen (this was back in 2000). The kitchen was massive and it was on the second floor. This is the second kitchen on the compound.
You see, we were rich….not rich in spirit I feel, rich in possessions, things, buildings, houses, property, dogs, money, cars….people who trusted us. Not me necessarily, but them-the ones orchestrating the fake love just to get some money to “build homes “. Don’t get me wrong, they did build homes with most of the money, but it was the rest of the money that I always questioned. But I was not allowed to know.
I couldn’t ask her any questions as a child and even less did I ask her as an adult. The biggest question however is “Why didn’t you complete the adoption and give me US citizenship”. But to this day, I am afraid I would get the fake answer; the answer that only begged me to ask more questions.
She was always afraid that people would find out the truth, so she hid it….under the same rug we walked on each and every day. Sometimes I would lay on that rug and cry myself to sleep, hoping and praying for a new group to come by so that I could return to my “happy place” of being part of something bigger and a bit more exciting.
I spent so many days and nights hearing the words “no, no, no” that it didn’t surprise me to hear the officer at the border say “No, you can’t get in”. “Mwe pa kapab entre?” I repeated in my limited Creole. The officer raised his eyebrows and said “ah, me ou pale creole”. I smiled wide and I’m sure the dimple that I had always had was being seen even bigger and brighter than before.
I told him that my creole was not good but that there are plenty of Haitians who live in the United States and around the world who don’t speak a lick of Creole. I then asked him “li pa haitien?” He nodded as if to tell me that he got it. My new friend who rode the bus with me stood by my side and smiled.
He took my passport back and compared my customs form with my passport. He told me that the writing order was not the same. I showed him, as fear welled up in my voice, that it was the same that I had just written my middle name before my last name (which is normal to do) but apparently it was not the same on my passport. He gave me a new application to fill out and I filled it out at the back table. Thankfully I had a working pen in my purse because all of those attached black pens never worked-the ink was either too light or completely nonfunctional.
As I filled out the form, I felt my hand shake from frustration. I was not sure why I was being told to fill out this nasty long-ass form for the second time.
Finally, I was done and took my passport and form back up to the counter. The officer at the counter looked at it and said “ou fe li mal ankoa”. Indeed, I had filled it out exactly how I had done earlier. He shook his head and……