Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer Memories

I fondly remember the summers of my childhood, lying like a lizard on the warm pavement of our driveway after a long day in the pool. As the sunset and the fireflies began their evening dance, the locusts sang out a heavy song. I listened and tried to create a melody of their chorus, waiting for my mom to call me in for dinner. Sleeping in my swimsuit so as to not waste time the next morning, my skin was always bronze and shiny, my hair a blonde mop, usually wet with chlorine. There were dozens of children on my block, all of whom spent their days at the neighborhood pool, two doors down from my home. It was a time when parents were free to relinquish their kids for the day, unafraid of the predators who roam our city streets in this modern age. We swam until we were raisins, then took a break to play ball or roller skate around the pool. We knew every Beach Boys song by heart, considering the tunes to be as ancient as the hills. We sipped Cokes and munched on Pop Rocks then hopped back in the pool to escape the Houston heat.
This is not at all the summer that my own children will remember. Their school break is marked by “rain, rain, go away, come again another day” – like tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Guaranteed. There is one swimming pool in our city, but it is impossible to see the bottom due to the green hew of the murky waters, with no shortage of floating algae. I am accustomed to the Gulf of Mexico, the temperature of a warm bath, while the pool here discolors one’s lips and chatter’s ones teeth. But the air in the summer has a cool bite, and swimming is out of the question. There is one natural warm spring 4 hours north of Jos, but the place is over-run by aggressive baboons. We must be desperate to brave the journey to Yankari. Once a year it is worth it, and this year’s trek was beautiful! The clear water comes from beneath a huge rock, producing a gentle current that moves the swimmer along at a lazy pace until the tide become beach and you have to get out and walk back up to the rock, starting the leisurely descent all over again. There is one climbing tree hanging over the water, the perfect entertainment for a jumper. Around its base is a string of old barbed wire, a vain attempt to ward off children and monkeys. But the rules are not enforced, and the kids are free to climb and jump, climb and jump. There are a few prohibitions painted in large, red letters on the wall of the defunct cafĂ© by the water: DO NOT BATH NAKED. DO NOT BATH WITH SOAP. No worries. We will not bath at all. Just swim. There is also a safari offering at Yankari. If interested, one may rent a guide and a truck, mope out into the bush, and search for the herd of elephants that sometimes show themselves. There are a few bushbuck and warthog, perhaps some goats and wild hog… do I sound unimpressed? Well, I love the water.
So the summer for my children is not about swimming pools or day camp. It is not about driving to the grandparent’s house for an evening Bar-be-que. It isn’t about movie matinees or theme parks. So what will they remember? I can only guess. Our compound is home to 14 children ages 14 and under. We have a small playground with a zipline, a trampoline and a tire swing. Many of the other missionary kids (MK’s) come to our compound to play everyday. They spend hours on the trampoline, 10 at a time in the pouring rain, unable even to bounce. They scatter all over the grounds playing Go-home-stay-home until dusk. When the lightening forces them inside, they plop onto pillows on the floor to play Uno, watch old Brady Bunch re-runs, and dance in their socks to Toby Mac, “Boomin’ out your stere-o-o-o!!” They are all caretakers of the 6 dogs and rapidly increasing number of rabbits. They know each animal in the Jos zoo on a personal level, and going to Afri-one for ice cream is an excursion met with great enthusiasm. The boys build forts, shoot arrows, and have wars with air-soft guns. The girls make cookies and push each other for hours on the tire swing.
They all attended Sports Camp 3 days a week, for which parents were grateful, but they readily accepted any diversion that may spare them from running the Dreaded Mile. So they happily agreed to go on Outreach. Laden with bubbles, soccer balls and appropriate bush-attire, our caravan of vehicles set out for Fulani outreach. Eight MK’s in tow, we ventured deep into the bush, literally cutting a path with machetes as the vans trudged slowly along. The children were met with sheepish glances from their Fulani peers. No one was quick to greet, or confident to communicate well. So our children slowly approached, smiling and friendly, careful not to startle the wide-eyed spectators. We adults busied ourselves with preparations for the medical outreach, leaving the children to make friends on their own. Drawing strength from the group, the equally shy MK’s reached out to touch the small Fulani kids, blowing bubbles and sharing their soccer balls. Within an hour they were all the same color, each giggling at the other’s attempts at language, each surprised more by their similarities than their differences. At nightfall, under the stars they watched the evangelistic films, huddled alongside their new friends, raptured by the story of Jesus. Corporately they gasped at the 6 foot snake that was killed just outside of their tents. As they crawled into their sleeping bags after a long day of activity, each drifted off quickly, dreaming the dreams of the exhausted.
These will become the memories of my children. Sometimes I feel pangs of guilt that my kids will not have the experiences that are so common to their American peers: memories of Disney Land or summer camp, and especially the gaping loss of their extended family. But then their Father gently reminds me that He called them to a childhood that would be compiled with African memories- unique and special in their own fantastic peculiarity!


Holly said...

Oh Kelly!
My flesh and my spirit are constantly at war!
I KNOW that God's plans are so much better than any we can concoct on our own.
Thank you....all of you Malloys...for giving your lives so completely to the King.

The Black Family said...

I love you my friend! Thanks for the beautiful picture of a perfect summer! I miss you, but I love your blog. It makes me feel a little closer to you. No worries your kids will never regret their life experiences, nor will you!

Love you!

Tefertiller Tribe said...

sounds delightful! wish my boys were there too (-: