growing up i spent my early days in the village. barefoot and usually shirtless until i was eight or nine. we had what we needed for four to six months at a time. with the help of correspondence planned out by tireless teachers and a weekly short wave radio time slot to check in, school was wherever we were.
and in the middle of coconut trees and sago palms, rain tanks and mosquito nets. we celebrated christmas.
when we were little, my mum made a tree from branches and twigs. she wired, glued. with hands that always make something from nothing. we only had red yarn, but she painstakingly wrapped every inch of that tree in it to give birth to color. we cut out cardboard stars and circles with pencil outlined cookie cutter shapes. then wrapped in precious aluminum foil to bring bright. no lights. just simple child-like ornaments hanging from red yarn wrapped sticks and twigs.
on christmas morning the tree would appear on a small round table and before we opened windows to sunlight and passerby—-we would open three or four heart-given, sometimes hand-made presents.
starting in 6th grade, schooling ruled that kurt and i be at ukarumpa during the term. at the start of christmas break —our longest—we would pack. climb aboard a cessna 206, taking flight for reunion.
the village was home, but as i got older, christmas began to feel like away.
away from people more important than what i knew important to be.
away from time that felt like it would never be returned.
away from in the middle of goings on.
away from the seven foot artificial tree that was cardboard boxed in crawl space above our lives in ukarumpa.
i only heard about it. i never saw it in seventeen years of growing up. it was a going to happen if we ever—-but we never. i thought about it every christmas. it was this symbol of a truly worthwhile christmas. what i could have had. what i should have had. what was missing.
for twenty years i have been learning to be at home.
- in a country that sometimes still seems far from where my heart and skin feel belonging.
- with where i haven’t gone and what i haven’t done.
i am finding peace in the middle of the learned.
there is no missing. there is enough. and when i decide important, i sometimes miss the truly.
that red yarn wrapped sticks and twigs can hold the beauty and glory of here and now.
while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. and she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
luke 2:6-7 (NASB)