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When the Shoe Fits

April 8, 2012
Grandpa wearing his new shoes

Grandpa shows his style with some new "choose"

Yesterday was hard.  I had two raucous dance parties to scare the loneliness from the house.  It worked briefly.  Then they ended and the house was as dark and quiet as ever.  I’m trying to keep my hands busy so I bought a hook in the market and set about brushing the yard.  My student Precious walked over, “You can work!  Many of your friends aren’t able, but you are strong!”  I heaped the grass clumps next to the porch and she sat down.  “I should help you?” she asked.  I shook my head, “I need to stay busy.”  She and her tiny daughter kept me company until it was time for her kickball game.  I was grateful.

A few minutes after she left Grandpa came racing over.  When I left for Monrovia he asked me to bring him “choose.”  I wasn’t about to buy shoes without knowing if they’d fit, though, so I concocted a plan.  I’d take him to the market under the pretense Krista asked me to get him shoes.  I walked to his house with him and the ol’ ma was happy to let him go.  I sat on the porch while they made him take a bath and put together the best outfit they could find: red swim trunks, an orange and white polo, and Yada’s orange slippers.  When he came to the door the other kids all gasped.  “You bluffin’!” I smiled.  If he could have blushed he would have.

I locked my house and we left.  We hadn’t even passed the neighbor’s house when he slipped on a mango pit and hit the ground.  He was so embarrassed!  He tried to brush the mud off his shorts and walked with his shirt pulled down to try to hide it (until he forgot two minutes later).

That sweet kid acted like he’d hardly been out of the yard in his life, which can’t be entirely true.  I know he goes to school and the farm if nothing else.  They sent one of the older girls with us (Amelia I think?) and I was a little annoyed but decided it was a small price to pay to spend the afternoon with Grandpa.  Have I mentioned he’s my favorite?

Once we got to the market I was grateful for her and was reminded of weekends with Princess and Luke in Kakata.  A shoe seller swooped in on us and shoved Grandpa’s feet in a pair of gigantic dress shoes.  “He says he likes them.  He says you should buy them,” the man barked, shoving the shoes in a plastic and handing them to me.  “No he didn’t,” I replied firmly and bent down to Grandpa.  “Grandpa, what shoes you wanting?  You love these shoes?”  He stared at me wide-eyed and overwhelmed.  “He has the same shoes at home,” Amelia whispered to me.  I asked Grandpa if that was true and he nodded.  I handed the shoes back to the man, “Tank you, ma frien’ but we keep checking.”  He was mad but let us go without a scene.

It was late and everyone was packing up.  Just as I was about to give up and try next week he stopped to look at slippers.  I bought him some so the trip wouldn’t be a waste—who knows what would happen if I brought him home empty handed.  As we climbed the hill from the market he darted across the street and into a shop.  “RB!  Let’s check here.”

He and Amelia pawed through a table of tiny shoes while I watched.  Two of the Bangladeshi officers stopped and smiled, “These your children?”  I nodded and patted Grandpa’s head just as he pulled a miniature Air Jordan from the pile.  “Chaaa!” we all laughed, “Put it on!”  He was like a little Cinderella… will the shoe fit?  He beamed and did a little strut.  “Dat your style, Grandpa?” I asked.  “Dat it, Rb!”  I haggled with the man and still probably overpaid.

I stopped to buy some benne seed and coconut candy then took them to the Green Bar for soft drinks.  It was busy but I pulled up chairs for us by the popcorn machine.  I asked Sleven to bring a table but there was some sort of breakdown in communication.  Dark clouds were building to the North again and threatened to unleash just as the kids were finishing their drinks.  The wind raced down the street, throwing sand and trash flying.  Grandpa squinted and buried his face in his shirt.  “Come inside!” Sleven yelled and squeezed our three chairs into the only free space in the tiny shop.  About twenty other people gathered under the awning as the rain assaulted the town.  We could hear nothing but the wind and the rhythmic pounding of water on zinc.  Half an hour later it finished as quickly as it started and we headed home.

I took Grandpa’s picture in his new ‘choose’ and he asked if he could call Krista and say thank you.  All the adults next door rotated through thanking me for Grandpa and I felt like I was finally connecting with them.  I staged a second dance party on the dark porch, stopping only when they came and drug all the kids home.  I lined up some candles, unrolled my yoga mat and fell asleep on the floor in savasana.

One day down.  Four hundred and fifty or so more to go.  Who was the guy who kept pushing the boulder up the hill?  Prometheus?  Yeah, I feel like him.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Candace permalink
    April 22, 2012 1:37 am

    Beautiful story! I read it with a big smile.

    • April 22, 2012 11:50 pm

      Thank you. Grandpa is a really special kid. Some days I wish I could do more for him, then I remember that letting him sit on my floor and read books everyday is a better gift than shoes, food or money.

      He’d definitely disagree though! Because, well, he’s still six years old (or something like that).

  2. Emily permalink
    April 23, 2012 12:45 am

    what kinds of books are grandpa’s favorite?

    • April 24, 2012 4:05 pm

      Anything with animals is wildly popular. I have some picture books of African animals and they can’t get enough of them attacking each other. He is also extremely into cars, even though I’m not sure he’s ever ridden in one. If he didn’t have so much other potential I’d wager there was a taxi business in his future. For awhile I was getting at least one car drawing each morning 🙂

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