Mid-day in Haiti, even in the winter, is blistering with heat. And I am in the courtyard in full sun spinning the girls around, holding them by their hands. Whenever I slow down with a little one, a whole group of girls rush forward, and I don’t have any time to regain my balance before I have another little girl spinning.
While their feet are off the ground and they are flying, I watch their faces. Most of them get so excited that they can’t hold still, even off the ground. They kick their feet and breathlessly laugh, and this terrible feeling of continuing dizziness is so, so worth it, just to see them happy.
This is perfect.
Eventually though, I do have to stop for good. There are cries of dismay and protest when I hold up my hands and apologize. “Maybe I’ll do some more, later.”
The girls don’t understand a lot of English, but my point gets through. They still follow me around for several minutes, hoping that I’ll get enough rest in those few moments.
The other children are blowing bubbles, and soon they wander off and do that.
I go inside. My father, Peter, Ellen, Ted, and Joe are all sitting in our dining area having a little bit of a break from the beautiful chaos downstairs and in the courtyard. I sit with them and pick up my knitting. I have decided to knit Mary — the woman I taught to knit — a washcloth; something that won’t go disused.
In an hour or so, Juliet and I help Ellen set up for a weaving class. A man from the church back home (who’s been to Haiti before) spent months building looms for weaving potholders just for this purpose. There had also been sessions of tearing old sheets and other fabrics into strips of the right width for weaving in the looms.
I do not know anything about weaving, so after there are about ten girls sitting around the table, I retreat into the next room with one of the little girls who’ve been clinging to me for the last few days and my knitting.
I sit on a school desk bench and the Carina takes a seat next to the desk on a little chair. She’s maybe three, and she’s serious — she doesn’t talk very much.
I give her my ball of cotton, and she holds it, softly stroking the fiber while I knit.
Another woman, one of the workers, comes up slowly. She is shy, and she doesn’t talk.
“Do you want to learn how?” I say, gesturing toward the knitting.
She nods her head, looking at the floor. I stand up to fetch more yarn and needles, and she sits on the bench, next to me.
I show her how to cast on and lead the left needle through the loops on the right one, put the yarn over the right needle and pull the loop through and the old stitch off. She is entranced, and she watches her hands and mine carefully as we complete the actions.
She doesn’t tension very well, and her stitches are long and wobbly.
But she keeps doing it.
It doesn’t seem like she cares about how the finished product will look — she simply is intrigued by the motions of knitting.
As we knit, Carina inches onto the bench where I’m sitting. Closer and closer she scoots until she asks to sit on my lap. “Chita?”
I smile. She reminds me of my own little sister, about this girl’s age. “Oui.”
She still has the yarn clamped in her small hands, and I reposition her fingers, putting them on the yarn closer to the needles. I push the needle through the left-hand stitch and take her hand in mine and wrap her yarn around my right needle.
Soon, we’ve got to where she knows what to do when we come to the yarning over, and she smoothly wraps the yarn around and pulls it snug against the needle.
Later that night, we gather with the girls and the Home’s employees.
The girls learn that we will be leaving in the morning the next day.
I cannot believe the reaction that they have. Most of them burst into tears. They are distraught because they’ve gotten to love us, and now, after this fleeting moment that we’ve had with them, we are going away.
The little girls begin getting ready for bed. They don’t understand that they won’t see us again; or, at least not in a while.
But the older ones — they stay seated in their chairs, tears silently streaming down their cheeks.
I kneel on the floor in front of the group that has been attached to me and attempt to comfort them.
It doesn’t work. It only makes them weep harder.
I think that there is something in my eyes — a speck of dust or something — because my eyes begin watering for some reason.
“I’ll come back,” I keep on saying. “I’ll come back to see you, soon.”
I finish Mary’s washcloth, and then start on another one, one for the other employee, Maria, that I taught knitting to. I weave in the ends of Mary’s and smooth it out on the table. It isn’t perfect, but washcloths are serviceable no matter what they look like as long as they aren’t knitted too loosely.
I walk downstairs with the washcloth and present it to her. “I made this for you, Mary.”
She takes it and smooths it out, examining it. Then she bursts out in laughter and says “thank you, thank you” over and over.
Tonight, the power goes off and on, wavering wildly. Reuben puts on the generator, so we at least have some light.
We sit in the upstairs, quietly talking with Reuben and Jane and the other members of the company. The most of the girls are drowsing downstairs in their rooms, but Moyiz and Gatzi are still running around, here with us, upstairs.
I wish that we didn’t have to leave.