Although I had no need for the merchandise he offered, I felt as a moth, sucked in to the iridescent flame that encircles the poor, tentatively touching the flame at will and when I felt the burn would leave the deepest impact. This, feeding a child for a day, buying a book that I did not need, was not the impact I was looking to make, but why? Why had I drawn a line and decided that if I were to make impact, it had to be lasting, deep, and empowering? Where had I lost sight of the end-all-be-all game plan to help those in need?
I asked her when I could come by the shelter and she smiled her big warm smile, slapped my knee, and exclaimed, “We want you now!” The next day I went to meet 15 of the sweetest young women. As Jaya walked me through the house, we discussed the girls’ stories while they joined us in the hallways, a façade of oblivion and bliss painted across their tortured faces. It is near impossible for me to comprehend how a girl, not yet woman, could have endured such pain and struggle, and still smile as brightly as they do. Jaya made me feel so at ease, I left my inhibitions to the wind and asked all my questions.
It was the summer of ’97. I had just finished drying my tears filled with memories of Weibel Wildcat runs, apprehension for the uncomfortable and defining period of my life people kept calling Junior High, and the realization that my innocence would perhaps be forever lost. We spent our days under the blithe California sun sneaking into the neighbor’s neglected backyard concocting stories of the witch and her cauldron of a pool filled with all the potions and magical artifacts that would one day blow up in her face and avenge all her wrongdoings. In the afternoon I would go to gymnastics class, frantically changing in the back of Trooper, the red Volvo station wagon that kept chugging along due to its “sturdy German upbringing,” get to class 5 minutes late, huffing and puffing, having missed stretching, with my leotard inside out, and my grips mysteriously misplaced.
We gather round to throw sweet smelling jasmine flowers as the newlyweds tentatively begin their walk down the red carpet towards a beautiful centerpiece cake and a lifetime of untainted dreams. The emcee taunts and teases the two to nudge them into an unforgettable night with stars in their eyes and kisses on their lips.
I love that about our family. Everything will always be fine. We are insane and out of control and dramatic and fun and impulsive but at the end of the day, everything is gonna be fine.