The sun is setting, and I am tired, so I slip out onto the front porch to sink into The Comedians, by Graham Green, a novel set In Haiti during the Duvalier dictatorship. I lose myself for a few moments in the world of the Tonton Macoutes, and Papa Doc, a man trained to bring life and health to his people, who instead became one of the most horrific dictators of all time.
But I am distracted, drawn away from the loss and grief of Haiti by the sound of my three youngest children playing under the tall oak across the yard. Four bags of mulch lie neglected at the base of the tree, and my children are going round and round the trunk, using them as stepping stones. The giggle as they go- faster, then slower, pure innocence and beauty at play in the twilight.
Mocha. Vanilla. Caramel.
I close the book and just watch them- my muscular, tanned, barefoot and shirtless son, that beautiful man child who came from me, and yet looks so little like me, flanked as always by his Haitian sisters. Curls and braids bounce, long brown legs dance, and I wonder how on earth he will every find a wife after spending a lifetime surrounded by such a standard of loveliness.
He sees me watching them, and runs to sit beside me for a moment. I pull him close and whisper in his ear.
“When you find a wife you will need to tell her every day that she is beautiful.”
“Ok….” he answers. “Why?”
“It will be intimidating to be married to a man with such beautiful sisters,” I respond.
He grins and we watch them dance around the tree together for a moment before he runs off to rejoin them.
And so, I am left with my book and my thoughts once again. I glance down at the ancient dust jacket illustrated with a picture of the Tonton Macoutes ripping a coffin from the back of a hearse, stealing the body of a man they hunted. Not even the dead were safe then.
Then, I look at my children playing as fireflies twinkle in the fading light and am reminded of what Chesterton has to say about this messed up world. He says that anything lovely, and good is like a treasure redeemed from a shipwreck, and worthy of wonder and gratitude.
One daughter turns to catch me watching her and when she smiles, I know it is true.