The doorbell rang while I was in the basement with the boys. I ran upstairs to get it, thinking a friend was standing on the other side with a book she thought I should read.
It was a girl I’d never seen before, with strawberry blond hair. A black binder in her hands. The kind of binder used for taking surveys or selling something. Happy Valentine’s Day! As I mentally kicked myself for opening the door, she launched into her spiel about not being there to raise money (oh yes, I’ve heard this before) while shoving a pile of cards in my regretful hands.
The cards contained pictures. Of children. In various countries around the world. The organization’s most ‘urgent’ cases. And before I could say ‘I thought you weren’t going to sell me anything’ I’d handed over a voided cheque and signed on to sponsor a child for a year.
Many minutes later, the driven representative saw herself out and left me and my insane sugar-laden zombies standing in the living room holding a picture of a nine year old girl. Jessica. From Ecuador. With beautiful brown eyes and a white hairband. She would be the quiet, well-behaved daughter-child I never had.
The Gort had come home after school and jenerously shared with his brothers all of the Valentine’s candy he’d received. An entire box of those conversation hearts? Mais oui! On top of the rice krispie treats they’d already enjoyed at a friend’s house. They’d played downstairs like animals, constructing a pillow fort (with my bed pillows); dumping a pack of 200 playing cards on the floor and Percy was running around in snowboots whilst wearing his older brother’s [upside down] sunglasses and all I could think was: this is my life?!
I needed to make dinner and I needed to harness the energy in the room. ‘Why don’t you write a letter to Jessica,’ I suggested to the Gort, figuring it was best to strike while the proverbial iron was hot. ‘You should probably write to her in Spanish,’ I added since she’s from Ecuador and since our Gort spends half of his school day learning Spanish. And also because I figured it would take longer for him to write a non-English letter. ‘But I can’t write that much,’ he balked and I told him to just write the basics: his name, his age, the names of his brothers, where he lives. Etcetera.
Minutes later, after filling two pages with pencil letters containing all the autobiographical details he could muster, he asked me to read what he’d wrote. When I arrived at ‘Yo me gusta el carne mucho,’ I nearly lost it.
Hey, Jessica from Ecuador, I like meat a lot. Just so you know. It’s integral to who I am as a person. Also, my favorite animal is a bull shark. [At least, I (Nicola) think that’s what tiburon toro means.]
Priceless, really. And the Hen, not one to be left behind, got in on the action too. ‘How do you spell yogurt container?’ the four year old demanded-asked while I tried to summon the mental reserves to make some sort of beef-green bean stirfry. ‘Y-o [insert Percy running around with upside down sunglasses and the Gort asking me if I liked his drawing while I try to remember not to blanch the green beans for more than two minutes] g-u-r [insert cell phone ringing and the professor letting me know he’s on his way home and the Hen asking me ‘what comes after R‘] t……
So tomorrow (or the day after, or the day after that), I will drop an envelope in the mail headed for Ecuador. Inside it will be white papers containing strange details about a random family in Canada. Along with a separate list of random words in English as recorded by a four year old: ‘water, food, sausages, and yogurt container.’ The essentials.
It’s a fairly accurate depiction of life chez nous.