The other day I had just the boys in the car and I saw some birds and I said, “Oh look, birds, fly, fly, fly birdies fly, birds fly,” and I hear Benji’s voice from the backseat saying, “Mom, I’m worried about you.” I guess that’s how I talk when Rebeka’s in the car, always feeding English into her ear.
In my defense, there’s so much to notice and point out in this great big world, so much to learn. There’s the glass-walled elevator at Barton Creek mall, the massive trash truck with giant mechanical arms that pick up trash cans, and the remote control fireplace (we have gas logs and a remote that turns them on). These are the obvious things I would expect a girl from a rural village in Rwanda to marvel at. And then, there are socks.
I guess I’ve always sort of taken socks for granted, but Rebeka loves them. I think partly because she never wore them back home. They wouldn’t have worked with the rigged-up sandals she wore.
When she found a pair of socks we had bought her before she arrived, tucked in a drawer, you’d have thought she’d found treasure. She couldn’t wait to try them on (at the time she still had an uncasted leg). Now, she insists on putting them on the moment she gets out of her real-deal bath Tuesday night and keeping them on until she sees the doctor Wednesday morning and gets her next set of casts.
I think partly she likes how they feel, partly she likes how they look, and partly she likes how they hide her twisted feet. Whatever the reason, she’s in good company. Alayna has always been a big “sock” person. They rarely match, and they seem to multiply in the drawer.
So socks didn’t occur to me as something worthy of pointing out or noticing because they were, well, socks. But the horse thing, that didn’t occur to me because I’ve never really been much or a horse person. Guess what?
A friend of mine owns a couple of ponies and she offered to take us out and let us meet them. When I asked Rebeka if she was interested, she was all wide eyes and “yes, yes” and eyebrows up with the chin tilt, a typical way to say “yes” in Rwanda. My friend brought a saddle over and we slung it over the arm of the couch, and then over Clay. Rebeka loved it. My friend loaned us some plastic horses, a little tack kit, and with each little horsie thing, Rebeka’s enthusiasm has grown.
I love walking through my days with eyes wide open, looking for things to point out, whether “birdies” or “trash truck” or “horse!” It’s a delight to figure out what makes this particular girl tick. She’s a horse girl. She’s a sock girl. She’s a daisy-headband-wearing girl who surfs longboards down the driveway.
As a writer, I know these are the kinds of quirky details that make characters seem fully alive and real. In families, they are fodder for private jokes, and stories that are told year after year. They are the stuff of family folklore. The longer Rebeka is with us, the more we add to our little cache of discovered quirks. They are treasure, just as surely as socks, things we’ll pull out, dust off, and “remember when” for years to come.