Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Big Girls (and boys) DO cry...

There were times when she was a little girl...no mistaking it.

Her girlish enthusiasm...
 Playing soccer with the little boys...

Making faces and sticking stickers...
Chasing the missionary's son around the church for a petty insult...

And there were times when she was a woman.

Beside her father's grave...
Walking the long road to the project...

Filling out the pink dress...

I came to Honduras to be there for her quinceanera, the Honduran cultural portal into womanhood. I've seen enough birthdays to know that there is no magical transformation that occurs. Fourteen and fifteen look pretty much the same. We don't grow in years; we grow in seconds, minutes, days.

I haven't been able to spend many of those growing moments with Luz; I haven't watched her slowly blossoming into womanhood day by day. And yet I feel like, in more ways than one, Luz's quince was just what it should have been.

I think she will look back on that day as a dividing point in her life.

There were a lot of lessons learned, I think; big girl lessons.

She walked all the way to Gracias Friday morning to have the beautiful curls flat-ironed out of her hair. By the time she made it home and to the church Friday at 5, ringlets were already curling around her face. Nothing is perfect.
With the party set to begin in thirty minutes, she was alone. Her mother and sisters were no where to be found. With the help of Yessi, our translator, I helped her into the pink dress...a little snug. Sometimes, you have to take a deep breath before you zip a lovely dress. And hold it. And it is totally worth it.
We took photos...glamor shots on the flower lawn, avoiding cow pies. She was thirsty, but didn't want to drink too much. How would she fit in the bathroom?!? It's never like it is in the movies; the practical is always present.
It was six o'clock. The party should have started thirty minutes ago. Jonathan and I took her to the side for a last talk. All to soon it would be goodbye. Sometimes, words can't express what you feel...so many things are left unsaid...and it is okay. Sometimes the heart speaks.
Her family arrived a good hour after the party should have started in the back of a pickup truck. Luz's mother came with a grocery stack full of homemade tamales. The little room where Luz was waiting was suddenly full of women, rearranging hair and eating an impromptu dinner. The project workers, tutors, sisters, "aunts"...every girl needs strong women in her life.

The time came. I climbed the stone stairs in the twilight, catching a last lonely glimpse of Luz in the dusk, waiting for her moment. It was to be her entrance. 120 people were waiting inside. Sometimes, every eye is on you.
The music started. She didn't come through the door. Later, Yessi replayed the moment. As Canon in D began to echo across Villa Verde, Luz let out a gasp of tears. "Papa," she sobbed. He wasn't there. And he would never be again. Sometimes, you close a book at the worst moments.

Propelled in by Yessi, she walked as if in a dream. She looked so elegant...more of a princess than I have ever seen in my life. She looked straight forward. I'm not sure she breathed the whole time. A brief smile flickered my direction as she passed my table. Sometimes, you have to play the part when you don't feel like it.

The production went on. Prayer, speeches, even a sermon...and then elements of the quince celebration. The changing of flat shoes for heels is usually done by the father. It was tender moment when Luz's strong, hardworking mother took her dead husband's place and changed Luz's flats for her Cinderella heels. Tears for both of them...growing up isn't easy.
And the dance, for the father and daughter. My husband Jonathan, who is no dancer, had practiced the waltz all week like a schoolboy. He begged her to stand up. She finally took his hand. She only looked at him twice. He watched her face the whole time. In princely fashion, he managed to twirl her three times...this American godfather, her padrino, who came from a world away for this moment. Sometimes, family isn't just blood. It's who chooses to be part of your life.
Soon the ceremony was over. I saw Luz breathe. For the first time all night, I saw a butterfly. She floated from table to table, visiting her guests, accepting gifts. She never sat down during the meal. Sometimes, you would rather talk than eat.
At last, it looked like a party. People began dancing. Luz's charming brother Drolvin took a bus for hours to be there...to meet Jonathan and me...he was fresh out of the hospital for dengue fever. He was the smoothest dancer I have ever seen. All around, Luz's family was paired up. They were together, and they were happy...all of them. And sometimes a party is simply all the people you love most on the earth together in one room.

And then it was time. The guests began to leave. Luz's mother cried...in her few words, "Gracias para todos," I read much more. She had not had to do this night alone. You can do anything if you have a hand to hold.
Oh, Luz. Sweetest of hearts, ending her big night with us in a sorry huddle of tears. Nothing can make goodbye better, even if it is just for a little while. Love hurts...but it is worth it.

Jonathan cried the most after he heard that Luz had no time to change when she got downstairs. She was herded into the back of Pastor Modesto's pick-up truck, dress and all. He thought of her walking in the dark, up the rocky path, across the creek...a true Cinderella, sobbing her way home. Every Cinderella has a midnight, and a real prince cries thinking about her (even if he is just a padrino).
These are all lessons of womanhood...lessons you learn from the reality of life. Girlish hopes and dreams fade into the beauty of expecting real life...messy, unpredictable, but full of moments that no fairy tale could rival.

I wanted to see a girl become a woman. In so many ways, the woman was already there. I came to Honduras sorry for Luz...sorry for her long walk, her poverty, her dead father...and I left confident that Luz would be okay. I left knowing that inside of Luz Maria is a strong, loving, hardworking young woman who can handle real life--with all of its nuances. I left knowing that there is still girl enough in her to dream and to pursue a better future.

I left knowing that there can never be a time when our family lets go of her hand...not to always lead her, but to walk beside her with love and encouragement for her life.


  1. Very touching post, Kim! Can't wait to visit HO133 next year!!

  2. Yes, it was such a touching post. Thanks so much for sharing these moments of your time in Honduras. It's so encouraging to read.

  3. Ok, I'm weeping and glad I can listen to my computer read so I don't have to fake reading through the tears that are blinding my already blinded eyes. Oh my! As someone who didn't grow up with my earthly father, this post was incredible! Thank you! Not just for this post, but for you and your husband's influence and love in Luz's life!