Thursday, July 07, 2011

Going to America

Getting married in Zimbabwe, then moving back to America.

We were married September 1, 1997, the day after Princess Diana was killed in an accident. Her family, some fifty members, came to our wedding. But me, I stood alone, except Mr. Jones, the Coloured Man who lived next door, agreed to be Best Man.

In October we took the long journey to Malawi to visit Precious’s ancestral village -- a place called Chembe, high in the mountains, way off the road, where the Yao and Chewa people lived.

Mr. Mataka, her grandfather, and two of her Aunties came with us – a thousand miles by train and bus, and then ten miles by dirt track to the village. The village people, all relatives to Precious, did not know we were coming, but they were very glad to see us. We brought boxes of town food – flour and cooking oil and Coca-Cola – but no beer, because this was a Muslim village of some 600 souls with a mud-brick mosque in the center, and an ancient imam with a white beard who called the prayers, morning and evening – a haunting sound, not by loudspeaker, but just his voice in the still mountain air.

We stayed there a week – “lived there” – I should have put this on the listing of places I have lived – because we were not visitors, we were family. The chief of Chembe was my host, and now my relative by marriage. He invited us to choose a place to build a home – we could stay if we wanted.

No, we were going back to the world -- back to Zimbabwe, and then, four months later, back to America.

Getting Precious her visa was an interesting story. She needed a police record to qualify. It was then I discovered that my lovely bride had been convicted of assault some years previously. She could pack a punch!

It was things like that – her determination and courage – that led me to believe she could handle a life-changing transition to American ways.

We got on the South African jet – her first plane ride and she was completely relaxed – flew to Johannesburg, but changing planes required going up an escalator – this terrified her – so we took the stairs instead.

We landed in New York City in February, 1998 – it was so cold. We took a small plane to Boston and rented a room at a B & B in Brookline. Precious seemed okay, except she broke out in a rash of pimples -- being terrified. “Everyone here is white!” she said.
“Yes, dear, I told you a hundred times, they are all white here in America,” I said. It was tough for her -- yet I had survived a year in her country, now she would see mine.

We visited friends in Boston and then flew to LaConner -- that little town in the tulip fields, in the Skagit Valley, where we decided to make our home. I determined that I would choose the town – how could she choose a town? – and then I agreed that she would choose a house for us to live in – having more domestic sensibility than I had.

But why the hell did I decide to go to back to LaConner? It was a far from inspired choice. I have to say I chose it be default, by lack of inspiration…… I had already lived there and owned a home there with my first wife, and my children had been small there, and I had started two business there which both failed, and my first marriage failed --- it was a pretty town, to be sure -- and other people had been happy there and well settled – but why did I go back?

That’s the theme of this memoir – Too Many Mornings – too many bad choices. I don’t know – people who find lasting homes might just be lucky - they might, by sheer chance, pick a spot, on a whim, and yet that very spot will nurture them for decades, and they will build a most happy home.

I never had a home. But here it was February, 1998, going back to LaConner, with an African bride, and enough money, based on the sale of my deceased mother’s property, to buy our own place in

God, we tried to make it a home, to finally have something for keeps. But it never worked.

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