Thursday, March 30, 2006

Taking Jenny Home

Boy, these kids can knock you for a loop. There is something so tragic about Jenny’s eagerness to get back to Port-au-Prince, where only deprivation and hardship await, her family notwithstanding. But when you’re five, all you know is you want your mom. And I am not uneager to transfer responsibility for her. I feel some guilt about this. Small children consume so much attention and energy, especially when you’re not used to caring for them. It’s a tradeoff: we can have the frustration of doing the difficult thing or the guilt of avoiding it.

Jenny has been much better behaved at this end of the trip then at the beginning. She wanted to hold my hand or be held constantly and she was a little whimpery sometimes. Her attention span is good and she doesn’t need constant diversions like most American kids. In Peoria, we sat on the runway in our tiny jet on the runway for an hour and a half before taking off, courtesy of weather delays in Chicago. She was content to look at the planes that did get to depart and play peek-a-boo with the man behind her.

Thankfully, our flight from Chicago to Miami was delayed too. As we finally boarded and walked through the first class cabin, the passengers regarded Jenny with disinterest except for one young woman who said, “Nice backpack!” of Jenny’s new, pink container. I was too tired to explain to the woman that Jenny doesn’t speak English. The attendants on the plane have the weathered attractiveness gotten by spending too many hours in their climateless tubes. “Good Night and Good Luck” is the movie showing. From row 31, I can see seven screens with Edward R. Murrow's talking head, the fourth screen of the black and white movie oddly purple from my angle. “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home,” pronounced Murrow, words that are apparently timeless.

These flights are the first legs of an exhausting journey; you can’t get from Peoria to Haiti in one day. We fly to Miami and spend a short, mainly sleepless night in a dingy hotel arriving back at the airport before 6 am for our early morning flight.

We did notice that as we got closely to Port-au-Prince, Jenny's behavior started to deteriorate into punching and spitting. But with the proper investment of time, attention, and love, Jenny would be a wonderful, flourishing little girl.

Like her country itself, Jenny has so much potential.

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