“I have something for you” she says, handing a black box the size of a shoebox. My eyes widen at the gesture and I take it from her gratefully. A book lies on top under which there are layers of soft tissue paper. I gently remove each one until this gorgeous doll swathed in maroon velvet stares at me.
A week ago, I had mentioned my wish to acquire a Navajo doll for my Golu collection to this new friend. It was in passing.
We left our home town for a week of what I call the ‘return to roots’ trip for my older children. We were in the land of their birth, the land where they have large extended families. In the lead up to the trip, I was hoping to make forge new connections and, strengthen existing ones. I was anxious, trepidation was my friend. If my children felt anything, it did not show.
We left with over six suitcases, lugging clothes, toys and, devices that would keep them occupied when we were not out touring the local haunts.
This trip was wonderful in many ways. My children discovered their Navajo heritage. They were embraced by and included in what feels like one big family. They met with jewelry makers, rug weavers and fierce guardians of their birth culture. The rest of us were permitted to walk alongside them by virtue of being their family.
In traversing the state of New Mexico, we took breaks to drink in the raw, rugged beauty of the state, to sled in the blinding gypsum flats of the White Sands National Park. We stood by the foothills of the Sandias ranges and drunk in the beauty of the valley below. We made the ride down south and back north in a week traveling along old haunts and new. We recreated pictures from twelve years ago when we went as a couple and returned as a family of four.
There were many, many poignant moments in the week we were there. The best of them were when my children looked around and saw themselves reflected in the people that surrounded them. The eyes, the palms, the hair, the cheek bones. Genetic mirroring is beautiful to watch, a privilege most of us take for granted.
In the moments before we slept, we each journaled, drew, colored and processed the myriad of emotions each day evoked.
Today, I walk around my home back in the Northeast. I am struck by all the little artifacts that have made itself at home here in this corner of our world. Bright colored throws with patterns distinctive to the world we left behind, artwork so evocative that I stop and stare each time I pass it.
A doll that reminds me of friendships and nascent bonds. Her gown reminiscent of nebulous connections to a different past. Her hair and jewelry, a reminder of kindnesses we were bestowed with.
This trip will soon be a memory but I am hoping this is the beginning of a long, long association with a culture that is so similar to the one into which I was born.