Back and forth a handful of times my parents always brought exotic treasures from Haiti. My favorite a game called Kay [kahee]. Haitian people visited, too, gracing our doors and sitting on our back deck until late at night with us. Their hands blending with the twilight as they laughed so deep and full every time their smooth clay balls outnumbered ours in the end.
Rolling the balls around in my fingertips I saw the tiny grooves of fingerprints from afar. Running my hand over the carvings of faces and flowers in the wood stained a deep reddish color I wonder about the blood running red through our veins. Differences only skin deep our needs are the same as the story of the game. The twelve large dips in the wood plane are homes. At the start four people sit neatly in each divot. The people start to move by mysterious forces from on high. A hand picks them and moves them one by one to different places. Now some pockets hold ten, others two, others one lone person sits and waits the next move. Belonging dances with emptiness through the turns as people come and go. The play simple to understand and do; in life we comprehend yet balk as we are forced to learn new normals against our will.
Quilt of my heritage weathered over ages, we sit on the stitches of aunts and mommy. She the age I was when learning the game thinks and reasons about the moves. Memories visiting to make new ones she and I play game after game. Game of simple moves, life of moves thousands of miles long. Is she learning from me to trust in the times we are hidden, dark in His palm, being shaken and moved? Can she celebrate the times of fullness and much people surrounding her with joy? Will she find peace in the solace of alone times?
Rocks rescued from dirt and given purpose are the people in our Kay board. Wood wounded with cuts and holes, re-purposed for a game sit between us. During my childhood we played on a board carved by poor, dark fingers brought to a land of wealth and played with by fat, white hands. The board for my family now bought at a store in the USA brought to us by a friend for my tiny missionary kids holed up in a hotel room, bored, lonely, visiting the land of their birth. This board taken from the land of plenty brought to a land of scarcity, our home. Dented and scratched we play, swirled dark and light skins touching, moving, dropping, picking up the game, the life. Sometimes empty holes surrounded by, yet not reaching, the happy fullness so close yet so far away. Sometimes full to overflowing the vacancies forgotten like a bad dream. Stillness comes when conversations interrupt the flow. Counting resumes and moving replaces talk. Smiles finish a game and life continues: conversations, silent moving, picked up by Mystery’s hand, moved, changed, empty, full, and counted.
Returning to the starting count of four in a little house wins you points. The four so celebrated for a few fleeting moments. Then dropped in a slot not thought of again until the end when making the final count. We breathe and fill our chest as the step closer to the win celebrated and cheered reaches our ears. Then wait, what is this? We are dropped in the slot. Categorized and frozen we sit not thought of again until maybe at the end. This is what all the fuss was about? Can we start again? Can we get back into the action?
Maybe I am being too dramatic. Maybe one game is not like a lifetime but rather like an attempt. This little slot of time when we accomplish something and then sit to wait for the end could be just a part of life and not the whole. It could be that we get many goes at this thing. It could be that we need to appreciate the time for what it is. Are we being moved around, changed and rubbing up with people, sometimes rubbing the wrong way, sometimes rubbing for sharpening and good? Then let us not wish we were elsewhere. Are we sitting still and resting after a big win? Then we should not wistfully pine for more action. Preparing to play, playing, winning, sitting still, we humans cycle through life.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5)