Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Penny for your Thoughts

So here I am, in Beaufort, S.C, staying for a few days with my family. This is the place in where time decides to take a cigarette and where the sun wakes us up every morning by beating down on our faces until it hurts. I love staying here as much as I can, because this is where I can walk in sandals through the streets covered in spanish moss and not worry about the things I left behind in Charlotte. Here I can eat food that does not involve a frozen TV dinner, and I can look at the people with my same eyes and speak to them in the language of my childhood.

This evening, at 6:30 PM the sun started setting on the bay and Dad suggested we all cram inside the red Volkswagen, just like we used to do when me and my sister where younger, to go walk through the pier. Mom complained at first because she never likes getting outside of the house in fear of running into her ninth grade students around town. My sister Diana seemed pretty excited to go though, and I did not mind a walk, so we made it a family trip. On the drive to the Bay, we had a typical "Drake Family Moment" which goes like this: Diana put on a CD, like she usually does on trips, and we all had to listen to her loud folk music of choice. Meanwhile, Dad was talking about the song and Mom was trying to speak over the music and over my Dad, while I, simultaneously, was trying to hear what Mom was saying and what Dad had to say. Yes, everything was in place.

Once we got to the Bay Area the sky was purple and violet, and its reflection on the waves created a mirror that forced the sky to continue endlessly under the water's surface. As I got off the car and faced the water, my Dad commented: "This is what we do very evening, Carolina" and I assumed that him and mom get off work and walk back and forth through the pier, and that maybe they talk about tides and currents, but there was more to it. "This place is beautiful Dad" I answer, and as I'm saying this, my Dad reaches for his pocket and grabs a bunch of pennies. He gives one to Mom, one to my sister and one to me.

"You are supposed to make a wish and throw it in the water" he tells me. And my Dad, who has always enjoyed creating rituals like this one, seemed pretty excited about the magic of wishing and the art of having hope. Every year, for example, he will throw his old Bible into the water, and get a new one that he will read for the next twelve months just to throw back into the water. I remember walking with him one morning to the pier in Olivos, my old neighborhood in Argentina, many years ago, and watching him drop his Bible into the river, as the few sleepy fishermen stared at us with their eyes numb from the morning sun. So this is what my sister and my Dad have been doing with their extra pennies every evening, here in Beaufort: they throw their wishes into the water and they head back home; a humble ritual to keep them hanging on as we wait for better times to arrive.

I thanked Dad for handing me a coin, and left the penny in my pocket as we all walked together to the end of the pier. The humidity in the air was dense and a few fireflies were starting to come out over the sand, Mom kept on describing the scenery to me in her story-teller mode, and I think Dad threw his penny when I was walking ahead of him; Diana must have made her wish as soon as she got off the car. But I waited too long, maybe because I was looking for the perfect spot to throw my penny, or maybe because my wishes do not belong to Beaufort anymore, and they should be made in Charlotte where I have plenty of lists of things to hope for. So the penny stayed with me all through the walk, first inside my pocket and, then, in between my fingers as we all drove back home.

But I really had no need to make a wish this evening. Despite all my longing and my usual melancholia which could be linked to exile, despite my trivial complaints, I was alright. The truth was that I could not have ever wished for anything better than finding myself stuck inside a red Volkswagen with the three other members of my family who share my eyes, heading back home after watching the sun fall into the water. I kept the penny then, and this one is for my thoughts.

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