In defiance of all generalizations and laughingly agreed upon norms among my Liberian and American friends, Liberians were the first to arrive at our party- well before any Americans showed their faces. First was Belecca, friend in tow, dressed to the nines in a lapa suit I’d never seen and a fancy head wrap.

I hadn’t even bathed yet and food was still smoking on two of the three coal pots assembled in the yard.

Murky water running off of my body as I hurriedly showered, I rejoined my guests and marveled as people continued to trickle in. it wasn’t even 2:30 yet. Never mind we’d said it all began at 2pm, food served at 3, we really hadn’t expected people before 3pm. We were, of course, wrong.

And so people streamed in, seating themselves on the periphery of shade that had shifted since we arranged the chairs. Men sat farthest from the house, the women down from them, natural separated selection like a 7th grade dance.

BushDiva birthed the idea of this “thank you/farewell” party a few weeks ago. We chatted about it and made imaginary plans but didn’t put anything into motion until about a week ago. Then all of a sudden we figured out it was do or don’t and wanted to do. Our first inclination was American. We began to sketch out a guest list. Even as we began to draw it up I knew it wouldn’t work – it wasn’t African and it surely wasn’t Liberian. And so invitations were extended to the County Health Department, Africare, Save the Children, and most people we have any connection to.

Of course the problem with inviting everyone is expense. And so we still held to little Americanism…there were folks who didn’t get an invitation to our dismay…but a good swath of the folks we know were invited and a good many were assembled in our backyard today.

Food finally served – jallof rice, bbq chicken, apple cider vinegar coleslaw, baked beans, pasta salad, and hot dogs- our friend from Cuttington offered up his voice and guitar playing to entertain those gathered. His efforts were met with enthusiasm. And so he sang and we listened and clapped and urged him on. The breeze picked up, cooling the afternoon heat and ushering in gray clouds that threatened rain overhead. But jerry was able to finish his last song and dessert was served before the first drops fell from the sky.

People scrambled home seeking dry space and a few of gathered on our porch, laughing and talking and snacking on leftovers.

Stragglers wandered in well into the night, and we served up food and snacked and talked and laughed. Wine’s sons came by mumbling “happy birthday” to me as they entered – unaware of the reason for the gathering. The little boy next door who sometimes fetches water happened by and received a bowl of rice and a piece of chicken (which promptly “rewarded” us with two other little boys standing at our door and looking expectantly up at BushDiva and anticipating food that was not left to give).

And then it was just us. The dishes clean, final morsels of food stored. Moments frozen in digital space ready to be retrieved at our leisure. And although it was “thank you” more than goodbye, despite having at least a month stretched out before me, it was a glimpse into what I’ve built here and, ultimately, what I’ll leave behind.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply