Passing Time With Coronada

Coronada, Cumi Joy's grandmother, knocked on our door early Monday morning.   Arlee answered the door and said in a shocked voice,  "It's Cumi Joy's grandmom."   We were not expecting her. 

I quickly dressed Cumi Joy into something cute and took her to the door to meet her grandmother.    Coronada really had no interest in anyone or anything other than the beautiful baby I was holding, but she did her best to greet me with a Miskito sniff.

Aside... many Miskito women, especially elderly women, greet people with a long sniff.  Sometimes, the sniff is of the neck; sometimes, the face;  sometimes, the hair.   The first time someone sniffed me, I was taken aback and did not recover quickly!    Since that time, I've become accustomed to this cultural norm.

Coronada wailed in the most guttural way.   Her grief spilled over and out onto the sidewalks in front of our house.   A crowd of people stopped to hear the story.  My landlord saw me in tears and was worried... he hurried over to the grandmother and told her that we were a wonderful family, taking good care of her grandbaby.   Coronada was not yet concerned about that part... seeing Cumi Joy reminded her afresh that her youngest child was no longer here.   Cumi Joy brought emotions to the surface that had been sleeping for 3 months.

After about 30 minutes, she told us that she would be staying in Puerto Lempira for the week and wanted to spend as much time with Cumi Joy as possible.   She was ready to climb the stairs to our front door and see what our apartment looked like. 

Unfortunately, I did not know Coronada was coming, so my house was an absolute wreck.    She did not seem to notice that... she just promptly planted herself in one of our plastic chairs and reached her hands out for the baby.

She speaks Miskito, very little Spanish.    I speak English with a side of Spanish, very little Miskito.   How were we to communicate?    Nervously, I began to talk as if she could understand me... she couldn't.    Anxiously, I waited for my friend Mary Luz to come... she didn't.  

Lunch time rolled around.   I made something from almost nothing and Coronada ate. 

She left that day, hobbling down our stairs on the arm of my husband, letting us all know through a niece that she would be back tomorrow morning early.    And she was.

Tuesday was the day I learned all sorts of things about Miskito lore.   Coronada arrived with a 2 liter Coke bottle filled with a yellowish liquid.   She brought her niece with her this time to explain that she was going to bathe Cumi Joy with this herbal bath.   The herbs would keep the spirit of Cumi's mother from bothering her.   She said something about her mother's spirit was keeping Cumi Joy from sleeping well.   This was so odd - Cumi Joy is the best sleeper I've had of all of my other children.

I put a sample of the herbal medicine on my arm and waited to see if it would burn.  Stories abound of burned babies and death from Miskito medicine performed by witchdoctors.  I was not about to let this happen in my house.      There are also real examples of herbal medicine that has worked throughout the centuries used by herbalists who do not call on the demonic.    Which medicine was this?

In my best Spanish, I tried to explain that we do not believe that the spirits of the dead bring sickness or lack of sleep on innocent babies.    Cultural divide here, folks.     Trying to be respectful of her position and her beliefs, while not caving in on my own, I gently told her how much we love Jesus and trust His healing through medicine or plants or other ways, but not through a witchdoctor.

She explained that she was not a witchdoctor and that she went to the Moravian church.  The liquid had not burned my arm... I finally gave in to a short bath.

Next, she decided she wanted to take Cumi Joy for the afternoon to visit family.   I agreed and sent her on her way with a few diapers and a bottle.   Someone asked me why I allowed this because she could sell Cumi Joy.   That did not make me feel good about my decision.  At first, I felt some anxiety and my kids were wondering what I had done.   I explained that this was the perfect time for us to really have faith in God's plan for Cumi Joy.   This lady was her grandmother...  while she clearly could not care for Cumi Joy, she obviously loved her.

A few hours later they returned.  Coronada said that Cumi Joy looked for us the entire time - searching Miskito faces for gringo faces.    Coronada said that of all of the family, no one wanted or was able to raise Cumi Joy.    She wanted to do whatever she could to see that Cumi stayed with us.   My Miskito friends were there translating in this moment that was a turning point.

The rest of the week was more of the same.   Coronada doing whatever she could to thank us for loving Cumi Joy... bringing sugar cane stalks and nances ( a Honduran fruit) for us to enjoy.  

By Friday, she was ready to leave.  She came by early to say good-bye and we both cried.    A few hours later, she was back.   She was too scared to cross the lagoon with the wind, so she thought she would spend another day with us.    That day was pizza for lunch...  she was very confused as I was making it, but seemed to enjoy it.

We said good-bye again that afternoon late and she grabbed our faces, one by one, and sniffed us all.   She loved Aaron, my fireball and he loved her.     After she left, he asked where she went and I told him she went home...  his immediate response "Oh, she went to Texas!" 

She is coming back to help us get travel rights to take Cumi Joy to the US with us in December... lots of paperwork and money,  but we are going to give it a go.   Coronada wants her granddaughter to see things she hasn't seen.    I want her to, too, Coronada... and we'll bring her right back so that you can teach her all about her Mommy and her Miskito side of the fami


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