When I was a little girl, one of my favorite priests told me to kick my worrying habit. He reminded me that worrying is removing trust in God’s plan. I try, as much as possible, to remember that, but I am, by nature, a worrier. Motherhood has only increased my tendency to worry; but with Pale’s words in mind, I do my best to cast worry aside and approach the days as they come. So yesterday, I did I all I could to eject myself from the dialogue about North Korea. The night before was spent waking up every few minutes because of the planes flying overhead and the thunder storms. My eyes kept darting around the room, making sure it was just mother nature, but I also found myself opening my bedroom door, so I could rush to my children more quickly if ever the deep rumbling turned out to be more than military exercises and thunder. I kept trying to remember my grandmother’s description of the sound bombs make when they fall to make the distinction.
When morning came, I packed my children up and headed outdoors. Another thing my priest once told me (he gives lots of good advice) was that when I feel lost and overwhelmed, going out in nature helps us to ground ourselves again; so I did that. My girlfriend and I loaded our children in trucks and took the long bumpy road past the military bases to Litekyan, the pristine stretch of beach and jungle once populated by hundreds of ancient Chamorus. I figured the spirits of our ancestors and the startling beauty of the island would erase the seeds of worry planted inside me. But as we were there, reminders kept materializing out of thin air. I had to explain to my son why birds no longer sing in our jungles. Auntie Emily, the Chamoru woman who has so lovingly worked at the refuge for years, told the children how the military had cleared and destroyed many of the ancient latte sites. As we were driving down, planes flew overhead. I did my best to be present, but it was hard. I peered across the water at our sister island, Luta, and was reminded that they will also be affected should the crazy men making threats at each other not pull it together.
When we got home, I tried to play board games with my son, but he kept asking questions. He hears the news and is very embilikeru. He eavesdrops on the conversations occurring around him. “Is Guam a safe place?” “Is America bad?” “Is Korea bad?” I answer him quickly: We are always safe if we trust in God, America is not bad. Korea is not bad. War is bad.
Later that night, I went to Chamoru classes. I lost myself in the laughter and love of practicing my mother tongue. I appreciated that everyone in the class was intentionally avoiding the subject, but then my phone went off. Screen shots of Chamorus off-island promoting their personal brands and young men making light of the situation with tacky memes appeared in my messages. I rolled my eyes. What a privilege to be young…what a privilege to be far away. I turned my phone off. In ancient times, women were in charge of all battles. Battles could not be fought with out their permission. Battles ended when the women said so. They would stop them before anyone was too seriously hurt. I think about how different things would be if women were in charge. We do not joke about war. War is not a time to promote ourselves or beat our chests. There is no reason big enough to kill another person’s child. Our Lady always wants peace.
When I came home from class, I entered to see my husband’s sad face. I ask him what is wrong and learn my in-laws have made a phone call, asking us to leave my island and live with them in California. Leaving would be hard, expensive, and unrealistic. Who’s gonna pay the thousands of dollars it takes for ONE flight out of here? We are a family of four, six if we take my parents. We are too rooted here, plus…I am unhappy when living in the Continental US. My spirit dies there. My American friends have all been reminding me I should move, I should come live near them. I appreciate their offer, but I also wonder… instead of moving us, can’t your country just stop making bases here that put a big red X on our back? We could move….or YOU could. Every time we have been bombed, it has been because you are here.
I tell my father of all the people encouraging us to leave. His face becomes stern. “You tell them we’ve been invaded before. We’ve been bombed before. We are Chamoru.” He grabs my baby and sniffs her neck, “you tell them this baby is a Chamorita! A maga’haga!” I laugh and look at her little face. She is. She is the toughest, most dadao little girl I’ve ever seen. I laugh, but my laughter is broken by the sudden and uncontrollable thought of a box found in my great grandmother’s house after her death. It contained a small handkerchief with the name of a baby she lost during the war, a baby girl. I put my girl down, unsettled. I tell my girlfriend about this and her brother, a young man rooted in a faith, reminds me to remember the stories of our people, reminds me that we are all being testing. I desperately want to pass this test from God, and I remember the stories as he instructed. Why is the first story that pops into my head one of my grandfather leaving his mother on the side of the road to die so he and his siblings could stay alive? I look at my son and feel like crying. I try to think of another story, but it’s a story of children in a nearby island dancing beneath nuclear fallout, thinking it was snow and having their skin peel off. I decide this strategy is not working.
I go into my room and take out the beautiful rosary given to me by a student who went on a pilgrimage to Rome. “It was blessed by the Pope, Miss! And it’s blue, so I thought of you.” I wrap the beads around my hands and begin reciting the prayers my grandmother once told me could soothe any heart. And it works. When I am done, my heart is lighter and the stories have managed to file themselves somewhere deep in the back of my mind.
I leave the rosary out. I do not return it to the pretty box my student presented it to me in.
“I will be needing you a lot these days,” I whisper, patting it lightly before exiting the room and turning off the light.