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It is the big things that separate us. Miles. Circumstance. Opportunity.
It is the little things that connect us.
Yalmar motions for us to follow him. The slingshot he had previously been wearing as a headband now tucked into the front of his jeans held up only by the top button. Yalmar is the leader of the group. The group of brothers, sisters, cousins (I lose track of the relationships, but it doesn’t seem to matter) lets him be the spokesperson when I ask if they live nearby. Yalmar doesn’t hesitate as he clambers over the barb wire, plastic jugs, and boards that mark the entrance into the small spread that his family calls home. We all follow suit. Baby sister rests happily on one hip secured by big brother’s arm. With the other arm, Yalmar motions to the surroundings Vanna White-style as if to say, We have arrived! Welcome! What can I show you first?! He is positively beaming. And so, the tour begins.
Yalmar’s yard is home to ducks, and chickens (each one thoroughly photographed by me at the proud direction of young Yalmar’s tour guidery) who roam freely in and out of the yard between the strands of barbed wire strung between tree trunk posts that make up the fence that surrounds the small property. Criss-crossed with clotheslines, the yard is part garden, part playground, part pigpen, and part construction zone. A collection of bricks sit in wait. When enough are amassed, a new house will be built. My own yard is only slightly less muddy than Yalmar’s given the gaping hole awaiting my deck reconstruction and although it is about the same size as Yalmar’s, the fence that surrounds my property is designed to keep things out. I entertain my friends and occasionally kick around a soccer ball in my backyard though too. Just like Yalmar.
Inside the black tarp walls of Yalmar’s home, the kitchen table is square and wooden and well-worn. One of the legs sits at a distinct skew on the packed dirt floor. There are no cupboards, no drawers. The family’s dishes, the plastic variety, are stacked atop the table. The wares are a bright splash of multi-colour in an otherwise dim house. At my own home, drawers hold silverware. Cupboards hold glassware. And bakeware. And small appliances I do not use. And if you come over for a visit, I will offer you a glass of water. Just like Yalmar did for me, his guest. And had I accepted, I’m sure the water offered to me in the bright green cup he scooped out of the rain barrel would have quenched my thirst just the same. My round kitchen table sits on a pedestal and boasts a white coat of paint I methodically distressed to give the appearance of being well-worn. I sit around it with my family feeling blessed and happy and loved, just like Yalmar does around his.
The exposed horizontal framing members of Yalmar’s house hold clothing, backpacks, pots and pans, and even the drying skin of a wild cat. My own walls—mostly bare because, crippled by choice and indecision, I can’t decide which memoirs to surround myself with— hold the odd photograph, mirror or two, and a somewhat curious amount of word/quote art. Our walls protect us each from the elements just the same and, at the end of each day, I close my door to keep the bad guys out. Just like Yalmar does.
At night, despite miles and circumstance and opportunity, we sleep under the same stars, Yalmar and I. My own bedroom is a little more private than Yalmar’s (because I don’t share my bed with two siblings or share a tarp wall with my parents’ room), but it too is messy. Just like Yalmar’s. Our favourite things are on display and our clothes are everywhere. And while I don’t personally have spiderman bedsheets, my nephews do. And they go to sleep dreaming about having super powers. Just like Yalmar does.
Truth be told, despite the time that we shared, I know very little of the life of Yalmar. And he knows little of mine. I do know that it is the big things that separate us. Miles. Circumstance. Opportunity. I do know that he has consumed my thoughts since I left. And I do know that visiting is the easy part, and sometimes it’s the being back home that seems hard. Which seems even more selfish as I write the words down. But it is difficult to rationalize all the different kinds of lives that are being lived in the world. I do know that it is the little things that connect us. I do know that I want to be proud. I want to be happy. I want to lead.
Just like Yalmar.