Ten years of age and all I can fathom are toys. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes, and no toys can be found. The heat is almost too much for my little bathing suit clad body to take. Every new box holds incredible promise; navigating each sticky piece of tape without my stuffed animals, without My Pretty Pony crushes my juvenile spirit. Leaving the box-swallowed room, I enter my parched paradise.
Surveying my exotic surroundings, it begins to sink in that I am really in Nicaragua. With an increasingly familiar Latin taste, it feels more like my last home, Guatemala, than my first home, Pennsylvania. Here, my grandmother is not making fruit salad in the kitchen anymore; she is in an air-conditioned bedroom with Alzheimer’s disease, exploring the world of Spanish Wheel of Fortune re-runs. My father is making everyone happy in a clothing factory, because he is the sweet, perfect father.
Wiping sweat from my forehead, I smell food. This food it is not pleasing to my palate. The woman cooking it only knows how to cook with outside fires—not ovens. My mother gently reminds her that black beans do not have to be served with every meal. My sister, fourteen, is following me discreetly to ensure my safety in this new world.
While exploring my new abode, I discover a circular fountain at the core of a beautiful garden. The fountain is pleading with me to partake in its jubilant dance. The fountain, sadly, is empty, but I remedy its dry and hot stone interior with the promise of water from a nearby hose. The water filling the fountain becomes a whirling cure for the sultriness of the day. I check on the height of the newly created pool approximately every 20 seconds. The first time I check my knuckles are covered with cooling water. By the 15th time, it has reached my elbow and my excitement overflows.
The water that runs from the end of the green hose fills the placid stone pool. I play a game of pretend—the hose becomes a snake, its nozzle hissing and its green scales growing wet and slimy. Venom spitting, the snake is unstoppable to any common man! Secrets of the jungle are known only to me, and as I turn the nozzle, the fluid ceases.
One toe at a time, my foot sweeps the top of the water, and I sit on the edge bracing myself for the moment that is inevitable. Overwhelmed by anticipation, I fully submerge myself in the fountain. The water eases the sweltering heat, and carries with it an almost baptismal like peace.
That afternoon of fountain dipping in Nicaragua is one of my fondest and most cherished memories of childhood. For a number of reasons, life changed after that dance in the fountain. My father died without warning only three days later and we left one foreign country filled with family to relocate to the United States. Life changed completely. When I recall the sleek, slippery, formfitting water, I feel alive, comforted, and innocent.