I very recently had the joy of spending six-and-a-half hours with a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl named Grace Plumb, and her wonderful family. Grace is a TCK (Third Culture Kid), like myself, who is also multiracial, as I am. This particular experience was very new to me, as I have never before spent time in the company of someone who is a fan of my writings. I take for granted that the people who are a fan of what I do, only get to see me while I am working; they don’t get to see me as who I am when I’m not C. JoyBell C. This experience with Grace, was a new thing and I really didn’t know how to handle it, at first. I didn’t know how to handle the way she bubbled over in excitement and almost couldn’t contain herself while she talked about “just how really, really, really, really great” my “quotes” are, I didn’t know how to handle her adoring gaze... so I bowed my head and smiled, I said “thank you.”
The rest of the time at Grace’s house unfolded in light. Our time spent together was like walking with a constant ray of light that tripped over itself sometimes and bubbled over like a Roman fountain here and there... I felt enlightened. I was able to give of myself and see myself, at the same time. I think we see ourselves best during the times that we give ourselves most. Just think about it: when you give of yourself, you are putting pieces of yourself into your hands and reaching over to put that into somebody else’s hands. So you get to see those pieces of yourself inside your hands while you’re giving them away! I had quite a few in-depth discussions with Grace, on life and reality. The hardships of reality, the reasons why we are forced to become and to grow... but I want to share with you just a fraction of our discussions, which struck me the most (it struck me as I was speaking to her about it). I don’t know any better way to convey in exactness, aside from relaying the discussion in conversation mode and so I will do just that...
Me: “So, of all the quotes of mine that you’ve read, which ones are your favourites?”
Grace: “Oh my gosh, it’s so hard to say, I read so many of them, they’re all so, so great... but one of them... Last night I lost the world and gained the universe...”
Me: “Yeah... you know when I wrote that... I wrote it because it was exactly, exactly how I felt. I felt it and I just wrote it down... (Grace was looking at me with eager eyes) I just felt that the night before that day, I had lost the world but that it was okay because that next day I had gained the whole universe.”
Grace nodded her head, pupils dilated, her beautiful smile struggling to contain her excitement...
Grace: “And there’s this other one... A star falls down and into your hands, it seeps through your veins... something like that... and you have to put it back in the sky and it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done or will ever have to do but what’s your is yours and one day it will fall from the sky, hit you in the head real hard, and you won’t have to put it back in the sky anymore, because what’s yours is yours, whether if its up in the sky or right there in your hands...”
Her eyes sparkled like magnanimous glowing things, her face an expression of hunger to know more about those words. We were sitting at their dining room table, a plate of grapes and apples between us, a large root beer bottle obstructing our view of each other, there was some BBQ on the table which the dog was sniffing at... I suddenly fell into deep thought...
Me: “You know... when I wrote that... you know there are moments in our lives, or people, or things... there are memories and times or even just days... all these things that we want to hold onto, we wish... we wish that we could make things stay the same. We wish that we could hold on, we wish that we could keep... but for some of us, like you and I— our lives are in fast-forward, we are in fast-forward and we just can’t make things stay the same, we just can’t! Other people are born in one place, grow up all their lives in that same place, go to University there, all their family and friends are there, they take for granted the fact that they don't really need to strive and hold onto anyone or anything, just because everyone and everything is always there around them! They don't really understand what it means to hold on. But you and I, we know that sometimes people will push you away, or people make decisions and those decisions change everything, or things just move so fast and they just don’t stay the same way and you’re left holding onto what you wish you could keep... but the thing is... you see, the thing is, what’s yours is yours. What’s yours is yours regardless if you have to put it back up in the sky or if you have it right there in your hands, because every moment that you have, every single thing that happens to you in a fraction of a time in your life— those become a part of you. They become a part of you because you felt them, because it built you in a way or because it made you grow in a way or because it made you feel something... and so the way I see it, is that I won’t throw any of those things away because if I do, if I throw any of those people away, or things away, I’m throwing a part of myself away, too. If I have to, I’ll put them back where they came from, I’ll put them back in the sky; but I won’t throw them into the trashcan. Can you see the difference there? (Grace nods her head, her face reddened with emotion) And you know, the funny thing is, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and just recently I have been wondering why people throw away other people so easily, I just don’t understand it! You can see people who say they are in love today; only to break up with each other tomorrow! Just because something didn't feel right or just because something felt off. But that’s just one example, there are so many other examples of how people throw other people away too quickly, too soon, so easily! And I wonder about it, because I don’t... I can’t, I just can’t understand it! Maybe they just don’t see things, and life, the way that I see things, and life... I see life as a collection of memories... I have this basin (I motion with my hands in a circle, forming the shape of a basin in the air in front of me) and inside this basin is a collection of all those memories, all those times I’ve lived, all those small things... and these are what fill up my basin! This is my life! And I just don’t know how other people see their lives or see what their lives are made up of, in order for them to be able to throw anyone away! Because when you walk down the street and you smile at someone— you have created a moment between the both of you and that moment has become a part of you, a part of your life. It’s there. It will forever be there— in your basin— as one of your pieces! Every moment means something. Every smile that you make, every connection between another that you make— those are all in your basin, they fill up your basin and they make moments that fill up your life and that is your life! So I want to... I really want to understand why and how people can throw other people away so fast, so easily, the moment they see something they don’t like, something that doesn’t make them feel good, they dismiss the person, they write the person off, they move on into what they think is “better” for them, and I want to understand how they can do that, because I can’t! I can’t do that! What do you think Grace? How do you think other people see life? Is it so different from how I see things? Is it so, so different?
Grace: “Maybe, I guess, they don’t feel the small things?”
Me: “Aha! I’ve got it! They go through life without taking things in with their two hands! I’ve got it, I’ve got it! This is how it’s different, look at this: We all go through life like we are walking through a toy store, with all the toys lined up on the shelves, the difference between people is how they walk through that toy store! Some of us pick up every toy we see, we hug a teddy bear, we cradle a doll, we build little castles with the building blocks... and those experiences bring us smiles, bring us joys, or other feelings, and we feel that and each of those feelings become moments for us, become parts of our lives, to us, become our own pieces! And then the other people... they walk through the toy store... but they don’t touch anything, they don’t feel anything!”
Grace: “Or maybe they pick up toys and at first it makes them smile and it makes them happy, but then they see something wrong with it, like it doesn’t have batteries or it’s the wrong colour or whatever, and so they put it back, they frown on it, they forget about it, they move on!”
Me: “Yes! Yes, that’s it! But is there really something wrong with the toys?”
Grace: “There’s not really anything wrong with the toys they put back; it’s just that the people don’t appreciate how it made them feel before they started seeing all the things that they think aren't good enough.”
Me: “The people forget how it made then smile, how it made them happy, or all the other things it made them feel, and they throw all of that away, they don’t take it into themselves, because to them it’s not everything they want.”
Grace: “Yeah, yes, that’s it.”
The Christmas lights were blinking on the outside windows, the root beer bottle still stood in between us, but in that moment I knew that Grace and I had created our own moment together, to put into our own basins, to make a part of ourselves, to make a part of our lives.