Friday, September 7, 2007
This is Miscardet Junior. His birthday is June 18, 1992. As far as he knows, he does not have living parents, and although he may have other existing relatives such as an aunt or a cousin, he could not tell me anything about them and they did not visit during my time at the orphanage.
My first memory of Miscardet was when we were choosing nicknames for the boys. I had already given Drisk the nickname of My Goat because when I first met him, he told me his name was Drisk Chevry, but he said it so fast that all I understood was the Chevry part. Chevry sounds very much like the French word for goat (chevre) so I just called him My Goat (Mon Chevre) for a few months. I also called Vandomme My Deer (Mon Cerf) because his adorable ears stick out in a way that makes me think of a white-tailed deer. We were assigning other names based on appearance and Miscardet walked in. I immediately had a mental image of the black panther that I had admired at the San Diego zoo, and so we named him Mon Panther. I don't remember any other names except the one that Renick and Jude Tilus gave me: My Rabbit (Mon Lapin). I'm still not sure why they chose that.
It took a little while for Miscardet and me to become buddies. He is less noticeable than a lot of the boys just because he is quiet and not pushy in any way. He is content to sit by himself playing on my cell phone, to practice dribbling a basketball in the courtyard, or to just watch his friends playing playstation. During the summer, I can usually find him on the roof, observing all the goings-on in the street. You can tell that he wishes he could be out of our little building, making new friends and experiencing the outside world. Once you crack through that shell of shyness, though, Miscardet is a character.
He loves to laugh and since he is not a big talker himself, he will sit on a bottom bunk while the other boys exchange stories and just laugh at them. He likes to sneak up behind people and poke them, and he cheerfully teases the other boys, calling them Manelo, Bernado, and Angelo (Jacques). Those names are actually a way of getting my attention since I was the one who first started adding O's to the kids' names (mainly Jaco and Steph-O), and so Miscardet created ones for Emmanuel and Bernadin too. Miscardet's all time favorite little trick is to stand behind me and then nudge his knee into mine so that my leg bends forward. He will do it a dozen times until I turn from whatever I'm doing and chase him down. We have spent many hours on the roof, him dodging around support pillars and clotheslines, and me grabbing thin air, until I finally catch him and give him a good sound kissing. He just laughs and wriggles away. A lot of our boys will come right up to me and ask for a kiss or a hug; the knee game is Miscardet's way of asking.
At Easter, the traditional Haitian activity is kite flying. Miscardet is the best kite flyer we've got. It doesn't matter how weak the wind is, Miscardet can get his up and keep it up. In Haiti, we tie razor blades into the tails of our kites and then we try to cut the strings of other peoples' kites (it's called kite fighting). Thanks to Miscardet's impressive skills, we were the champion kite flyers of the neighborhood.
Miscardet also plays soccer. He's not the best player, but he loves it and he plays determinedly, in whatever footwear is available. For most of my stay, he played in one sandal and one sneaker. In school, he is in 9th grade and he is a solid, though not brilliant student. He was one of my better group 3 English students and he thrived on the vocab competitions that we held. Miscardet's other love is peanut butter. When he became comfortable with me, he would always ask if I had any peanut butter for him to eat, plain or on crackers, with his cornflakes or on the 7 gourde fish bread. As a going away gift, I gave him his own jar of Skippy and he was speechless with delight.
I didn't realize how much Miscardet loved me until I was almost ready to leave in May. Ever since I had started tutoring Emmanuel after school, the 9th grade boys had been coming up to my room every afternoon to hang out. Miscardet started coming along too, playing on my computer, wearing my bandana, begging for peanut butter, just seizing every opportunity to be around me. And then my last week, he started sitting beside me, holding my hand, and letting me put my arm around him. He asked me once how long I thought it would be before the boys felt at ease ("alez") with me gone. "A few days?" I suggested. "What?! A few weeks!" he corrected. We found out that Nikki would be coming to replace me and Miscardet solemnly swore that he would never visit her in her room as he did with me, and that he would never talk to her. As sweet and touchingly loyal as that was, I had to tell him that I would be more proud if he made very good friends with her, and so by the end of her first day, Miscardet was sitting with her and holding her hand.