by: Stephanne Morris Marsh
Before we get started with this story, let me remind those of you who are reading it, EXACTLY how much you love me…….my character, my integrity, my wit, my charm…….and for good measure, let’s just throw a picture of adorable 8-year old me in the mix. Keep this image in mind WHILE you are reading the story.
I must have been about eight years old, because Keely was three. I can recall with great clarity the story which I am about to share with you. At the time, we lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Guayaquil was and still is to this day, the second dirtiest city in the entire world; second only to Calcutta, India. When I walk by a dumpster or an overflowing trash can, and that first pungent odor of spoiled milk and rotten garbage hits me, I inhale. You read it right. I inhale. That smell, that rotten, garbage rotting smell; transports me instantly back to my childhood. In my mind’s eye (as mine are closed, vividly imagining) I am standing outside on a street corner in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There is nothing like it!
My mom and dad planted a new church (church planting = starting a new church body) in Guayaquil called Cristo Vive (Christ Lives). There was a sweet lady who attended the church named Fanny Tocain (pronounced Fah-neee Toe-Cah-eeeen). She loved my parents dearly and was always a constant presence in our home. My mom and dad travelled quite extensively, planting new churches, encouraging existing ones and speaking at various seminars, etc. Fanny was our “niñera” (pronounced Neen-yeah-rah), or our babysitter, when their travels would take them out of town. Fanny always arrived in a dress on the bus in the mornings and scrubbed our house from top to bottom with a broom and Deja (pronounced Day-ha) laundry detergent sprinkled everywhere. Guayaquil is very hot and tropical. It rains every single day. Except in the rainy season, when it pours an agua cera (or a wall of water) every single day. It is always hot and humid, very musty and just heavy!
Our home was a square, with a courtyard in the center. There were two sets of doors that led out to the courtyard. One door opened up from the living room and one opened up from the side, where the bedrooms were. After Fanny would clean our bathrooms and wax our floors, cleaning every visible surface within the house, she would head out to the courtyard with her Deja, a broom and a water hose. She would then proceed to scrub down the outside walls of the house and the red tiled courtyard.
One day, Fanny had just finished cleaning the tile outside. I asked her to make me cream of mushroom soup for lunch, and she made it too watery. Now, you must understand that I struggle with the telling of this story, simply because this seems like a very ungrateful and bratty thing to do, and I was neither, ungrateful nor bratty. I have no idea what possessed me to behave the way I did, I guess it was just an off day. I was angry that she gave me soup that wasn’t right. I then asked for a snack of crackers.
Keely and I went out to the courtyard to eat our crackers. We were sitting on the floor, looking out at the grass and flowers, when Keely sneezed, and the cracker crumbs blew like a fine dusting of snow all over the tile floor. Mind you, the tile was still slightly damp from Fanny’s vigorous scrubbing. When I saw Keely’s crumbs and the way that they blew so beautifully onto the deep red tile, I immediately whooshed out a mouthful, on purpose. It looked just like pictures I had seen, of snow dusting the hood of a car. Keely started laughing and I laughed. The more we laughed, the more crumbs we blew everywhere. The red tile was covered!!
We looked at one another in alarm, because we knew two things. One, we were in big trouble when our parents found out, and two, Fanny was going to be sad. Still, it was very funny, and we were already going to get into trouble; so I got the bright idea to lock Fanny inside, so she couldn’t get outside to us. We shoved our bicycles, the chairs, potted plants, everything we could physically move, in front of both doors. The doors were glass, so we knew that when she came back, she would be able to clearly see us, and we would undoubtedly, clearly see her. Sure enough, it wasn’t very long after we barricaded the doors, that Fanny came to check on us. I can still, 30 years later, see the horrified look on her face, as she watched the two spoiled little gringas, chewing and blowing mouthfuls of soda cracker crumbs all over her beautifully cleaned tile. We had a whole box of soda crackers. We chewed and blew every single one. Fanny beat on the door and pointed her finger at us. Finally, she sat on the floor and looked at us through the spokes of the bicycle tires. Wet tile, + a box of chewed and blown soda cracker crumbs is no fun to clean up. Just ask Keely or me. We can tell you first hand, it is a huge mess and back breaking work to clean. Not to mention the tanned tails we got when our parents came home, and the disappointment visible on Fanny’s face. To this day, Keely and I still crack up when we eat soda crackers. Every once in a while, when no one is looking, (especially our children) we will chew lightly and blow cracker crumbs at each other.