Hawaiian Dolls

These Advent days are busy for the Poor Clare nuns in the convent because it is prayer time. Unless there is something absolutely urgent silence is required and they will not answer any calls from the outside. Then there is also the cake preparation. Selling cakes is a good source of income and all the nuns cooperating in this task become essential. I feel much better now after a series of personal crises. The psychologist helped me. However I have to live with it; my mom will never understand my choice. For her I will always be the daughter who neglected her when she was in desperate need. Daughters are supposed to stand by their mothers and they must never leave them alone. She simply cannot understand I once received God’s Call and when it happened I knew this had to be my way. Although she is very well looked after by my brother and sister-in-law (she lives with them), she still holds this bitterness.

I often think of Kyrta. She sends me postcards but I do not have time to answer them. We, nuns, are always busy in the convent. From time to time, she calls and when we talk on the phone it is as if we had seen each other a few days or even hours before. When she came to the first convent I lived in, it really felt like that. We were so happy to see each other after so many years! This is our great friendship that started when she was five and I was seven, when we were playing with our Hawaiian dolls using all our creativity and imagination. Hawaii was our fantasy world; we, little girls, ignored that the place had also its dark side as anywhere. I can only remember that Kyrta was totally fascinated by Hawaiian women, their dresses, the islands. She must have seen them in a film.

But why did we precisely choose Hawaii as our fairyland? Perhaps because it meant something exotic to us, nice beaches which we tried to build on the staircase at Kyrta’s grandparents’ house. We met there every weekend. We made the typical Hawaiian dresses for the dolls using simple materials. We used some baskets as ships carrying dolls traveling to Hawaii to meet their doll friends. We would spend hours playing together. Kyrta drew and wrote all the stories we invented.

I knew she had some problems with bullies at school. She felt terribly lonely, she was not very pretty as a girl with that kind of dandruff on her eyelashes and throwing up on the school bus every day. It must have been something psychosomatic. But I found her pretty because I looked at her inside. It told me she was a good person, very innocent. She would not harm anyone; she was like the rest of her family. Her soul was reflected in her face. As Cicero once said: “Imago animi vultus est, indices oculi.” (the countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions). Indeed, her brown eyes irradiated nothing but goodness.

Apart from that Kyrta had no serious problem. She had a nice family; a father who took care of her. He loved her and was always there when she needed him. My father, instead, was an alcoholic and my mother, brother and I had to go to the neighbor many times to avoid being hit. At Kyrta’s grandparents’ house I had a second family. I was simply accepted as another member. They adopted me and I traveled with them to many places, to the mountains to spend the day. They were always kind and loving. I remember that day trip to Gelida. Nice walk in the woods. Kyrta and I playing together. The fresh air. The restaurant where Kyrta swallowed an entire olive with its bone by accident. She was terrified, thinking she would die, poor little child, I think she was six at that time, I was eight.

“No, you won’t die because of the bone,” her father said.
“How do you know?” Kyrta said, still sobbing.
“Look. I’ll eat an olive with the bone too.”

Kyrta was not convinced, so her mother also decided to swallow an olive with a bone, which made my friend finally calm down. Obviously no one died because of the olive bone. There were many other trips, Kyrta and I invented new games with our dolls and my father was getting sicker every day. He became so sick that he could not hit us anymore. I did not want him in this poor condition but I was truly relieved. How much my mom, my brother and I had feared him. He could become so aggressive…

Years after, Kyrta’s father was the only person who fully understood my choice to become a nun. When I told him about God’s Call he said: “This doesn’t surprise me.”
He had been a former monk at the Montserrat monastery before getting married and having a daughter. Kyrta was sad, because from now on we would not see each other, but she accepted my choice. Every time I got some news from her, I felt immensely happy and remembered our childhood days and her entire family: her grandparents, her great-aunt, her father and her mother.

Kyrta’s mother is an artist. At that time she painted so many different things: portraits of people on oil canvasses, nude women, also flowers, fruits and landscapes. Yes, that picture of a landscape on the upper floor of the house. Kyrta and I imagined it was a window of our dolls’ house from where you could see a beautiful green landscape, fields and trees, a house in the distance. I also remember what Kyrta’s mother drew and painted for us. Sometimes she helped Kyrta and me drawing us paper dolls and their dresses. We painted them in multiple colors, cut the different dresses and played with them for hours.

Kyrta’s mother took us to some art exhibitions in Barcelona. Now I remember one of Kyrta’s phone calls. She told me something very funny about her mother. It seems she was visiting one of those exhibitions. It was about Van Gogh, impressionists and post-impressionists. It was very early in the morning at the Fundació Mapfre building where the exhibition was being held. After visiting the ground floor, Kyrta’s mother had to use the elevator to continue the visit on the first floor. She was alone in the elevator. She pressed the button. When she came out, the place looked strange, all abandoned as if everything had been turned upside down and dismantled.

There were objects that looked like caldrons. Oh God, like the caldrons of hell, like the Catalan mythological hero Pere Botero, thought Kyrta’s mother. No one was there. She pressed a door and the alarm started to sound. A security ward came and helped her. It seems she had pressed the wrong button in the elevator. She was on another floor where there were no paintings to see. It was a storage room in the basement. The ward helped her to find the right floor to continue seeing the rest of the exhibition. What a fright she’d just had!

Kyrta’s mother was always so absent-minded, full of funny anecdotes. Her father, instead, was the rational man. I loved both of them and was sad when Kyrta called me last week saying that her father was dead. I have talked with the other nuns and we will mention his name and pray for him at Mass. Kyrta was deeply affected and I understood. I will never forget my second family. Being with them was like living in a fairyland of Hawaiian dolls.

© January 2019 Marta Pombo Sallés

39 thoughts on “Hawaiian Dolls

  1. This is a beautiful story, and has touched me on so many levels. I loved the way goodness is recognised in the soul. To look past the physical features and into someone’s being is a gift, and to have this as a child is truly special. Also the different ‘abuse’ and an exotic escape two young girls fled in play. There are so many elements to this story but the one subject that caught my attention was ‘The Calling’. To know what one wants at an early age amazes me. The first time I was introduced to what this meant was at around thirteen or fourteen years of age and a friend and fellow student announced she had ‘A Calling’. Her name was Anna and she became a Nun. A beautiful story, beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thorough reading and analysis of this story, Susan. I am impressed by your pointing out all the different levels you have found. That is the good thing about other people reviewing one’s work. Otherwise we would never know what our writing does to others. Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks again for the link to your friend Mario Savioni. I been away with the family and didn’t have internet, I do apologise for not answering earlier. He is a good writer and has me interested in his story, and other works.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this piece. It’s tender! The story moves back and forth, between the past and the present, very smoothly yet nostalgically! I felt, as if, I was in one of those ‘basket’ boats, in your hand and your friend’s! Except, I wasn’t visiting Hawaii! I was rather, visiting your childhood memories.
    So wonderfully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marta, I am touched. This is such a beautiful story. I try to imagine you being a nun but somehow my image of you ( from reading of your poems) is of a sensitive soul with a rebellious streak, more like Maria from Sound of Music but with a much greater empathy towards your fellow human beings. Your feelings for your friend Kyrta, how innocent and beautiful are those. I think I can understand your mother’s feelings but it is difficult to compete with God.
    I was in Hawaii in 2017 August. Those ten days in Oahu and Big Island were magical but I will remember Hawaii for another reason. I wrote about that here: https://wp.me/p73yZZ-40j

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tenth grade is an important year of a student’s life in India. Being in it, I find it really hard to keep up with the posts or even open wordpress.

    But Marta, whenever I do and my eyes encounter with your short stories, I feel so glad. You write so well.

    This particular tale is so well woven. It was so warming and I like how you took the story from past to present and then back to it. It was special to experience Hawaii when you’ve actually not visited it ever.

    And then experiencing your child is a great moment. I get to know how innocent you have been, then.

    Altogether, I ALWAYS will look forward to your posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for such lovely and thoughtful comment, Preksha. I am flattered. So glad you enjoy my writing and you have liked this short story in particular. Your feedback is truly encouraging! As for you, do not worry if you do not have so much time for wordpress. Your student’s life is very important right now. I will get to your posts ASAP and comment on them too. From what I have read till now you seem to be a very talented writer, so keep it up whenever you have the time and need! 🌈☀🌿😊

      Like

    1. Thank you, Mario. Just want to make sure if I got this right: Is this comment of yours a suggestion for some little improvement in this story (I mean replacing “her eyelashes” for “those eyelashes” here: “with that kind of dandruff on her eyelashes”)? To me it sounds better, I like the idea. Is this your suggestion?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful story with a great feel Marta! Smooth transitions.:) It made me think of my childhood and how I fantasize about being in a different place. Often times I was a princess lol go figure. I do enjoy your writing!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for such a lovely comment, Stella! So glad you can relate this piece to your childhood and thus establish empathy, which I think is one of the most important functions writing should do to readers. And I love your writing too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I will be in Hawaii tomorrow – for the first time in about 20 years.

    There is something about nuns,isn’t there? A certain serenity based on ‘God knows what’. Although, over the age of 55 or so they tend to assume another persona, as if they were guards to the gates of heaven – probing you with those eyes, looking for faults.

    Thanks for sharing. Beautiful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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