Ep. 01: Mitch Albom reads an excerpt from "Finding Chika"
Welcome to story bound presented by lit- hub radio and the POT agglomerate it. I'm your host Judy Brewer. This is our first episode. So thank you for joining us coming up in one. Minute is a story told by Mitch. albom with compositions is by Maya Win and Ali so settle in and enjoy the show Growing up I would always carry a book around my own private invisible world full of new discoveries these these days whether it's the weekend or my lunch break I'll stop by Powell's books and see what's new on. The front shelves read Employee Recommendations. That's one of my favorite things about Powell's the personal touch Powell's books is the world's largest family owned independent bookstore with over two million new and used volumes across five Portland area stores and and their website Powells DOT COM book. Lovers of all persuasions can find exactly what they're looking for or and discover something new wonderful and unexpected. Come here your favorite authors read at one of Powell's five hundred plus free in store events each year or checkout original essays and interviews on the Powell's blog visit Powells dot com and use coupon code story bound for twenty percent off your next purchase of twenty five dollars or more available only at Powells Dot Com. That's twenty percent off your next purchase of twenty twenty five dollars or more. Just enter Promo Code story bound. Why aren't you writing Mr Mitch Cheek is lying on the carpet in my office she flips onto. We're back. She plays with her fingers. She comes here in the early morning when the light is still thin at the win sometimes she has a doll percent of magic. AGIC markers other times. It's just her. She wears her blue pajamas with the my little pony cartoon on the top and Pastel stars on the bottoms. You in the past. She could love to choose her clothes each morning after brushing her teeth. Matching the colors of the socks shirts. But she doesn't do do that anymore. Chica died last spring when the trees in our yard were beginning to bud as they are budding now as it is spring again again. Her absence left us without breath or sleep or appetite and my wife and I stared straight ahead for long stretches until someone someone spoke to snap us out and then one morning Chica reappeared. Why aren't you writing? She says again and my arms are crossed. I stare at the empty screen. About what about me. I Will mm-hmm when soom she makes her sound like a cartoon Titan. Don't be mad I you say. Don't be mad CHICA. Don't go. She taps her little fingers on the desk. If she has to think about it she can never stays for long. She first appeared eight months after she died the morning of my father's funeral I walked outside the look at the sky and suddenly there. She was standing beside me holding the porch railing. I said her name and disbelief Chica and she turned so I knew she could hear me. I spoke quickly believing this was a dream. She would vanish at any moment. That was then lately when she appears. I'm calm I say. Good Morning Beautiful Girl. And she says Good Morning Mister Mitch mm-hmm and she sits on the floor or in her little chair which I never removed from my office. You can get used to everything in life. I suppose Even this all right she guys say I'll start writing. Yea She squeals shaking her fists one condition she stops her shaking. And you have to stay here while I do. We have to stay with me. Okay I know she can do. I'm asking still I bargained It's all we really want my wife and I since she has been gone to be in the same place with her all the time. Tell Xiaomi my story Chica says and you'll stay home. I'll try alright. I say I will tell. Oh you the story of us she says us I say and I wasn't there the day you were born Chica. I arrived in Haiti a few weeks later to help after a terrible earthquake. And since you always tell me I should talk like a grownup then I can say it was seismic enough in thirty thirty seconds to wipe out. Nearly three percent of your country's population buildings crumbled offices collapsed houses that health l. families were intact one moment puffs of smoke. The next people died and were buried in the rubble. Many of them not found in two weeks later their skin covered in grey dust. They never did get an accurate count of those lost not to this day but it was in the hundreds of thousands. That's more people killed in less than a minute. Then all the days of the American revolution and the Gulf War combined it was a tragedy on an island where tragedies no stranger Haiti your home and this is the second poorest nation in the world with a history of hardship many deaths the kind that come too soon but it is also a place of great happiness Chica place of beauty and laughter unshakable shakeup of Faith and children children who in a rain storm. We'll hook arms and dance spontaneously. Then throw themselves to the ground in hysterics wchs as if they don't know what to do with all that joy you were happy there in that way once even very poor the story of your birth was told to me as follows on January ninth. Two thousand ten. You entered this world inside a two room cinderblock cinderblock house by breadfruit tree. There was no doctor present. A midwife named Talbert delivered you from your mother's womb from all accounts yours was a healthy birth. You cried when you were supposed to new slip when you were supposed to and on your third day of life January twelfth a hot afternoon you were sleeping on your mother's chest when the world shook as if the dirt health thunder your your cinderblock house wobbled and the rue fell off and the structure split open like a walnut leaving the two of you expose to the heavens. Perhaps God got a good look at you CHICA. Because he didn't take you that day and he didn't take your mother even though he took so many others. Your your home was destroyed but you were both left intact naked to the sky but intact all around people were running falling deprave in crime. Trees Lay on their side. Animals hid you slept. That night in the sugarcane fields on a bed of leaves under the stars and you slept there for many days that followed so you were birthed into the soil of your homeland she all. It's roiling raging in beauty. And maybe that is why you sometimes roiled enraged yourself and were so beautiful you were Haitian although you lived in America and died in America you were always of another place as you are now even as you sit here with me once late at night. Miss Janine and I were crowds. It's next to your bed and you said to US quietly. How did you find me? I thought it such a sad question that I could only repeat it. How did we find you? You said yes and we said you mean how did you come to us and you said yes again but I think you meant that the way you said it because life before the orphanage was foggy in your memory like being in a misty forest. So how did you find me makes sense because to you. I suppose it felt as if you were found but you were never lost Chica. I want you to know that there were people who loved you before we loved you. Your mother reveal you and your father fed me. They had two girls who preceded you your older sisters and when your mother got pregnant with you. She told her. Best Friend Brasilia resilient that you would be her last child together. They chose an elegant name for you Missouri. Although very soon everyone was calling you chico. Someone said it was because you were a stocky baby. Someone else said cheek is a term of endearment. It doesn't really matter mm-hmm we have names. We are given a name that just attached to us and Chica was yours and had your mother been right. Had you been her last child she she might be alive and I might never have met you but she in Fedor had one more baby after you two years later a boy. He arrived the hottest month of the year August in the early hours before the sun came up Albert the midwife again present but this time if something went wrong your new brother lived near mother died. I know it makes no sense to have birth and death in the same bed Chica but that is what happened and that was the last you saw your birth family for a long time her Zulia coward. Howard you off after the funeral? She said your mother had chosen her as your godmother and had insisted if I ever die you must take Chica. And so she did a your next home did not last long less than a year. It was a single room apartment in a cinderblock structure that you share with your family. There was no bathroom inside at night when the electricity went off it was total darkness and in the mornings you would carry dirty bedsheets up the stairs to the rooftop. A dangerous undertaking for child. Not Get three years old woman. Saw You doing this in grew concerned for your safety. She suggested to her Zulia that you might be better off at an orphanage. She knew of one not far away and the section of the city known as Delma thirty three. That is the orphanage as I have operated. Since two thousand ten the year of the earthquake the place you call Machina. The mission specifically the have faith Haiti mission rectangular piece of land behind a High Greg Gate unruh and laremy terribly potholed streets that gathers water like small lake when it rains. And that Chica was the beginning of Providence. Moving our lives together or the continuance of it. I should I'd say since the Lord doesn't get ideas partway through life And you Uh the didn't want me crazy you can you. We know one day when I was back in Michigan. I got a phone call from Mr. Alan are Haitian director Sir there. There's something wrong with Chico. What's wrong I said? Her face is drooped and she's walking funny. Did you take her due to the doctor. Yes sir what did he do. He gave her eyedrops Allen. It's not her is can you find a neurologist sir. A nerve Dr. I will find one. I remember hanging up that phone feeling unsettled as something ominous with coming like the rolling thunder on Haitian afternoon before the heavy rains full we never needed needed a neurologist before Chica a skin doctor Yes a dentist shore cough medicine. Diarrhea Medicine Children's Tylenol but a neurologist. How serious is this? I want when we finally found that neurologist he noted the group of your mouth and your left eye and how your gate was slightly off he ordered an MRI at the time there was only one. Mri Machine Sheen and all of Haiti and it costs seven hundred fifty dollars. Cash for an appointment. Mr Alan took you there. You left before sunrise. Six hours later. A nurse finally called your name. You were placed inside a large cylinder radio waves in a magnetic field regenerated around your head and the results were images that showed you from the inside and while I would have told people that on the inside Chica your warm and curious confident and funny the MRI analysis was more clinical. It was two sentences. The child has a mass on her brain. We don't know what it is but whatever it is. There was no one in Haiti. Who can help Tell me about when I came to America. You Ask all right. Here's what I recall. You were the first child we ever brought to this country and the day of your departure the other kids at the mission lined up to hug you wave goodbye as the car left the gates and I imagine some of them thought they would never see you again again accompanied by Mr Allen. You flew to Miami and onto Detroit wearing a white sweater. Even though was June in your first American bathroom you turn the Foshan Jerk your hands back. 'cause she would never felt hot water from the sink before so before you even slept the night here here. This country was a wonder Mr Nina and I were waiting at the house. Mr Need had arranged. Some colorful blankets endows to make you feel welcome. At the time we hope the doctors will diagnose the problem and treat it quickly and you would. He'll under our watch. Then you could return into hate. We thought this would take a few months looking back now. We really knew so little. I should say that you did not seem scared when you got here Chica but you did not speak much either or show much emotion mostly so you looked around and who could blame you. Virtually everything you saw was new traffic lights highways houses with yards mailboxes televisions in different rooms. The input had to be overwhelming. I often wondered when you went to sleep that first night. How far you imagined yourself from the commission the day after your arrival we went for tests at Children's Hospital in Arbor? It was the tallest building you would never seen. And you gazed up was walked inside. We approached the front desk and a man said hello. He gave you a wristband which you admired fired like a bracelet. Then the man turned to me and asked. What is your relationship to the patient? For a moment I hesitated tainted all around where mothers and fathers many looking similar to their children. Same hair same skin color seemed facial features. IPHONE fall is if I've been caught trying to fool someone. I answered by saying Legal Guardian. Those are technically the correct words and the man wrote something down and asked me to stand before a camera. Mr Mitch. You suddenly yelled. Look you pointed to a large superman figure in the lobby. I released your hand and you ran to it just as the man had the me a sticker with a grainy photo my face above the photo old Stuck You are listening to story about and now I'm I bring Now we return from are bringing Janine I had been hopeful based on doctors earlier analysis. USCIS that the mass in Shaka's brain could be manageable so was fuzzy on the scans and during surgery the frozen samples that they removed. We're not overly alarming. The hope was for a great one tumor most easily dealt to but we were braced for a great to which they warn could involve some radiation in long term surveillance. Instead Dr Garten came into that consultation sat down and in a soft but direct voice said the news was it was not good worse than they thought that Chica had something called Diffuse Intrinsic Pantene Glioma or D. I p. g. one asked that was a great one or two. He said it was a four four. He began to lay out options which included radiation nation therapy and experimental medications. But all I heard was four four I felt like I was stumbling. Even as I was sitting down mm-hmm Four. I kept listening for the part where the surgeons go back and take the whole monster out but it never came. Apparently if they did that there we'd be nothing left of Chico's brain to function for. What if she were your child? I mumbled Falling back on that Shell game putting the onus on the doctor well Dr Gardens said exhaling I would probably you take her back to Haiti. Let her enjoy the summer. Be With her friends until it's in the until that everything awful full lives. The doctors told us that she would live for four. Maybe five four months possibly ably longer if we underwent treatment but that could affect the quality of her life. She's a fighter. I finally said looking over it to me who nodded and as she fights. We're GONNA fight Dr Garten. Lean back alright he said and then for a few moments we all just sat there staring at an invisible battle plan. And you. Are you a little scared about going. Back to Haiti I'm crying Meru Meru sad but I'm still happy to uh-huh Do you remember the first morning you woke up at our house Chica. I was is already down in my office because mornings when I write and suddenly my phone rang was Miss Janine. Calling from the bedroom in a rasping just woke up voice. She said Mr Mitch. Chico's hungry for breakfast. Can you help her. I came upstairs and lead you to the the kitchen and we found eggs and butter and some cheese and tomatoes. I show you the frying pan the burner and you stood on your tip toes and helped move the spatula around. I pour juice. We set our prayers and I watched you eat and I watched you eat some more to call it. Leisurely doesn't come close. You chewed you look out the window put down your four yawn gone and picked up your four again. You swayed back and forth. Some internal rhythm took nearly an hour. I would compare this to the pace that I eat breakfast except I don't eat breakfast but the next morning when I heard your feet thumping down the steps at seven am am. I rose from my desk. met You with the door. Lifted you as you said Mr Mitch. I am hungry and carried you up to the kitchen. A child is both an anchor and a set of wings. My old way of doing things. What's gone before you came to us Miss Janine and I would watch? TV in bed and often fall asleep with TB. Be still playing once you arrive. We shut the lights and tiptoed around you in the darkness. Often in the dead of night you would wake us up Mr Mitch I have to go potty. I would guide you to the bathroom. Then wait eight. Yawning outside the door frame. I'd hear you flush help you wash your hands and guide you to your bed which was nice and low so you could tumble into it. Uh She okay. Miss Janine would whisper as I crawled back in beside her. She's fine. I'd mobile closing my eyes. She's He's good the most precious thing you can give. Someone is your time to go because you can never get it back when you don't think about getting back back you've given it in love. I learned that from you as time passes Chico choirs clothes some that we buy her some. That are friends bring her. She likes to dress up the frilly or the better and she marches around in Janin's high heels. She drapes herself multiple necklaces. She wears two hats at the same in time. She likes to Gild the lily. Janine jokes one day chicken I are heading out hold on I. You say you have something on your face what she says. I grab Napkin. I pat the area around her lips. You're kind of wet here. How did you get all wet? Mr Mitch she throws up her hands. That's my lip gloss. After six months in America we take Chico home for Christmas. The holiday is a big deal at the mission laden with traditions additions and the tippety play. Stockings hung in the dormitory a once. A year meal of Goat Fried Plantains and pick lease a spicy pickled cabbage dish. Sheikh is Giddy with excitement the night before. She crawls on the bed tickles me until I begged her to stop then she asked what's going to happen. step-by-step by step as I go through it. Her eyes drift away. She doesn't look like she did when she first left Haiti she's lost hair. She's lost teeth and and the operations the steroids. I asked if she was scared to be going back a little scared. She says making a small space based between her two fingers. I'm crying happy tears. She's never used that phrase before happy tears. I wonder where she gets it inside the next morning for the big day she wears white tights and sneakers with a Lime Green Hoodie. Over a sleeveless top. We board the plane and she glues to the window many the passengers are Haitians and she occasionally spins and says hey hey they are talking like me. As soon as we land imported prints she runs up the jetway. All but leaving me behind the airport ban. Dan Starts Playing Banjo Accordion Guitar Bongo drums and she dances in the hallway shaking and twirling in a way that proves she is home because only the home could liberate such joy. Mr Allen meets us in baggage claim reloaded his vehicle and Chika hides behind his seat as we drive through the mission gates. The kids have been informed of her return and they're chanting CHICA. Chica as we pull in look look back in amazement and says do you hear this. Don't look at me Mr Allen. She squeals look at something else. When the car door opens there was a massive rush and the Nannies are shouting and the little kids are jumping and there are so many hands around her lifting her up as her faces smacked with kisses? This is when they finally put Chica down. She wiggled her little black shoes in the dirt then she pulls off the Hoodie and runs to the swing set jumps on on a swing and push yourself higher as the other kids gathering. Watch if I could freeze any moment and give it to her as a gift. It might might be this one flying over the happy expressions of her brothers and sisters as they marvel at the return. I rubbed my happy For A sleigh to fear Trou- God own known Onlinedanger Goofy Child. I want to speak about joy when I look back on our journey. There were times we didn't give enough weight to Chica in the later stages your daily needs were so great Dressing you took longer bathing. You was a meticulous process. Your pick line needed to be flushed kept sterile lifting carrying you inquire me for someone else always to be present because awesome this. We sometimes overlook the fact that despite the physical challenges your mind kept growing. Your thoughts deepened and we might have missed the joy of your blossoming into a fully formed. Young person had did you not made sure to reveal it in unique linguistic ways. One time I was reading long email and I sighed mumble. Oh boy why do you say oh boy there are no boys here. It's just an expression Chico. Why don't you say oh girl another time? You asked for a glass of water. I warned you was cold. Cold water warm heart. Who said where did that? Come from you once asked Miss. Janine can I have two husbands and when she asked how many children do you want you shouted one. Why just one CHICA? Because that's all I can carry and one morning down in my office. My phone rang and it was you calling on the other line Mr Mitch. Do you want to come play. Klay Fluffy Cozy bed camp. I entered the bedroom to find you and misdemeanor beneath the covers when I crawled under. You said these these are the rules of fluffy cozy bed Cam. I am the boss Miss Janina the second boss. You can be the third boss now. Let's play if I could change anything from those moments GCA. It would be to stay in them a little longer. Immerse ourselves so we never forget. Forget I rarely use the word. Rejoice in daily life. But it is the word I'm looking for you. Rejoice revel in the funny funny business this quite something when I look at photos of those days to see your tireless crooked smile miniature golf although you could barely swing the club or on trips to the supermarket although you had to sit in the basket or visit to the state fair although I had to carry you from ride I to ride no matter how gross we got in the medical struggle. You were indefatigable when it came to fun to paraphrase Emily Dickinson. Because we could not stop for Joy. You kindly stopped instead. You are with your spirit looney mm-hmm one afternoon when you could no longer walk on your own. We were coloring at the kitchen table. Able I glanced at my watch and realized I was late. I stood up sorry cheek I have to go. No no you protested did stay and color CHICA. I have to work Mr Mitch. I have to play but this is my job Chica. No it's not you cross your your job is carrying me and I've thought about that sentence more than you could imagine. She can at the time. I laughed it off as you being. You're lovable Bossie Self But the more you weakened the more you needed me to transport you even across the room. The more I realized the wisdom of your words. Your job up is carrying me. That line became maybe the biggest lesson. Utah what we carry defines. It's who we are and the effort we make is our legacy. What you carry is what defines you can be the burden of feeding your family? The responsibility of caring for patients. Since the good that you feel you must do for others for the sins that you will not release whatever it is. We all carry something every day and for all your time with us as you so defiantly stadium Chica. My job was carrying you. My job was and is carrying your brothers and sisters in the orphanage. My job at turns out after so many years without them carrying children and it is the most wonderful weight to bear. We're GONNA do sled done the hair who's GonNa be your first sled right by yourself. Are you scared. Yeah but you're GONNA do it aren't you. Because you're brave right okay. Did you like it. This story was an excerpt read by Mitch Albom from his New Book Finding Chica. The music in this episode was composed by Maya Win and Allie Font but the digital sound design from Heidi boat. You can hear more of my on Apple Music spotify or wherever you prefer to stream your music by searching for Maya Wind. We also wanted to the team at Harpercollins and the team of the David Black Agency Ray prosser from WJR engineering them. Recording with Mitch as well as Carry Alexander from Mitch's Office story bound is mixed produced and hosted by me chewed brewer are executive producers. Jeff Umbro of the pod glamorous and Justin Alvarez Alvarez of lit up this show's theme was developed with the help of James Cook you can find his music under the name Green Table. WanNa tell us what you think of a show find us on twitter. Twitter at story bound pod or you can tweet at me. Directly at Judah. Brewery new episodes are released every Tuesday next week. We'll hear a story from later. You've you've never with original composition provided by Wisden and warm back Sonic universe.