3'x3' Acrylic Painting on Birch Veneer
By Carrie E. Wolfe
The intermingling of stories has a way of intermingling souls.
Leaving two strangers; friends.
Forever changed by a deeply simple exchange.
“We keep them close, so they feel loved, connected, healthier and happier.”
-My friend Hawa
Colors and Patterns danced before my eyes as I walked through one of my favorite places in New York City--the Harlem Market. This market has now become a tourist hotspot; but during this period of my life, it is where I felt at home. I now had a few friends who worked within the stalls that surrounded me.
Harlem is a place of wonder, but then you add the layer of the West African culture and it becomes a place of mystery as well. A beautiful mystery, full of culture, life and a different way of living and viewing the world. This place is not the land of their roots and yet they have over many years been able to make it a home. Not a place where they always feel at home, but that is true for most individuals who have roots flowing from another land and yet now live in New York City.
Today was my first day walking through the stalls with my sweet baby girl strapped to my chest in my Ergo Carrier. My heart was eager to find Hawa, who ran a stall full of African Fabric. The colors and patterns made my heart skip a beat. I loved each piece I saw and always ended up buying yards of the rainbow from her. But today was different, I wanted Hawa to teach me how to carry my daughter on my back in the traditional way she and many before her carry their children.
Passing by a young man sewing on a treadle machine making a pair of pants for a customer, I caught Hawa’s smile in the adjacent stall. Upon greeting each other, “As-salām 'alaykum,” (Peace be upon you) I said to her in Arabic and she responded back “Alaykum as-salām” (Upon you be peace.) She smiled and couldn’t wait to snuggle my sweet baby girl.
Many journeyed with us and awaited the growth of our family. That same community watched as we received the greatest privilege of adopting our first child. My daughter's birth was one of hardship and miracles, carried in her “Tummy Mammas” womb, My husband and I were given the generous gift of carrying her outside the womb and being her Mommy and Daddy. The moment Hawa reached out to touch this sweet life, you could tell the privilege and connection she felt to then carry our precious daughter. As she snuggled her, she began sweetly talking to her and wrapping her in a beautiful piece of African Fabric. Our daughter felt at home as Hawa shifted her on her back and continued to talk to her. I watched and tried to learn, but the beauty of the whole moment left a more indelible image.
‘To Be Carried’ according to Webster, is to be supported by another. In this beautiful moment, I was struck as I witnessed my daughter being ‘Carried.” It was metaphor and picture to me of her adoption story.
“Carried,” is a painting made in honor of Hawa and this moment of realization that was so generously gifted to me.