Lancheru Man, Manlancheru Ham

by Valerie on Wednesday, September 2, 2020

One of my fondest memories of Grandpa goes as far back as påtgon mayute’ days. This is around the same time my cousins and I always smelled like sun and sweat from full days of boonie excursions. Weekends meant visiting Grandpa in Yigo. It meant waking up so early you could hear the roosters’ first crows and feel the dew from grass in between your toes. Time stood still at the ranch. Mom and I walked up to the screen door of a dirty kitchen he built from the ground up. She raised her voice just loud enough so they could hear from the back room, “oooi!” The door was always unlocked–even before Auntie Annie could reply, “maila hålom, Bop.”

Breakfast was usually steamed dågu or nika, mendioka or some root vegetable variation grandpa had harvested earlier that week. I drenched those suckers in maple syrup and stuffed my face silly, turning the lazy Susan around for seconds, often thirds. Pancakes couldn’t compare. Sometimes we had fresh eggs and I thought, eee, these still have dirt on the shell. But sunny side up, the yolks were more vivid than school bus yellow and they tasted richer than the top one percent. A spotted, stained shell exterior lodging something nourishing and wholesome on the inside. I remember Auntie Annie sending me to the backyard to pick green onions and helping her slice them in the kitchen when she made her Spam fried rice. How she taught me the secret is that you gotta fry your rice down long enough. “I like my fried rice crispy, Nen,” she said. We ate until we were full.

Afterwards, we dumped all our leftovers in a red Ace Hardware bucket with a homemade wooden cover, you know the one… or you might be more familiar with its second cousins, old ice cream container and empty Country Crock container. I helped Mom and Auntie Annie wash dishes while Grandpa put on his long sleeves and rain boots. Then I would trail behind him hauling the bucket of pig slop in both hands. We walked across a pebbled and potholed street, just narrow enough to fit one car so that when a neighbor was passing from the opposite direction, one person would have to pull to the side and give way. Why did the farmer cross the road? To feed the chickens and pigs, nai!

He did this every day for his entire walking life. Inviting three generations to tag along with him: his children, grandchildren, great grands. Never shy about calling us out when we didn’t visit him frequently enough. Insisting that much like his plants, we needed watering too. And because we had our fill, the animals needed theirs as well. All thirty idk, forty some manok were free range at the time so stepping on their tåki was unavoidable, but Grandpa assured me that it’s okay to get my feet dirty. When we gathered eggs, he said don’t take too many because the mama hens would become sad. And the smell of six babui when he let me dump their slop into the pen made my stomach a little stronger.

In hindsight, I realize that it might’ve been easier for Grandpa to do his daily lancheru duties without us there to slow him down, but I think this was his way of creating experiences that would teach us kustombren CHamoru. And it’s afforded me valuable life lessons about what it is to be interdependent. About how, with just a little daily upkeep, we can cultivate our gardens (literally, and the way Voltaire meant it too). And about the responsibilities we have towards that which we tame—even on the mornings when we can’t bring ourselves to get out of bed. These are lessons which I still carry with me until today, on his 90th birthday. Minagof ha’ånen mafañågu-mu, Grandpa.



That was really beautiful

Thanks so much, Miles. It’s been so long. I hope you’ve been well.

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