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  • Brooke Miller

The White Mountain Goat



The humid Maui air wrapped around my ringlets and soaked my skin. It was 2016 and the middle of June when my family and I went to the hometown of Grandma Tutu’s mother in Wailuku, Hawaii to celebrate her 80th birthday. We were hidden between mountains, with lush palm trees shading my family and me from the harsh sun. I could hear rushing water to my right, behind tall trees that outlined a river. 


“She used to play in this river when she was a young girl,” my Tutu told my circle of cousins, uncles, aunts, and me as she sat on a rock near the rushing water, an ‘okika, or the Hawaiian orchid, held in her tan hands. “Dancing between the river stones.” 


I heard Tutu's voice crack as she reminisced about her mother, my great-grandmother, whom I never got the chance to meet. I looked around at our surroundings of tropical paradise. The mountains were tall, stacked against one another in the distance. They looked over the land, watching us and all those who stepped foot on their soil. 


What is that? My eyes squinted as I saw a white speck standing on the side of the mountain. An animal resembling a goat. 


I felt the presence of my Aunt Sallie on my left. In my eight-year-old voice, I asked her, “Auntie Sallie, do you see that?”


She looked up to where my finger pointed on the mountain and smiled, the creases near her eyes deepening as she saw the white goat. Her hands came around my shoulders, pulling me closer to her in an embrace. 


“You know what a white mountain goat usually means?” she asked in a hushed whisper. I shook my head no. 


“Some say a white goat on a mountaintop symbolizes that a spirit is nearby,” she said brightly, squeezing me closer in her hands. “Y’know,” she paused, pushing her cheek against my own. “Maybe great-grandma Mary is near. What do you think?” 


Yeah, I thought, maybe she is. 


She laughed silently under her breath, “She used to wear red lipstick to bed every night, just in case any firemen would come.”


I saw in the distance that our family began to pack up the picnic lunch back into our two small rental cars. Sallie gave me one last smile before heading for the car, and I followed suit. 


Looking over my shoulder, I realized the white speck on the mountainside I had seen seconds ago was now gone. Instead, I saw her: 


A black kimono hung right above her ankles. A white hibiscus design danced along her shoulder, where white hair was neatly brought in a bun with a stick. She had her hands interlocked, hanging in front of her, yet she looked so soft when we met each other’s blue eyes. White teeth shone as she smiled at me, beginning to turn away. 


It seemed that my great-grandmother Mary still wore lipstick in the afterlife. 

 

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Art by Dizzy Starfie






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