Jordan’s mother came to Liberia to visit us three times; first, with Gran-Gran, his dad, at Christmas of 1959. She was called by the children “Greene- mama”; Greene was her maiden name. Next, she came soon after Raleigh was born in January of 1962, when the family had moved into the house next door to the Cuttington Chapel. And finally, she made a visit to Bolahun!
Jordan had decided to charter a small plane at Spriggs Payne, the small airport, to bring her to the airstrip at Pujahun near Bolahun; when the plane circled for landing, nearly every resident of Bolahun turned out to walk or run to meet Jordan and his mom on this joyous occasion. Merrill ran, but Elizabeth recalls being picked up by a big guy who ran with her on his shoulders. When we got to the house for cool drinks, Raleigh, who was about two years old, sidled up to his grandmother and lovingly put his hand on her, saying softly: Green Mamba. Maybe he’d heard more stories about green mambas- the dangerous snakes– than about his Greene-mama!
What a visit we had! We of course went to services at St. Mary’s Church, for which there were always two translators: one speaking Bandi, one Kisi, translating whatever the priest was preaching. Greene-mama was high spirited and had brought Jordan a Christmas gift of a Polaroid camera. She was quick to laugh, and she had to control her giggles when the translators would rattle on for several minutes over a simple statement, such as “Jesus wept”, and then explain a complicated concept like The Trinity in a couple of short sounds. It was the cold season (down to mid-40’s at times) so, at the Midnight Mass, the women in the congregation would hover over their kerosene lanterns holding an extra lappa to help keep them warm.
On Christmas Day the Fathers and the Sisters traditionally provided a feast for the village, and usually invited the resident Devil in full costume, plus his Interpreter, to entertain the crowd that had gathered into a huge circle in town. Jordan knew the Interpreter and planned with him a bit of extra amusement for the occasion.
Well, in front of the crowd, Jordan introduced his “magic box” to the Interpreter, and the two of them pantomimed and gesticulated over the “secrets” of the brown box, and what it could do. Little did the crowd realize that there really was something special inside it!
Jordan made a big show of taking a photograph of the Devil at a time when most village people feared having their pictures made. Using the box directly in front of the Devil, Jordan took a photograph. Then he opened the camera, spread the fixative on the photo with a little wooden spoon, so that all could see what he was doing, and behold! There was the Devil in the photograph! The Interpreter caught the mood, and led the crowd with oohs and aahs, and “anh-hanhs”, congratulating Jordan on the show.
Elizabeth was in the crowd, watching her daddy hovering over that box so close to the big Devil who was masked, and dressed in layers of raffia, and seemed to float around from place to place. She was holding onto her friend Kenye’s hand, and asked her if the Devil might be displeased by her daddy’s game? Kenye laughed at her question. She didn’t mean to hurt Elizabeth’s feelings, but she couldn’t answer her question, so her typical reaction was to laugh at it. Soon it was obvious that Jordan’s performance had not offended anyone, and nearly everyone there ended up asking for a Polaroid Camera photo, taken with Jordan’s magic box.