I called it Macumba because that was what my parents called it.
“It’s an offering to evil spirits,” my mom explained after she warned me not to go near the three-tiered cake with fifty-cent coins nestled in the pearly, whipped-cream peaks that glistened temptingly under the old park bench. She stayed away from it too, sitting on a rock near the swing set instead.
My dad prayed over me after I reported excitedly that we’d found a dead chicken surrounded by flaming candles behind the wide-trunked, glossy-leafed tree that was my favorite play spot, “You stay away from there now!” he said after he was done, “No more climbing that tree today!”
On New Year’s Eve, my parents pulled us away from the regal women in brown beads and white dresses who walked barefoot across the sand and tossed flower petals into the waves. Never mind that the entire multitude on the beach, waiting for the midnight fireworks, dressed in the pure, bright white that was their color. My parents were afraid, so I was afraid. I threw away my favorite pink and purple shells after my dad told me macumba worshippers use them in sacrifices and woke in terror from dreams of candle-lit chickens.
My mom’s eyes snapped open at my clammy grasp, her body started when she saw me beside her bed, moist with sweat and trembling with fear. “God is more powerful than any witchcraft,” she sighed, after I reported I’d been dreaming of macumba.
Still, they crossed the street when they saw the rose-laden feasts on corners and shook their heads in dismay when they saw that street children had dug through the evil-spirited offerings to gather up the coins. It’s no wonder the prayers of my childhood faded like so many jumbled words from my day-to-day life or that when I miss home, I greet the new year in white.
K Ferguson grew up as a third-culture kid in Brazil. An early love of reading left her dreaming of writing stories and ultimately transformed her life. Today she works as a research scientist in Northern Virginia and enjoys reading and writing fiction when not working her day job.