There was a baby crawling on my kitchen floor while I toasted cinnamon bread at six in the morning. Jordan was putting lunches into their sacks and Lucy was standing over her food bowl hoping it would be spontaneously filled by her mental will to have it so. I insisted to put fruit on the plate with the toast and I reminded Jordan to make his bed before climbing onto the school bus. I had an overwhelming urge to do a little celebration dance for returning to the routines of my life.
I feel like I went away and had another life. I found that one as satisfying as this one, only entirely set apart from what I know about life here. I wonder, are there two of me now? I’m here doing what I did before, but I’m not at all the same as I was when I left for the other life in Africa. The baby crawling around, banging pot lids against pots is my tangible assurance it wasn’t all a dream. The pool table loaded with souvenirs also helps me know I’ve not been sleeping all this time. My physical body is here but often I find my heart and mind, there in the house on the hill with friends slipping in the open back door at any time. I can feel the warm breeze blowing the sheer curtains, billowing like foam into the dining room where everyone takes breakfast before venturing out into the bustling activity of life on the street in Kampala.
I asked Kevin if he feels the same way and he said, “yes, I am surprised how much I miss it there. I thought I’d be so relieved to be home that I’d forget much about living in Uganda. But I really loved the way of life there, like the people always stopping by, the warm weather, the uno games, homeschool sprawled across the bed, and the pineapple. Mostly dinner was fun when people dropped by every night. I miss that the most.” Me too.
I am certainly not going to be here and wish I was there. That’s not my style. I’ve got to get this house in order, put the kids back into their school, tennis, music and Spanish routines, and help Kira settle into her own new American life. I marvel when I can turn the knob on my stove without lighting a match, I love twisting the dial in the shower and having clean hot water pour out without fear that Kira will drink it and get typhoid. It’s nice to jump into my car and run a couple errands without hiring the car, fighting traffic in town, enduring potholes the size of my kitchen table and deep as my bathtub. It is really amazing to be able to do as much laundry in one day that I can pile it so high on the kitchen table that I can’t see the gardens beyond the window. It is wonderful to have Lucy curled around my legs at the moment while I write, softly snoring and waiting until the drizzle outside clears so Kira and I can take her for a walk. Coming home is like landing in the favorite chair with a familiar book.
I refused to say good-bye to Emily yesterday when Craig left to take her to the airport. I would only say, I’ll see you soon. She was excited to embrace her family and work with the animals on her farm again. She couldn’t wait to be able to drink her raw milk from her very own cows. Letting her go wasn’t hard for me. But believing it was the end of our adventure was intolerable. She and I just got started. We are a special pair. Who would ever believe after living minute by minute with a twenty-year old that I wouldn’t be ready for her to go her way? That would make more sense than what I am feeling with our separation. She is my partner now in my life’s work. We are going to turn around an orphanage. We are going to labor to improve the lives of orphans in a village in Uganda called Kyengera. She might be living in North Carolina working her family’s farm, and I might be in Texas taking care of my growing family, but in our hearts we are together. I haven’t let her go in any real way and that’s the only way I can accept her absence in my daily life. I had the impulse to ask her this morning what we should make for dinner and then I got sad when I remembered she had gone home. Our partnership was organized by God, and what God puts together no man shall separate. That’s how it’s going to be.
I re-enrolled Jack into his school this morning. Kira sat brightly on my lap making eye contact with every person who knew her
story. There have never been deeper smiles for a child than those I have seen in the eyes of people who know how far she has come. Jack was so excited to go back to his classroom he forgot to say good-bye to me. I know his mates were happy to receive him. Kevin came down with traveller’s revenge in the upper and lower stomach so he’s remaining home with me for one more day. He couldn’t keep anything in for the last two days, but if he can tolerate a little food today he’ll go back to school tomorrow. Somehow I don’t think he’s as eager as Jack. He preferred homeschool because he’s a natural learner and the social problems in middle school annoy him. We called him a grumpy old man when he was three, and now that he’s thirteen, we continue to see this same personality trait shine, but now we are sure there’s a professor’s brain in that cute head.
Kira is already climbing onto Lucy and offering her kisses that I’d give away my hair to receive. (she refuses to kiss me and pushes away my kisses!) It didn’t take long for her to realize Lucy is a big playmate. Lucy is wonderful with Kira and sharing the floor hasn’t become a problem. Kira loves the cat the most, but she’ll be as tall as me before she will ever catch Coco. The car seat was a big problem at first. To say she hated it is an understatement. But she seems to tolerate it a little better with every ride. As I see it, there’s no choice for her but to give into the thing as too much of our life here is on the run. It helps when Lucy rides in the front seat with us so Kira has her dog to watch. Yes, I have my big manly dog next to me and my little chocolate baby behind me when I drive myself around town.That’s me. My friends in Kampala will have a belly laugh over that. Kira slept last night straight through for twelve hours for the first time since arriving here. I am hoping she’ll settle back into her late morning sleepping routine so I can write before she wakes up. I think if I keep her naps short during the day she’ll adjust. I wonder if she misses all the dark faces. I know she understands everything has changed. She’s shy, and she presses into me deeply when we go somewhere new. That finger is in her mouth a little more than usual. She really likes crawling all over my rugs, rolling around and kicking her legs down hard for them to bounce a few times. It never occurred to her to reject her new bed, and I’m thankful for that. We think we’ll keep her around.
For me, I’ve already had my hair fixed, and my nails are next. I made my hair appointment while I was driving home from the airport. They can take me out of Texas, but it’s impossible to take the Texas out of me. When my hair and nails look good, I feel good. My body feels a little weak. Coming back full force into my life here is going to take some time. I’m going to slowly get myself back into my cardio routine. I continued to stretch while I travelled, but my lifestyle in Uganda was the only exercise I took. Who would believe if I stopped exercising I’d lose ten pounds? I am happy to organize a mission group to come work at our orphanage with the fringe benefit of returning ten pounds lighter, if anyone is interested. Its guaranteed. And I’ll also promise you those children will keep a chunk of your heart there with them.