When Jack arrived home he was bursting to go see his friends. He schemed with Emily to surprise them. Emily zipped him into a large duffle bag on their front porch, she rang the door bell and then stepped out of view. Jack was ecstatic to jump out of the bag and greet his friends. He had brought home weapons from Uganda for them, what else would boys want, and he also brought home a Jackson hartebeest carving for their mom. When we were on safari he slipped into the hotel shop alone and shopped for this gift. Later the shop keeper couldn’t restrain herself from expressing how much fun she had serving Jack’s adorable shopping confidence. He chose this animal because when we were on safari we said it was his “me-beast”. Later we shortened it to call him “beast”. He also said he felt bad because once he broke her lamp when they were playing and he hoped this gift would make her feel better about that.
Returning to school for Jack was an easy glide. His school kept all of his information set aside in anticipation of his return so when we spoke with the registrar she welcomed him with a big smile and sent him on his way to his classroom. The kid walks so tall in his school, always looking around to see who he knows and greets them with a happy wave or quick chat. He reported that all of his friends were so happy to see him. “Mom I was really popular today.” When they asked “what did you do in Africa”, the first thing he told his friends was, “I slaughtered a chicken, plucked it and carved it up in the backyard and we ate it for dinner!” Boys- and the things they consider worthy of boasting- will never translate for me, but they are always excellent for my entertainment even so. He told them about going on safari twice, and his new sister and all of his new friends who are African. He told them we are going back in June because there is an orphanage we are taking care of now. This all rolls off the tongue of a nine year old boy with nonchalance, can you imagine?
I was thirty years old before I ever left America and that was to go live in Wales with our family for a year. I had never imagined I’d travel outside of our country because that was what people who had money did, and we didn’t have any of that. When I was in Wales, I discovered an entire facet of who I am that I had no idea existed. I love to study cultures and know people and understand foreign ways of life. My fascination for understanding cultures is probably as natural as my sense for creativity or love for learning, but I wouldn’t have ever known this if I hadn’t first left American soil. So for me to hear my nine year old on the plane home tell me, “Mom I’ve been to south America and Africa now, when can I see Europe and Australia?” I just have to wonder what happened to this boy of mine. Does he have the sense for other cultures that I have? I know he has insatiable learning capacity but he also has a confidence among foreign people that is mature for one so young. I told him he’ll have to get behind me for Australia, because I haven’t been there yet and I’m eager to have a good walk about with his dad on that continent.
The other night Jack had his open house at school in the evening. He was clear to be sure his father was there and that I was bringing Kira. He even picked out her outfit so she looked dressed up and pretty. When we arrived, he insisted on carrying his sister into the gym himself. He looked around for people he knew, and then his friends began to rush over to him to marvel over the cuteness of his new sister. He smiled wide and had no qualms about showing her off while enjoying his popularity. He made a list of all the teachers she had to meet and we never grew tired of seeing how happy it made him to introduce his new sister. I pulled aside his math teacher and asked if he was up to date with his work when we returned home, and she said it was as if he never left. What a relief. We ran our home school with math up front. Kevin got the same report. Well done Emily!
While Jack is happy to be home in his own bed, reunited with his friends, and playing with his pile of legos, there’s something pulling his heart to lean back towards Uganda. We all feel it. Jack says he misses the Uno games with David and George, and opening the gate for Julie, and visiting the orphanage to play with the kids. He doesn’t miss the mosquitoes though! He’s talking about baking more goodies so we can buy shoes for the orphans. I think flour will be billowing in our kitchen very soon.