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Home For Christmas

December 17, 2015

It seems to come to this, again and again. Always circling back around to these same things. Home, what it is. Memory. The things we lose, and how we find them again. How we remember. And faith, in the light, always dancing with the shadow of doubt, impossible to shake loose from under your feet. For me, it’s always about this.

We arrive in the full light of midday, pull up to the back gate, after traveling a road we’ve never traveled before. Four days from northern Tanzania, first a stop in Nairobi, celebrating a fleeting early Christmas with my mom and dad, a choked quick good-bye before the last goodbye looming in January. And then on to Kitale, six of us in two beds in a room painted bright pink. Waking the third morning to wind down through the mountains, following the Turkwell rushing through rocky riverbed. Finding the last of the tarmac, potholes larger than trucks swallowing our car and spitting us out the other side. Reaching Lodwar seeming an illusion on the worst stretch of road in Eastern Africa, but finally the mountains surrounding Lodwar emerging from the haze, and Jesus, stone arms outstretched, keeping watch over the dusty town from his mountain perch. The fourth morning finding us eaten alive from a mosquito-filled night, with legs and backs marked with hundreds of tiny red welts, a hope and a prayer and a dose of malarone to keep malaria away, nonetheless–content to drive on in the early morning light: on the road home.

It’s been raining for two months, an El Niño year so we all say, and the whole compound is carpeted in grass. The trees are fuller, taller, the neem branches dragging the ground, the flame tree scraping the house. I’m bringing, too, the babies taller, fuller, with shaggier heads of hair, limbs grown and stretched and brimming with another year of life. It makes me infinitely happy, and wondrously sad, to understand the unrelenting truth yet again: time never stops.

There are long hugs and tears that won’t be held back, four sets of feet thundering up the gray stairs and shouts and smiles and joy, joy, joy. It’s like moving through a cloud, feeling my way home, all familiar, all strange in its sameness, as if a year never passed, as if the cool cement was under my feet just last week. I kick off my shoes in the same corner, slip on house flip-flops, hang the stained green hat on the neem branch by the door where it has always hung before. My hands and my feet know by touch what my mind takes time to recall–step here, place that there, walk this path. Coming home is the unassailable sense of knowing and being known: hanging on the worn hook of shifting-sand memory.

Their faces and their smiles are the same, our greetings long and our faces split open with smiles wide. I catch the words they use, the rise and fall of words I once knew rolling over me in a wave. I can only manage the most basic greeting, my fragile Daasanech buried under a new sea of Kiswahili words. But the words stay with me like a song, memory of the sounds slowly tugs back the layers and there it is: I can hear what they’re saying.

The night is black, the moon new on our first night back. But my feet remember the way in the dark, sliding over the smooth floor, when Dexter calls for me through the night. The village is quiet as I stretch out on the window-high bed, but the mornings are not, light beckons the morning and the birds announce the day. I make my way down to the river’s edge, a wide brown expanse, ripples on the surface shining in the morning. I’ll come every morning, to remember, to be home, to have faith in the light of the new day: every morning, I’ll come, until we leave again.

Home, and what it is. Where it is. The things we lose. How we find them again. Memory, and faith, trailing a shadow of doubt. For me, it will always be about this.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. sandy permalink
    December 17, 2015 7:20 pm

    You paint such beautiful pictures! Never stop.

  2. Crystal Dickerson permalink
    December 17, 2015 8:12 pm

    I really enjoy reading your blog Joanna, such beautiful words. This life you have created is truly remarkable to read about.

  3. Liisa permalink
    December 17, 2015 10:23 pm

    Love reading your words everything comes so alive with them just like I am there with you following feeling every step with you you are amazing🙏🏻🙏🏻

  4. Kelly Holderman permalink
    December 18, 2015 1:35 am

    As usual, you brought tears to my eyes. Also, a smile. Enjoy your Christmas and your family and Omo.

  5. Jane Tight permalink
    December 18, 2015 8:37 am

    Enjoy ‘Home for the Holidays’ dear one…

  6. Lindsey permalink
    December 19, 2015 7:38 am

    Dear Joanna, your musings are creating a quilt, patch by patch. One day, you’ll have stitched together the story of your life in its fullness.

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