Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Eva!

I'm a mess. Sitting in a soggy sweater with snot on my sleeve. Gross. Read on though.  Seriously, you need to know this stuff.

I'm sitting in a sunbeam on the landing of our stairs, with a dusty dog and just enjoying a book on my day off when my phone rings. I don't recognize the number though it's long distance and I risk my solitude on the chance that it's not a telemarketer...and the familiar crackle and pause before I hear my friend, Dorothea, in Mulenga, saying hello!  Suddenly, I'm back in the heart of it...my day pulled rapidly into focus by the voice of my friend, her accent, her news. She tells me that tomorrow is her daughter Eva's birthday. She will be 9 and she wanted me to know. And then, she's there, on the phone, the voice I'd know anywhere...saying hello and how are you and I am fine, as she does when we're face to face. I wish her a happy birthday and tell her how much I love her and she says "I know!" and I love it. I love the precious 1:48 seconds of connection between her little house in the corner of Mulenga, on the edge of the river. I love that I know that in the darkness, she has light and food and a door that locks and a family who loves her. I love that when her little brother, Joshua, starts to chatter into the phone, that I can picture him on the couch or standing just behind, crowding in on her phone call and shouting greetings into the phone to hear me say, "Hi Joshua!" and "How are you buddy?" and then laugh. I can hear Eva's parents...a mom and a dad prompting them when their English fails or perhaps they can't hear well...and I love that they are together. That for 1:48 seconds, we are together.

This family has been in my life for nearly 6 years now and I'm so thankful that I have been in theirs. Despite the distance and the incredibly long months between our visits, I know that there is a home in the bottom corner of Mulenga, that there are photos of my boys and their kids, photos of Eva and I, photos of our dog and their relatives, all in a book that sits on their shelf, next to their dishes and their pots. And I know that at any time, I can go to that home and be part of that family in person. Or that they can call into my home and be part of mine.

So, soggy sweaters and snotty sleeves, those are just symbols of what happens when you love someone in a space far from your own. The cost of risking a financial investment and long flights to see how other people is high. And six years later, I'm reaping the rewards of letting myself love a little girl who peeked wordlessly around the corner of a school house and walked right into my heart.

Happy 9th Birthday Eva. I hope we share many, many more.
Eva holding her littlest brother, Jesse. 

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