June 12, 2012 – Johannesburg, South Africa – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

I spy them from the top of the tall escalator. I am on the third floor and they are in a terminal on the ground floor. I see her first, tall and elegant, fifteen years old, my niece Morgan. She is laughing at something one of the small ones said or did. I scan a bit and see Juju and Aiden playing in front of her, acting funny to see her laugh again. Eric is on the right of them, Jodi on the left of her. My heart beat picks up and I feel it change pace. I start walking down the escalator to get there faster and the youngest, A, looks up and stares for the span of one second or less. I see him trying to figure it out…is this who he feels it is, in this strange airport far from home. Suddenly, whether it is his eyes or his heart that make the decision, he leaves what he is doing and screams “mommy” over and over again as he runs towards me. J joins in and passengers in ten terminals turn to look. It is sweet – we are together again. My small family that has grown to six with M and Jodi joining the group.

We fly away to our summer place in Bulawayo.

The visa process takes a long time so I take care of customs while M plays with the kids and E and Jodi take care of visas. I chat with customs officials I’ve known in the past, those who’ve seen me through the process before and who’ve harassed me years ago, but who defended me from then on. Not a single bag is looked at and we get through easily, with water filters and powdered milk intact.

Ncube (pronounced “click” +beh”) picks us up and brings us to our home, a cottage that the three little bears would be proud of. One bedroom (E&T), living room/kitchen (Jodi in LR), bathroom (with flushing toilet and bathtub when water is available), and a loft (three kids) is the sum of it. This cottage belongs to Helene and John Stambolie, our gracious hosts, and their four children.

There is no electricity on Tuesdays and therefore, no water, as the water is pumped from a borehole. AJ, the eldest and only son of the big house, takes E to the grocery store from where we receive a bag of rice, a bag of beans, milk, eggs, bread and butter. I start soaking the beans for tomorrow and we set about the business of settling in before it gets too dark. M makes chocolate milk with some Milo I brought from Kenya and the kids drink that while I make some grilled cheese sandwiches with cheese given to us by the Stambolies. With full bellies, J arranges games we brought, M unpacks loads of crafts for the summer, Jodi arranges her corner, and I organize the kitchen and our things. A is busy checking out the yard and asks anyone who will listen if we’ll hop with him. E is back at the market, scoping out lanterns, a fridge the Stambolies ordered (just don’t open it much on days with no electricity), and anything else we might need.

We are invited to go to the big house for a proper dinner, but A refuses to go. He says he is too tired and just wants sleep. This from the child that didn’t stop hopping around outside while we set things up and who has already fallen in love with the large yard in which he is free to play as long as he pleases. I bathe him out of a bucket of water we pilfer. The second half of the bucket is enough to bathe J. Snuggled in clean, warm pajamas, A is asleep in thirty seconds, not caring that the bed, pillow, house, surroundings are new. The rest of us take five steps and find ourselves in the big house where a dinner of spaghetti and salad await us. With easy conversation and a dinner followed by tea, I know, I just know, that this is going to be a good summer. M feels it too, my beautiful niece.