It still fit. Well, kind of fit. The fit was like an old sock, that was familiar and worn, but stretched out and frayed thin in weird places. Or maybe like an old pair of jeans that did not quite slide up over the hips and button at the waist the easy way that they used to. That is a little how America felt on our latest trip. It was our first time back as a family since moving overseas to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. And it was all so familiar, but the fit, while still workable, was not quite the same. For months we had dreamed together of what it would be like to re-enter our passport country, so much nostalgia and memories – what we would do, who we would see, what we would eat, how much easier things would be. And it was what we had imagined. And it wasn’t. Something was missing. It didn’t quite feel like home, and I didn’t quite belong. I was out-of-step, and couldn’t quite figure out how to get the steps right again.
It’s a strange feeling to no longer belong to a place you have belonged to for the majority of your memories. I think it took this trip to realize that we really do have a new home. I think for a very long time we have been wandering and searching and waiting to find this very place. I enjoyed our time in the states and seeing loved ones was exactly what our souls needed, and I am thankful for the break from daily life in Ethiopia, but the truth is that my heart wasn’t at peace until we walked back into our house, and I knew that I had finally come HOME. Jim and I both remarked at how much this place felt just like that – home, and I think we breathed a collective sigh of peace and relief to be back in a place that fits us and this moment in our lives. Driving from the airport we were bombarded with the typical erratic vehicles mingled with cattle, colliding with people, and chaos – a chaos that somehow oddly made sense and overwhelmed me with a sense of belonging. This is home I realized, as our van was jostled over the pot-hole ridden roads and my eyes were heavy with sleepless travel.
When our van parked in front of our gate we were greeted with squeals of excitement and hugs and kisses. Walking through our iron gate, into our little compound, up our marble stairs and over the threshold of our home made me realize how right it is that I am exactly where I am right now. It fit. I belonged. It is where we are supposed to be. I walked from room to room, touching our beds, looking out our windows at the breathtaking view of the mountains, breathing in the scent of home, and thankful to be back.
Home, where the sun sets and rises at the exact same time everyday, Home, where going to the grocery store is a wild adventure. Where water is never guaranteed, and power is out as much as it is on. Home, where the language dances over me in that familiar unfamiliar way. Where the aroma of roasting coffee beans mingles with frankincense and spicy berbere. Where the music is loud and beaty, and the laughter is louder. Where we cannot brush our teeth with tap water. Where my cheeks are kissed, and touch is a language all its own. Where my house is wild and loud and filled with life – it is perfectly us. Home, where a soccer ball is dribbled inside on rainy days, and a bicycle speeds in and out of rooms, and both are so okay. Home is where memories and people matter more than the things I have accumulated. Where people are free to be who they are and to disagree and to argue and cry, and to forgive and wrap arms around each other. Home is where bread bakes, and coffee brews, and the fridge is small, and laundry takes an entire day to finish. Home, where intentionality is found in every little thing, because without it, one cannot carve out a life here. Where relationships matter more than any other place I have ever visited, and where there is always, always time for them to blossom. Where produce is soaked in bleach. Where every meal is made from scratch and takes effort and creativity. Where clothes hang all around our house to dry. Where afternoon rest and tea and conversation is expected, and meals are a real thing at the table three times every single day. Home is where family time is enormous, and we have truly learned to know each other. Home is where there are no short-cuts or easy way outs. Where life is slower and more basic and where life is also chaotic and always an adventure. Where no two days are exactly the same. Home is where I fall into bed every night knowing that this life I was given matters, and I have so much purpose here.
If home is where the heart is, than my heart is completely present right here. Maybe this is true for the first time ever. I have always wrestled with ‘living in the moment’, and not being present in the here and now. Or maybe this is what I have been waiting for for my whole life, and I am just finding home, in the most unexpected place, for the first time. Some say Africa is the cradle of humanity – where we all belong. Maybe that is it. Maybe not. But this continent, this country in this continent has given me a haven – a place where I really belong. This fits. This is home. And there’s really, truly, no place like home.