I write, with 4-month-old Evelina sleeping in my lap, sitting on a couch we bought from a stranger 2 months ago, and feet on the rug we brought back with us from Kigali 5 months ago. I’m in the place we call “home”.
The tag line of a blog post I read this afternoon said, “Repatriation: The hardest part of moving overseas”. That doesn’t resonate with my experience, repatriation for us has been pretty smooth, but it does put into perspective how intense this time feels.
“Home” doesn’t feel like anywhere but where Renjie, Francisco and Evelina are. That’s been true for a long time–I think it was true even before Renjie and I were married, and I think that’s why we chose to do life together.
Sitting in this building, this house, on this couch that probably won’t still be ours once we leave this place, with my feet on a rug that we’ll likely cling to wherever we move as a fond reminder of the time we called Rwanda “home”, I recognize that our living room furnishings kinda represent well how I’m viewing the world these days.
This couch is a take-it-or-leave-it item in our house. We like it, its serviceable, and right now it belongs with us. That’s what living in the United States feels like at the moment. It’s a place we’re glad to be, we’re doing what we feel like we should be doing, but I don’t feel much attachment to it–probably because in many important ways life here is essentially new to us.
The rug on the other hand, that rug was underneath some fancy midwife drop cloth that I gave birth to our son on in our bedroom in Kigali. There’s all this sentimental value attached to it, and I schemed hard to find a way to get it back to the States. Rwanda is like that–it came with us, you sort of wouldn’t believe the stories behind it, and is still very much part of our day-to-day.
We have 3 kinds of people in our family. One, Francisco, was literally born and raised in Rwanda, and for him, that’s home. Two of us, Renjie and I knew the US as home before we called Rwanda home, and calling either place home has felt right. For Evelina, Rwanda will be part of her story, but not a part she will know from memory. It’s kind of odd that in this move to Chicago we set ourselves off on different kinds of journeys–one to a new home, 2 to a place called home-but-not, and 1 to come into a world the rest of us are getting acquainted with but for her will be the [first?!] place she calls home.
The rug in our living room reminds us that we aren’t home because Rwanda is tied to our sense of life as a family, but we are home because this is where we and our things dwell, and reminds us that we are so very fortunate to be in this place, to have been in the places we’ve been, and to be sorting through life together. Repatriation is definitely [a sometimes exhausting] part of the adventure. Thankful for a couch to sit and contemplate on. 🙂 (Agh! I know! Kind of a lame analogy to begin with. I’m done.)
Post script: “inzu” means “house” in Kinyarwanda. 🙂 And, as we’d say in Kigali to friends near and far, you’re always welcome to visit. (Seriously, I’m done! But, do come visit.)