Violet and I had the most lovely evening together last night.
She sat beside me with her head on my shoulder, sucking on a grape Tootsie Pop and watching me edit some photos from our church’s recent VBS. She stayed there a good half-hour or more, and we chatted a bit about this picture or that one. But mostly we just sat there together.
When I finished those photos, I remembered a picture I wanted to show her from a year or two ago. So I opened the album that contains all the photos we ever received of her from Uganda. It goes all the way back to these very first ones…
And we had the most fantastic time, looking at all the photos one-by-one, as she told me stories about things that were happening in the pictures. For instance, in that first one, in the pink dress, she said that they were all rushing to the line to get food. She laughed at the memory and told me, “We were mad that they made us stop for a picture because if you got there late, you wouldn’t get any food!” Then she told me how it was always beans and posho.
“Beans and posho, beans and posho, two times a day, beans and posho! And I hate posho!” I’d heard her say this before. She will (reluctantly) eat beans, if there is no other choice, but thankfully, there’s not really a posho equivalent in American cuisine. Grits, I guess, would be a close cousin. I know I made cream of wheat for her once and she ate about two bites out of politeness but just couldn’t manage it. She was the same way with oatmeal.
Anyway, I asked, “So if you didn’t like posho, what would you eat? The beans?”
“Yes, I would eat some of the beans,” she said, “And then this much posho.” She made a shape in the palm of her hand about the size of a golf ball. “And if it was only posho, I would starve before I ate it.”
“Did you give the remainder to your friends?” She nodded. “Now I know why you were so popular! ‘Sit beside Violet–she will give you her food!‘” I teased. She just laughed and laughed at that.
Then, we came across this photo, from when the ministry bought a goat a couple years back, not realizing it was pregnant until it gave birth to a kid. They called it their “two for one special bonus.” And they named the baby goat Donnie, after my husband. Which was pretty awesome. Anyway, the pastor sent this photo of Violet holding the baby, and I told her that when I first saw it, I thought maybe he was heavy, and that her expression was just showing us what a strong, determined girl she was.
Again, she laughed. “No! I was so afraid of that goat! You can’t see, but he was kicking the whole time! I thought he was going to scratch my arms and my face and I did not want to hold him!” And now that I’m getting to know her, I know that expression. That’s her, “What the …bleep!... are you doing to me?” look.
There were so many funny pictures that we laughed over. There was one of her Skyping with us and she told me, “Ah…that was before I knew English!” which totally cracked me up, because she’s always known some English. “I was SO shy when we would Skype that I wanted everyone OUT of the room! I didn’t want anyone to hear me trying to talk! And pastor would try to get everyone out of his office and they would sneak back in to listen. So I just smiled.” Oh my goodness–how hilarious to finally hear her perception of those Skype calls when she would just say “Hello” and “I am fine”!
Soon, we came to this picture, taken for me when she was terribly sick with malaria last year:
“Ah,” she said softly. “That is when I was SO sick…”
“Poor baby. You look like you didn’t even feel like sitting up.”
“I didn’t want to. I had been vomiting. It was SO bad. I was crying.”
“You were? I’m so sorry, sweetie…I didn’t know you were crying when this was taken.”
And then we looked at the next photo, and I cropped it for you here, but you can see the tears in her eyes. And I’d missed noticing those before. I thought they were just sickly eyes.
“When you were sick, did you still go to class?” (She lived at a boarding school for a while and I’d always been curious about what sick days were like for the kids.)
“Oh…no. You stayed in the dorm all day. By yourself.”
And my heart broke a little at the thought of any child this sick spending even an hour alone, much less an entire day.
“I bet that was pretty boring, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Well, no. Really it was just scary. Very, very scary to be there all alone. There were so many noises, and AH! So scary!” She started fidgeting and looked down at her hands. “So I would beg them to give me medicine and let me go to class anyway, even if they just let me sleep there. Anything! Anything to not be in the dorm alone.”
And then my heart just cracked open and tears rushed to my eyes and I said, “Oh, sweetie. Now I’m about to cry. I’m just so, so sorry you had to be that sick and alone and afraid.”
(Can you even imagine? Being a child, terribly sick, and alone in a building, set quite far apart from the others in the compound, by yourself from sunup to sundown, for days on end? At least the other girls returned in the evening, but still…It’s killing me to think of any child experiencing that anywhere, ever! Heart officially broken….)
I put my arms around her, and hugged her, and kissed her forehead. “You will never have to be alone again when you are sick. Never, ever again. I promise you that.”
She didn’t say anything, but I think my words were reassuring to her. I hope they were. As if on cue, the next pictures we clicked through were some I’d included here on the blog before, ones that I had to edit because I couldn’t share her full face until we’d been given guardianship. Photos like these:
She smiled SO big when she saw them, and she whispered, “Loved.” And something about her expression made me think that maybe, it was hitting her for the first time how long we thought about her, and prayed for her, and yes — loved her — before we even met. And when she saw this next picture….
She exclaimed, “My Ugandan girl???” and burst into laughter, put her arm around me and said, “I like that one, Mom!”
I told her that I did, too. And then it was time for bed, and it seemed to me that tonight, my daughter went to bed pretty happy.