The first time I left Kenya, I cried so hard the man assigned to help me through the airport went back to where my friends had dropped me off and asked someone to come and make sure I was ok. I remember being in a hallway outside an elevator, sobbing so hard I was sucking in tear soaked air. I heard Donald say my name but I thought it was in my head so I kept my eyes closed and kept right on heaving big heaps of grief out of my throat. Erin. I opened my eyes. It was actually Donald. Why are you crying? I had to leave. Nothing as magnificent as Kenya - as Donald and his family - would ever happen to me again. My life was ending right there in the hallway of Jomo Kenyatta Airport. I would go back to Canada and never feel this way again. It had been too complicated of a miracle in the first place to ever happen again. They say that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. it wasn’t better. My whole body spasmed with crying. I didnt do the slightest thing to stop it. I became crying, but I still had to get me and my tears onto the plane. It was the early 2000s, security was more relaxed, then. They asked, begged, insisted Donald accompany me the entire way from check-in to my gate. Through security, even. He did. and I sucked in air until my sobs were shivers and the guy tasked with getting me on the plane was confident I wouldn’t pitch a fit in the gangway. Donald was released and went back to his family. I was boarded. I returned to Canada in January. I was 20. Winter would last forever, I was sure.
And I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. it took months, yes, but the spring came. And, I even went back to Kenya. The love that had torn me apart had left me with something: clarity and determination. I knew what I wanted and where I wanted to be. It turns out, that’s often the hardest part of miracles. Risking the loss in the first place, then bearing it when it comes, then letting yourself want again. Actually making it happen became a matter of mechanics and patience with the clarity part in place. The miracle happened again and then another time, until it took over my whole life. My life turned into a whirlwind of travel and bonding miracles.
A couple months ago Donald messaged me to ask when I was coming back. There was a place for me, all I had to do was tell him when and everything would be ready. It’s been almost 20 years since he had to escort a sobbing Erin through an airport and my place is still there. I hadn’t even really lost a thing.
I returned to Canada last night. The first moments, I felt like the color had been drained out of the world. Preliminary spring in Ontario is drab and spain had already been vivid and green. The memory of leaving Kenya the first time struck me as I shivered in the frigid wind waiting for a taxi to my mom’s house. I don’t have any concrete or certain plans for what is next. Which tempts me with panic: What if I get stuck and the miracles dry up. But I know better now. I can fake patience better. I don’t have plans because I don’t know yet where I want to go or what I want. There are too many options and not enough clarity, yet. It’s my birthday tomorrow. A day I share with my little birthday soulmate who, when asked what she wanted for her birthday told her mom, “Anything I want, but that’s a secret, so I can’t tell.” When her mom passed that on to me, i said, “that is exactly how I feel.” My birthday soulmate never did tell. Her birthday wishes a secret still. Mine too. “Just watch for the buds, I know how much you like the details.” my mom said before we went to bed. She meant it literally, the buds on the trees, focus on the burgeoning signs of spring to pass the time. but it works, too, as a metaphor for how to pass the waiting for wanting -for new life - to blossom