I can still see him lying on the floor in his now-empty room. The picture often comes to my mind of my 11-year-old son, crying over leaving our house. It wasn’t just a house—it was our home. It was the perfect home. It had a great backyard with trees to climb, a basketball hoop in the driveway, and best of all it was filled with happy memories, from family gatherings to birthday parties. It was a wonderful place.
Together my son and I had painstakingly poured through wallpaper books until we found the perfect, the coolest paper for his room. It was jets—his favorite thing. It was manly and rugged and so right for him. As I stood in the doorway of his bedroom, in our now-empty house, and looked at him on the floor, he seemed so small and so sad, surrounded by his wallpaper. I wondered if the new owners would like these jets, or if they would tear it off and redo the room, making it their own style. It all seemed so important to me once—the house, the yard, the wallpaper. Now we were leaving it. He was afraid of the change (we all were) and he didn’t want to go. Africa was unknown to us but we remained committed to going, and we were confident of our call. Even in those tough moments, we were sure.
Five years later, he is so tall, so grown-up, but this scene somehow feels the same. He is so different now. His room still reflects his own style, a collection of posters, awards and pictures of friends. Outside the bars of his open window, the birds chirp in the lush, always blooming bushes in our yard. It is a sound we have come to love as a part of the permanent backdrop of our lives here.
He sits on the floor surrounded by trunks; most stay, one goes. He takes down his posters, packs his books and music, and sorts out what he needs. As I stand in the doorway of his near-empty room, he looks up at me and I see it on his face—he doesn’t want to go. His friends are here now, his school, his life. America seems unknown. How much has changed? Will we fit in? Will we be welcome? This is home now, but it is time to go. A year seems like such a long time to be away from his home. He asks if he can stay here and live with friends; he has made some arrangements. No, we are a family and we must stay together. He is afraid of the change—we all are. Going back is unknown to us, but we must go, for a while. Then we can return. Even in these tough moments, we are sure.