Four years and eight thousand miles ago, I was wrapped in my skirt, resting on folded banana leaves placed carefully on the red clay mud that is the soil of Uganda, surrounded by Africans. Now I find myself here at my desk in my home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, sipping steamed milk and snacking on a Luna bar, my baby asleep, my husband at the lab diligently pursuing his doctoral studies. So much has changed: my name, state of residence, continent of residence for that matter, the vision for the next ten years of my life. I am married. Nathan and I have a son. I no longer have a career outside the home. I have relinquished the yearning to return to Africa, though I once believed that it one day would be our home. Life indeed is strange and changeful, and where I once pictured our little blond babies growing up barefoot alongside their African playmates, I must choose to pour my passions into what surrounds me here. The longing for Africa still pulls on my heart, but my heart is now also tethered to my husband and son and when we think of ourselves and our future, we do so as a family.
So now I am here and I am home, for that's the saying these days-stay-at-home Mom. But what does this mean-home? How do I live my longing to serve, to sacrifice, to be of use, to be in community? Home these days for me is such a small world, seemingly consumed with caring for ten-week-old Elias, washing diapers, mopping spit up off our hardwood floors, cooking, cleaning. And meanwhile, the world around me continues at its chaotic pace. It seems difficult to remember a time of life other than now, and yet I carry the stories of that place and those people within me, and I long to live a life reflecting their example.
My home in Africa meant anywhere between twelve and twenty-six people under one roof, shared bedrooms all around, magnanimous hospitality for guests (and in Africa all guests arrive unannounced), and reliance on neighbors. We gave all, shared all, needed our neighbors and supported them by buying their tomatoes, flour, oil, onions, and spices, though we easily could have gotten these staples from the market. They had a cow, so we traded our water for their milk and early each morning one of their sons would bring a jug of warm milk, freshly squeezed as we jokingly called it, and we'd pour it straight into the tea pot on the charcoal stove where the chai was boiling. That was community. That was home.Darien Palpant is a graduate of Whitworth College and a 2001 Krista Colleague. She spent her year of service in Uganda working with AIDS orphans and teaching in the village schools. She is currently living with her husband Nathan in Seattle and spends her time caring for their two children, writing, reading, and gardening.