Jeff and I drove two vehicles down to Seatac Airport last night to pick up Mike, Selloane and the kids. What a wonderful and joyous experience! The kids were quiet and wide-eyed--presumably exhausted after 40 hours of travel (and months of anticipation), and overwhelmed by the airport scene and the fact of having arrived so close to their new home. We shared tearful hugs with Mike and Selloane. Michelle's best friend and her family were there with signs and small gifts. One of the little boys said quietly to Selloane, "I think they like us. They even gave us toys." Karabo/Patricia looked on the verge of tears the whole time. After getting all the luggage (not so much really for all the new lives they represented), we found the vehicles and had a tailgate picnic before hitting the road. In my car, I had Selloane, Khethollo/Phillip (13) and Rethabile/Alex (7). After seeing the lights of downtown Seattle and a glimpse at the Space Needle, the kids fell asleep. Jeff and Mike were in the van with Michelle (10), Karobo/Patricia (10) and Rethabile/Alex (7). Jeff said they all fell asleep too. (We're not sure what we'll be calling them yet--Selloane said they use both names.)
Selloane said during the time together in Lesotho, the kids have been talking a lot about their lives before she (and later Mike) got there--during their mother's illness and after her death. They were on their own and lot, with a little help from relatives. She and Mike tell them it's good to talk and okay to have feelings. It seems good that they are processing their loss and hardship. I'm sure that will continue as now they will adjust to a new life, with family, friends, and community--and no more going hungry and fending for themselves.
Arriving at their new home in Bellingham was so touching. Everyone was blown away. Selloane has been away for 3 1/2 months, Mike and Michelle for 2 1/2 months, and of course for the other 4 kids they were home for the first time. In my car, when Phillip saw the house, he started grinning and didn't stop for a while. The house, yard and garden were in beautiful shape. Lots of loving people put in lots of time and effort to get it ready for the family. The house is small and simple, but a far cry more than these kids have known, I think. Everyone has a nicely made bed, there is food in the fridge. There was a welcome banner, flowers and cards. Neighbors came out to welcome them home. (The addition to their house is progressing, but not finished yet. It will add a bedroom and bathroom. Right now, Mike and Selloane have their small room, Michelle and Patricia have their small room, and the three boys have their beds in the living room. They all share the one bathroom--and the big back yard!)
We left them at about 11:30 pm to settle in and sleep. They are a charming and good-looking bunch of kids. We look forward to getting to know them better!