Its true what the Bembas say: “Babies don’t take long to grow, its only the pregnancy which takes long”. Bodhi is now 9 months old – meaning he has been in this world as long as he was growing in Claire’s belly. It’s hard to believe how fast he is growing and becoming accustomed to his body, his surroundings, and the people in his life. He is now crawling and standing himself up, and it won’t be long before he starts walking. He is also babbling and smiling and laughing away. It is such a miracle to see him grow.
Claire has settled in to being a mom wonderfully, and is shining in her role as caretaker. She and Bodhi have a beautiful, intimate bond and it’s clear that she is the apple of his eye (and vice versa). It is almost every morning that Bodhi awakes with a start, looks around for a split second, and then opens his mouth in a wide, two-toothed grin as he crawls between Momma and Papa. He knows our voices, and wants to be a part of whatever we are doing (cooking, cleaning, driving, chatting). It is such a blessing…
It is also quite a responsibility. Watching Bodhi, seeing how he imitates my every move, my energy, my way of doing things, has awoken in me a stronger desire to be a better person. I am checking all of my addictions, habits, patterns, wondering: is this the example I want to set for Bodhi? Would I be happy if he copied this form of behavior? The good news is that for the most part, I think we’re doing well as parents – setting an example of a balanced, happy, loving relationship. And for my part, there are not many things I would change/hide from him. Still, every day and every interaction is an opportunity to become more open, more loving, more accepting, and to set this example for our Son.
Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that he is our teacher as much we are his. Patience, tolerance, love – every bit that is required to care for him is a lesson. I find myself constantly grateful when he is in my arms. I know that, having lost my father when I was only 6 years old, every moment with this blossoming soul is a gift. I try, with conscious intention, to be present with him and thankful for every moment we share. I know how fleeting these moments can be. When we are together I tell express this gratitude. Even though he doesn’t yet speak English, I sense that he understands.
Bodhi loves the water. He loves birds. He loves looking at leaves. Sometimes he is fussy when he stays inside for too long. Once he reaches a doorway to the outside, it is like a switch has flipped, and instantly he stops fussing and starts smiling. He is happy to be held by nearly anyone. This morning when we arrived at the office, he reached for Mirriam with a huge smile – happy to leave his mom’s arms and play with ‘Bambuya’ (Grandmother).
Of course, there are times when he only wants to be with one of us – especially Momma. It is a mixed feeling of joy and responsibility when he is fussy with strangers or less-known people, and wants to be with us. When he reaches for me, I feel this incredible joy well up inside me, that this little being wants to be with me and is comforted simply by being in my arms. At the same time, I feel a responsibility to teach him to be happy with whomever he encounters on his path, to be independent, to learn to live without me. Then I remember that he is only 9 months old, and I grab him and swing him around and we laugh together. It has been an opportunity to break some cultural stereotypes as well, when Zambian women see that a father can comfort his baby and even put him to sleep. I am grateful to know the peace and equanimity that comes from your baby falling asleep in your arms, and would share it with all the men I know, if I could. The fussing and crying which may come before sleep are also a test and an opportunity to learn, and I find that unless I can quiet my mind, Bodhi won’t quiet either. What a little teacher!
Lest this blog become only about Bodhi, there are also many beautiful things progressing in our lives here in Kasama. This rainy season has brought an exceptional amount of rain – nourishing the land and people’s crops, bringing life and the countless tones of green that mother nature paints herself in these lush months. Three years of watering, composting, chicken manure, trimming, and love have started fruiting their rewards. We are picking guavas, eating mulberries, enjoying tamarillos and papayas, and eyeing bunches of bananas which have not quite ripened. We have also begun to keep bees, in the hopes that are lives at the farm can become even sweeter.
In town, the program is progressing and more and more people are taking the chance to educate themselves. Bakashana has moved to a new office, which we now call our own – thanks to Grandma Ruthie, an incredibly generous donor who bought the program this house and property as her 90th birthday present. After an incredibly busy 3 weeks of gutting the house – knocking out walls, adding windows and door frames, rewiring the electrical, redoing the plumbing, etc., we moved into our new office on April 1st. Now we have a space which the young women can make their own. All the walls, doors, and even floors can become works of art. We hope to cultivate this space as a place where people are free to express themselves and share their beauty – without fear of reprimand or cultural shaming. We hope that community involvement in this space will make it unique, appreciated, utilized, and sacred. As our Bakashana family continues to grow, we are grateful to all who play a part, whatever size, from all parts of this crazy world.