I was born in Zululand. And lived my first three years there before moving inland again in South Africa. My dad was a recently graduated doctor working on a remote mission hospital. My mom was brave.
So, I grew up in a country where Christmas meant hot and sun-burned and the beach. All this even when the shopping malls were bursting with the strains of, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” And no matter how many years I live away from South Africa, I always miss the hot and the acacia trees and the flaming sunsets.
As Christmas rolls around cold and crisp here in Virginia, my first born, my South African born son, asks “Do you miss Souf Africa, mama?” And my chest wells up with an ache so profound I don’t know how to translate it into decent five-year-old vocabulary.
I turn around in the car and look into his blue eyes watching me from the car seat. We both smile at each other. “Yes. Yes, Jackson, I miss it a lot.” He sighs, “me too, mama.” As I pull forward when the light turns green, I know that he and I both have heads full of sights and sounds of a home that we haven’t visited in three years now.
Forget the tree and the presents and the food. Forget the decorations, the wreaths and the candles. Forget candy advent calendars, super sales and planning the menu. Forget wrapping paper, ribbon, holly, ivy and silver bells. Forget anything you can buy in a store, off a menu, from a catalog or online. I would scrap it all like so much leftover spaghetti all moldy green at the back of my refrigerator if I could give my kids South Africa for Christmas.
This day has always been about family. About a teenage couple and their new baby. About the shepherds and the most educated of the day who felt equally at home in his presence. About fitting in when you thought you never could. About belonging in the unlikeliest of places. About everyone being welcome.
If you gave me 24 hours in South Africa I would wing my kids home and let them unwrap these people for Christmas.
But I can’t. Not this year. And I have a five-year-old to answer to for that. And he’s much more difficult an audience than my own heart has ever been. So I give him what I can.
I give him the gift of homesickness.
………Please keep reading with me over at The Christmas Change. Today I’m sharing about what this gift cost both Jackson and me.