The other night, Jackline broke my heart. Nanny, Stella, announced that it was "kulala" time and everyone scurried into the bedroom to either stand by their bed patiently or run around in between the cribs to make me chase them. After tucking in Kurwa, Dotto, and Witness, Jackline asked me for a kiss. I told her to climb into bed and I would kiss her goodnight. She did what I asked, and then gave me a juicy watermelon kiss..(they had had watermelon for snacky time and she had just finished). I then proceeded to untie her mosquito net and drape it around her crib. As I continued to tuck more babies in and kiss them all goodnight, I glanced over at Jackie because she was still standing up looking at me. I asked her to lie down because it was time to sleep, but she didn't move. When I was finished tucking Amani in, I came back over to Jackie. She was standing against the side of her crib, blue mosquito net plastered to her face as she leaned into it. Her eyes were red as tears silently streamed down her cheeks. She had been watching me for the last few minutes. I asked her what the matter was, but she didn't have anything to say. She just wanted another kiss. With that, she silently laid down on her tummy and waited for sleep to come.
Jackie is almost three years old. She's a smart girl. She knows her ABC's and 1,2,3's, she has a pretty good grasp of both English and Kiswahili, and she's a big helper with the younger babies (or can be when she wants to). She's a tough girl and can be very defensive as many kids learn to be, growing up with so many "siblings". Tonight, I saw a sadness in her eyes, though, that I had never seen before. It was a mature sadness, like she knew or realized something. Is she realizing she doesn't have someone just to herself to love her? When will she realize that she is an orphan? Does she already know? She, along with 48 others in this baby home, crave love and attention 24/7. All her little life, she's had to fight for it. She knows how to get attention when she wants it. I wish so badly that I could sneak into some of their little minds sometimes and understand what they feel and listen to their thoughts. They may only be 1, 2, and 3 years old, but there are a lot of things being processed in those young minds.
With more than 30 children wanting you to lift them into their cribs, tuck them in, and drape their mosquito nets around them every night, it's sometimes easy to fall into a pattern and complete the process as somewhat of a chore. Over the last couple of weeks, though, saying goodnight has become something different for me. It's special. When snack time is over, Kurwa comes straight to my lap and holds my hand until it's time for bed. Then she pulls me into the bedroom and over to her bed so we can hug and chat for a minute before anyone else gets my full attention. That means the world to her! All of them call out for their bedtime kisses and love that one moment when my attention is all theirs. Saying goodnight is sad, since there are no bedtime stories, long cuddles, and puppet shows like I received when I was their age, but it's still a very important time to these children. When I tuck them in, let them know I love them in any way I can, and they say they love me too my heart swells up and it gives me a sense of peace like I've completed my task for the day.