Luyanda’s birth mother gave her her name. I’ve been told it means “growing love.” Of course, she goes by Mgazi, so that’s what I call her. One week after meeting Mgazi, I was able to bring her back to the guesthouse with me. During that week, I visited her every day at the orphanage. This is what happened during those visits (as written to Mgazi in her lifebook).
Day 1: We met for the first time. You would barely look at me. You held my hand. You wouldn’t smile at me or talk to me.
Day 2: You ran into my arms as soon as I got out of the car. I kissed you on your neck — the only clean spot I could find. And my love for you grew.
Day 3: You fell asleep while I was holding you. My love for you grew as I felt your breath on my cheek.
Day 4: You smiled at me for the first time. And you giggled because I tickled you, asking, “Unjani? Unjani?” (How are you? How are you?) My love for you grew.
Day 5: You hugged and cuddled with me. “Unjani? Unjani?” You giggled, but you still wouldn’t talk.
Day 6: You pushed the other children away from me. It was like you were saying, “get away, she’s mine.” Except you did it all without saying a word. My love for you grew.
Day 7: You came home with me. The best day of all.
On day seven, I wanted to believe that I was really going to go get her… bring her home… live happily ever after, but I was wary. The trip so far had been fraught with road bumps. At the same time, I thought it was a good sign that the day was September 9th. Russell will have to verify, but I think we met on September 9th way back in 1994. (Another aside: Before we married, Russell made quite a big deal about wanting to wait 12 years before having children. We waited 10 before having Zaffron. Now, 14 years have passed to get child number 2! If you average that out… 12 years, on the nose! You’re welcome, Honey.)
When I arrived at the orphanage, everyone was inside. It was just too cold to play outside! The kids were all in one small bedroom just hanging out. Mgazi greeted me warmly. I tried for the umpteenth time to get her to talk to me. She had never said a word directly to me only to her caregivers or friends. I think it had become a game. I would tickle her and jiggle her, while asking, “How are you? How are you?” in a silly, sing-song voice.”Unjani? Unjani?” And she would just stare back at me, holding back giggles. I kept encouraging her to talk to me, “Say, I’m fine! I’m fine! Say, ngiyaphila!” And at that point, where I’m begging her to tell me she’s fine, she would laugh and laugh. Today was no different. She just cackled in response to my cajoling and tickles. I think she thinks my attempts at her language are funny.
She was all smiles and cuddles until I started to change her clothes to leave. She got very quiet and she resembled the girl I met on day one more than the giggly kid I had gotten to know over the last few days. She was nervous. She knew something was up.
We stayed for about ½ an hour, asking last minute questions, saying goodbye to the kids. Mgazi never smiled. She wouldn’t even look at the camera during some hastily arranged group shots.
Finally, after a teary farewell (between me and Mgazi’s orphanage mom) we drove off. Mgazi seemed sad looking out the car window, silently waving her little hand. I felt horrible taking her away from everything she had ever know and loved. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I nuzzled her neck and gave her a little jiggle and tried our standard tickling game.
This time, and I’m so thankful for this, she said in a tiny little raspy voice, “Ngiyaphila,” (I’m fine) before she broke into a fit of giggles.
And that broke the silence. She’s been talking ever since. Of course, I can’t understand a word she’s saying.
Every once in a while, I think I recognize a word or two. She’ll be singing or babbling to herself, “something something something JESUS! Something something HALLELUJAH! Something something something BANANA!”
It’s music to my ears!