The girls make waffles, drip batter on the recipe book, argue over who will put the egg shells in the compost. They carefully measure spelt flour, cardamom, beg to be allowed to use the new pastry brush.
Phil and I sit on the Lamu couch under red blankets and talk about sports, theology, birds. The sky glows greyblue like a pearl. Two bulbuls watch us from the ivy hedge. Later, Phil sings loudly to Bon Jovi as he changes for soccer. I hear him through the window, drink coffee from an acacia tree mug.
Six hornbills have moved into the neighbourhood, huge black birds with absurd white bills. They used to be so rare, now they gallavant the compound’s trees, six of them at least, pretending that they’re mundane.
Dania and I wait in Nyayo House to be fingerprinted for our official documents. The waiting room is crowded, women in saris, men in long white gowns, children wrapped in kangas. A woman in a far away desk calls mispronounced names so quietly we strain to hear, then are scolded for standing too close. My file is lost in the swamp of papers stretched across too many desks. We eat bits of chocolate and wait.
M comes out of her bedroom after her sisters are asleep. She wears blue striped pajamas and her hair is poofy and elegant. She says that although she promised me she wouldn’t, she read a scary book in bed and now she’s too scared to sleep. So I tell her to bring the book to my bed, read it in the light beside me as I email. She hugs me, climbs over to the pile of pillows, reads the end of the yellowed Nancy Drew mystery.
I read Swallows and Amazons to M and J on my bed. They smell like Kenyan soap. Through the door we hear P laughing at Phil as he reads picture books with silly voices. J traces lines on my arm. M turns somersaults.
I tuck P into bed under a pile of quilts. She has headphones in her ears and is singing aloud to old Chantal Kreviazuk songs. She nods at me when I say goodnight. J sits up to hug me, asks for a heat pack for her stomach, still hurting from a monkey bar fall. M is already reading, glances over with a smile, turns back to her book.
The girls write thank you notes to their new teachers on neon sticky notes. P’s says “I love Mrs. Wills”. J writes “Congratulations” in small careful letters. M writes quickly, doesn’t show me her secret message.
P wears purple pajamas with pink polka dots. The pants reach just past her knees. We check the tag and realize they’re meant for a one year old. We seem to have forgotten about growing up.
At supper Phil plays Shiny Happy People on his phone. We all hold hands and sing along, laughing, our Tuscan soup growing cold
Phil and I lie side by side on the Lamu couch after a Saturday nap. The harrier hawk sits at the top of the Eucalyptus tree in the valley. We watch it through our binoculars, amazed at its yellow beak, striped tail. Later a family of hornbills sails to the same tree. Our life is a sanctuary of majestic birds.