I found them through a classmate at The Humanities Seminars program down at the UofA. The father, a member of the wrong tribe, spent nine years in prison in Rwanda. After his release, he and his wife and three of their five children escaped to Malawi. Two sons had managed to flee earlier; they lived abroad, wondering. After nine more years in a resettlement camp, they were chosen, by the IRC, to start again in Tucson.
Do you know the International Rescue Committee? Their website draws you right in: Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein. It's barebones, which is fitting since only 5% of their funds
go to administration.
The benefits offered to refugees are not forever entitlements. This family was looking at eviction in January until the mom's employer bumped her hours to full time. They can pay the rent. They didn't have money for extras. After eighteen years of privation, it's amazing what can be considered an extra.
Their first floor garden apartment must seem like heaven to them, woefully under-furnished though it was. Until we arrived, they had a futon, a lamp, two chairs and an air mattress.
They now have G'ma's bed and bedding, the rocker, the recliner, the television, all the little ottomans and the wicker coffee table, the wooden end tables, the bathroom cabinet which fell apart every time someone new picked it up making all of us smile even harder, the night stand from her green period, assorted generic throw and bed pillows (I still have the ones she made), the black bench from the bathroom, the big blue poster of flowers, and all her clothes.
I admit to a minor melt-down as I loaded Elizibeth up with the red-and-white-gingham shirt... the light suede car coat.... the turquoise pantsuit..... the jacket she bought in Tiburon when it was colder in July than December in New York for crying out loud.... and I'm teary right now so I'll assume you get the picture and I'll move on to the joy.
Oh, denizens, the joy was spilling all over us. Grins, squeals, little jumps up and down as the whole family pitched in while I sat on the padded bench and supervised, just as G'ma would have done.
Many hands made light work and we were finished in no time. Then the dad videotaped a thank you starring all of us, sending blessings to all of us and to my beloved mother, and we drove away, quoting Elizibeth, with hearts so full they were bursting.
They solved the problem of G'ma's stuff by making us feel special. It will all be used and treasured and G'ma will be remembered as they fall asleep on her pillows and I know that if her spirit is in the area, she's sharing the smile on my face right now