Seated on the bus to Kampala, Claire Kayitesi wondered what her family’s reaction would be when they saw her. Besides periodically talking to Aunt Maria on the phone, she had not seen them face to face ever since she left Uganda to return to work and live in her motherland Rwanda three years ago.
Twenty five year old Kayitesi is an orphan of the genocide. She was adopted by a family that lived in Entebbe, a town in Uganda.
Every time she thought about the whereabouts of her real parents, and her older brother Mathew, her mind became a daze of bitter-sweet childhood memories. Somehow she had a strong gut feeling they were rested in one of the memorial sites, most likely the one in Gisozi that she visited before travelling.
The heavy snoring from the old man seated beside her pulled her back to reality. There was no way she was going to dampen her Christmas mood with sad memories.
Kayitesi refocused her mind on the years of happiness, love and care she received from Aunt Maria’s family. Even though she already had four children, Aunt Maria a widowed single mother, had not hesitated to adopt, educate and take care of her.
Just one week to Christmas she knew they had not yet decorated the Christmas tree, that she loved so much; she was so eager to get in touch with her old habit of decorating the tree, and this she missed so much.
Kayitesi said she arrived in Entebbe safely that day.
“I was received with a mighty welcome!” Kayitesi said during a phone interview with The New Times.
“I couldn’t believe that my family after all this time hadn’t changed their love for me, especially Aunt Maria,” she said with a joyful tone.
It is two days to Christmas and Kayitesi is already engrossed in her big plans for the festive season.
“I am seriously touching home base,” she says, “I have been shopping since I came and when it comes to my friends; the parties are wild!”
Kayitesi had already decorated the natural Christmas tree that her two brothers, Daniel and Gerald brought home. This was their tradition every year, and Aunt Maria has never had second thoughts of buying a plastic tree.
Everyone had a role to play; Kayitesi’s was to help Aunt Maria cook the Christmas snacks and later in the evening prepare the Christmas barbecue for the guests and family friends who were invited.
Jackie, the oldest daughter will be visiting with her husband and two children for Christmas. Sophie the second born, still at campus, had the responsibility of welcoming guests and ensuring that they were served with snacks and drinks.
In the previous years, Christmas evenings were a time for a more connected get together. Their backyard would was always filled with family and friends of the family who were glad to celebrate yet another family reunion.
Aunt Maria gave her heartfelt speech that always reduced the soft hearted to tears; even the macho guys, who do not believe in crying, had their eyes shimmering with tears. This Kayitesi believes is what makes her aunt special.
As usual gifts were exchanged as the music played. Children played, the old men smoked their pipes, and mothers chatted away.
Those who had unresolved issues never attempted to start up fight because Aunt Maria never tolerated such behavior on Christmas day. Instead people laughed, danced and feasted as the party continued.
Every Christmas, Kayitesi said their house was festooned with Christmas lights, the air was filled with the scent of the Christmas tree and Christmas songs filled the air all day.
This is what Kayitesi calls real.
“The Christmas spirit is obvious when we come together at the family re-union. You meet the people you love and celebrate as you share your year’s experiences,” she said.
With Christmas people are brought together as they remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the very reason for the celebration. For many who believe in celebrating Christmas like Kayitesi, no greater love, hope and inspiration can replace the true meaning that Christmas brings.