The minute I stepped off the truck and onto the community center playground, I see a little body running towards me, her arms wide open as she barrels right into me with a hug. It was my sweetest little girl from last year, I recognized her straight away. She wore a red and white polka dot dress the last time I saw her, today she had a denim one on. I said to her, "I remember you! You have a beautiful red polka dot dress." She nodded, I couldn't tell if she understood me, but she looked up at me and smiled with those big brown eyes and bald head. She squeezed me again, then grabbed my hand. Yes, I was back. This is what I had been waiting for.
Then the others started running in, one by one, I searched their little faces to see if I recognized them too. Yes! There was the little guy that gave us all those cool arms-crossed poses last year, and the girl from the balloon shot, and then the cutie that had stickers all over her face... I was so happy to see them, I hugged as many as I could and then felt the insane smile overcome my face as they all piled around me, I didn't have enough hands for them to grab.
As I looked around the community center, I saw the swings still standing proudly that Steve and Ted built, the play set we put together was crawling with children, the trampoline was dug into the ground (and had only just ripped last week, Lindsay told me, which I was astounded by due to the number of kids on that thing at any given time!), the garden we planted was overgrown but lush. I walked over to the swing set and started brushing off the dirt around the cement at the end of the poles. We had all carved our names there last year, and I wanted to see them appear for me again. Steve... Ted... 2012... How sweet it was to see our names and remember the day we all kneeled around and celebrated our friendships and our time at Dumphries.
We spent the next couple hours painting a beautiful mural on the side of the building, the three other women volunteers are Michelangelo incarnate, I swear! In between (probably more honestly, most of the time), I wandered out and around to find the children and take photos, cuddle, and play. I gave them my camera and showed them how to take a photo and also how to see it, and especially how to make sure the strap was around their necks! One after the other took turns being photographer, and in seeing their excitement and pride in being able to take a photograph themselves, I knew that this trip was destined to be. As we left Dumphries, they ran after our backie (pick up truck in SA) waving goodbye and squealing. What a beautiful sight. The following photo was taken by a boy called Shade, a star photographer has just been born.