I’m a goodbye person. I think most Minnesotans are. We are all familiar with the scene: guests stand up, get their hot dish pans, get their shoes and hats and mittens, and stand at the door all bundled up, talking to the hosts until finally, after someone makes a joke about breaking a sweat in all of the winter gear, the guests open the door and disappear into the cold.
I am a huge believer in long goodbyes. We had a group of friends over two nights before we left and Brian and I did the same thing: stood at the door and said goodbye to each group. In waiting to come back to Sudan, Brian and I had the mother of all long goodbyes. Four months of goodbyes to be exact. We had our “last meals” with friends and family multiple times and got comfortable in our “leaving, but not really” status. So when we heard that we would finally be leaving, we were there, at the proverbial door of our hosts’ house, ready to go. We had been slowly picking up everything we could possibly need for another year abroad and had a great time doing it! We went shopping with friends, reorganized our storage unit with family, and then relaxed with all of our things propped and ready for the door to open.
When “the door” did open we gave everything a thorough look and there was something missing. It occurred to me at about noon the day before we left: I need a yo-yo. I know Sudan. I’ve been there. I’ve sat without electricity twiddling my thumbs wishing I could do SOMETHING. Like a mitten that has a window scraper sticking out of it, or battery operated heated socks, it’s a small object that you don’t need but makes life just a little more bearable. I realized that a yo-yo would be this object to me.
So no problem! We had time to make a run to Target and find my so desired last-minute object. Off we went at 5 pm to Target for a yo-yo, and wouldn’t you know it. No yo-yo! Not anywhere in the store! I started to panic a little. I knew I didn’t need it, but I thought I did need it! I REALLY wanted a yo-yo…
The next day, the day that we were leaving to go to Sudan, we made a special stop. We made time in our departure schedule to stop at the one store we knew would have yo-yo’s, no questions asked. We went to John’s Variety and Pets in Mound, MN. This store has everything: sewing materials of all kinds, costumes, craft supplies, toys, cleaning supplies, candy, office supplies, pet food and of course, animals. Like real animals. Birds, snakes, spiders, rodents of all sorts, turtles, frogs, bunnies – those who know can help me continue the list. It is exactly what the name says it is! It’s John’s shop that has everything you want and pets!
So on the morning of our departure, the day the door would open and we would say goodbye to all of those whom have been such gracious hosts to us, our last act was purchasing a yo-yo (along with some playing cards and candy) from John’s Variety and Pets.
As we flew away over frozen lakes and fields, this was what I was saying about our lovely stay:
Thank you so much for all the food. It was all delicious. We loved being back in Minneapolis, which is still our favorite city in the world. All of the time we got to spend with you, our family and friends, was priceless. The laughter and tears that we shared are so special to us. We got to share hope and hopelessness with you as we watched our first African American president rise and our economy fall. We will stay in touch. We can’t wait to come back here. We’ll bring presents and stories and we can’t wait to see how you and your family has changed. Really, thanks for everything. You made our time so precious.
Drive safe, stay warm and have a great night.