My parents arrive tomorrow, on Christmas morning. (What? No, I would never make a joke about my dad’s beard looking more Santa-esque each year.)

I’ve loved preparing for their visit. We (finally) got the guest room in order, cleaned the apartment and did a couple small projects that have been on the to-do list, I’ve got a freezer full of goodies and am working on an all-American-in-Dakar Christmas dinner now.

As I pulled the key ingredients out, I thought of the people who gave them to me. The French’s onions from Valerie, brown sugar from the Jordans, Georgia pecans from my grandmother, sweetened condensed milk from Lauren…

Then I went to tackle another preparation so characteristic of my mom that it made me laugh. I remember growing up when we’d have people come stay with us (family from the US, Peace Corps Volunteers needing a break from the village, people evacuating from Liberia…), she would write each person’s name on a clothespin and pinch it to their cloth napkin. It served as both a place marker and a way of tracking napkins so they didn’t have to be washed after each meal. (Very functional Africa. Totally un-Lemon & Lavender Africa.)

This also meant that for months, years, later you’d come across a clothespin with the name of a person who had stayed with us and remember that time together.

I pulled out a handful of clothespins to mark with our names and found this one from when Cheikh’s mom visited last year.


To all of our family on the other side of the globe, we think of you often – but especially at Christmas. We love you and miss you. Merry Christmas.