Amid the struggle for a good life in Worcester, one of my children was brave to take a different direction.
Alice Hannah Kanjia is my first daughter. She was born out of wedlock when I was a young adult, and I did not know of her or meet her until several years later.
From Part 11: New Hope, More Troubles and a Gift
A longtime girlfriend had called me. My brother had given her my number during my uncle’s funeral in Gbaama, Sierra Leone. She insistently said, “I have a gift, I said, a gift. How can I send it?” Since I was in need I told her to send it by DHL. “You are still not serious as you are aging,” she responded. She became agitated and rude, which was usual of her. “OK,” she said, “I will send the gift to my sister in Freetown, and you will go pick it up from her.” …
We saw the house and moved directly to see the gift. About 20 meters from the house we saw a thin girl running toward me. She came directly to me and moved to hug Peter. It was then that I realized she was the gift I anticipated.
She looked lanky, tall, very fragile and malnourished. I saw the aunt, Elizabeth, and she handed the girl to me. She asked me for an identity before leaving. I had none, but she let us go anyway. (There was no DNA testing to prove she was my daughter. That was Africa; we accept and go on.)
She came in and out of our lives over the years, but as we did not feel safe anymore in The Gambia, Theresa and I were able to shepherd her through the resettlement process and help her reach America, which she did a couple of months before we arrived in October 2010.
Alice became recalcitrant after having her first son. She refused to return to school to finish Grade 12 and earn her high school diploma or equivalency. She was discouraged by how poorly she’d done before.
She is a loveable person, but she changed and we grew apart, as she saw me as a stumbling block to her dubious behaviors.
Augustine’s last chapter: To Be a Man is Not Easy Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale
This started with her first pregnancy, while we were still in Africa. The father of her son would not be a part of our lives. We took the boy for baptism, but I had told her I would name the boy since there was no father to claim him and take responsibility.
“No!” she said. She was furious. But I told her he was to be named Austin, after me. During the baptism, she answered the priest that her son’s name was Chris Peter George, George for his surname. The priest, who understood our situation, decided to baptize him with the name Austin. There was no difference, he insisted.
Alice cried as the little boy was baptized as Austin. She was quite displeased with my action.
She and Austin arrived in Worcester in August 2010, and despite our differences, she was still looking forward to our arrival. I was delighted that she was able to send me $100 after being here less than two months. The money helped us in our last frantic days in Gambia.
That was a gift I will always remember.
My advice to Alice was for her to go to school, at Quinsigamond Community College. She went there for about a month before she was seen no more. It seemed I was being too much for her. She did not tell me why she left. She was much more interested in organizing dances, birthday parties and entertaining her friends on her food stamps.
She was in touch with a lot of friends from across New England and beyond. She never stayed with us, because I would have seen all she was hiding from me. But what could it be that she didn’t want me to see? I tried to convince her to make positive changes — we are in the land of opportunities, after all. She would not listen.
I had to try to let her be her own person. I am in school. I only hoped that she would see me and emulate me.
But Quinsigamond then was giving me a hard time too.
Loads of studies and books to read were piled high atop my work schedule. I tried hard to let nothing stand between me and my schoolwork. Alice became a very outspoken person against me to those who had taken a negative view of my priorities. Some of them, who had helped us get settled in America, seemed jealous of my accomplishments in education. One even acted as if he were Alice’s dad. On Father’s Day, she bought a card for him, cooked a meal and invited him to celebrate with us. Whenever I meet him and his friends, they still talk about the beautiful meal Alice had prepared for them. They tried to intimidate me.
Alice had abandoned us for her friends.
She lived with a woman called Sylvia. She, too, was of no help to us. She made matters worse. She told Theresa, my wife, things about Alice, how she hated us. She was quick to say these things. On the other hand, she would convince Alice how we thought less of her because she wouldn’t finish school, that I thought she was wasting her potential. And worse that I only love Mary, my teenage daughter.
Mary, indeed, was a source of consistent encouragement for me. I brought her up close to my heart, taught her at home and brought her to a good school in The Gambia. Many there would ask if she was foreign-born; she looked different and spoke English at home and school. Mary and I were close, much like Glen, our middle child, gravitated toward Theresa. They were adjusting to America and gave us little to worry about.
And soon it would be time to set aside our concerns about Alice.
We had a problem with our house. It was time for a change that would not come easily.
To catch up on one of the Sun’s original serials, follow these links: