It’s day 2! And the topic for today is ‘The One That Got Away’.
I took one of my most life changing decisions years ago when I decided to volunteer at an orphanage. You see, you can read all you want about poor communities, abandoned babies, shoe-less children and the likes, but until you relate with these people, you might never know how it really feels. And even then, you will never actually know how it feels until you get into their shoes (if they have any).
It was after my second year in the university. I made a decision to dedicate all my breaks and holidays at a certain orphanage home around my area. That way, I was able to stay at home as my parents wanted and also volunteer; as I wanted.
My very first day at the orphanage, of course, brought tears to my eyes and made me reflect a lot about the kind of life I wanted to live. I felt pity for the children; generally.
My second day at the orphanage was when I heard the stories of most of the children. As the matron took me round to officially meet all the children, she’d lower her tone and tell me their stories.
‘This is Michael’. ‘Michael’s father is actually alive but he is more or less dead. The man is a good for nothing drunk. I doubt if he even remembers that he has a son.’ Then she looked irritated for like two seconds and said ‘I doubt the idiot even remembers his own name’. There was probably more to the story but I only asked ‘His mom is dead?’ She said, ‘No… well, yes. Oh, we don’t know. She was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment about 5 years ago, but honestly, we all believe she’s dead. Nobody has heard from her or even tried to contact her’. To that, I shivered.
‘This is Ibrahim. ‘Ibrahim is actually one of the few abandoned children who came in here with a name tag. Normally, we would have given him a Christian name, but we chose to respect the wishes of his abandoner. We found him at our doorstep on a very cold and rainy morning with the name Ibrahim written on a sheet of folded paper tucked away in the plastic basket where he was kept. Of course, we contacted the police and all of that, but we never really got to the root of where he came from. Sadly.’
‘This is Blessing’. That was all she said. Nothing more. She smiled when she said her name. A sad kind of smile. And as she walked away from her cot, I took the cue and followed her. Blessing was very fair in complexion and one side of her body was thinner than the other.
‘This is Grace’. ‘Grace was born by a young… very young, teenage girl in this area. The deal is we keep her till her mom is 21. I’m proud of her mother though. She’s really working hard to make something out of her life’
‘This is George’. ‘George’s father and mother died in a car accident and they had been the only children of both their parents; George’s grandparents; who are also dead.’ When I raised my brow to this, she smiled sadly and said ‘I know right? What are the odds?’ But I thought to myself, ‘His parents did not have any friends?’
As we went round all the other cots, most of the children were either asleep or just staring blankly or lazily at me. I tried to push away the feeling that I was not welcome. Plus she had told me earlier that they were all being treated for malaria so the drug must have been affecting them.
However, as we approached the last cot, the toddler there was already giggling and waving his arm like he was trying to call for help. My mother used to tell me ‘there’s something about smiling that makes you automatically beautiful’. I believed once I saw him! Oh, he was soooooo beautiful. He looked like white kid. In fact, as I got close to him, I realized that he was indeed not Nigerian, or even African.
The matron picked him up as he began to laugh as though he’d just heard the funniest joke ever. I smiled at him and his eyes lit. He stretched his arms to me and when I carried him, he felt so comfortable in my arms.
‘This is Away’. Then she laughed and said ‘Okay, his name is actually John. But his first word was ‘away’. And the way he said it!’ She laughed. ‘I hope you get the opportunity to hear him say it’. Just then he laughed and screamed ‘Oh-where’. There was a way he said it… very amusing.
I fell in love with him instantly. I later found out that he had been picked up after his parents had abandoned him while they tried to flee from an ‘immigration raid’; whatever that means. He had barely been a month old.
Away made my stay at the orphanage so much better than I ever could imagine. He would wait for me at the door and once I arrived, he would hug my legs and won’t let go until I picked him up and threw him in the air. He was an amazing boy. He is an amazing boy.
But just yesterday, my school released us for our 2nd semester break. I was so eager to see all the children- and Away.
As I dashed into the orphanage, the matron came out to me smiling and said ‘I have good and bad news.’I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought ‘This cannot be good’. Then I said ‘What?’ She said ‘Almost all the children were adopted. It’s amazing. The adoption procedures usually take so long. And most of them never actually work out. But God smiled on these children. We have just 6 here left. It’s sad that they left but… I mean, that means they have the possibility of living a better life in a real family setting’.
I just stared at her. I didn’t have to ask. I looked at the door entrance. Empty. He surely was gone. Hell, I’d adopt him if I could.
I should be happy for them. In fact, I am happy for them. It’s the kind of sad happiness you feel when you see the person you love radiating around someone else.
I wish them all good luck as they begin life together; both the families and the children.
But to that family, The One Who Got Away, I hope they never forget that that boy’s smile can warm three winter months. (And that I’ll personally murder them- and in the most gruesome way, if anything happens to him).