Wedlock-less


It was my identity—my badge of shame. Some would call it a badge of honour; that is what they choose to call it. It’s a matter of choice, and perspective. Nothing they said would change my mind. How could it? When early enough, I’ve been told that I was not a normal child, that it would have been better if I wasn’t born.

“I don’t know why you stuck around. After three attempts to abort you, yet you refused to be rid of.” That was what my mother would say back then. I used to get sad at her spiteful words, but not anymore. I’d gotten used to the fact that she hated me with passion. I was the constant reminder that she had lost everything, her life, her family, her lover, and most importantly, her future.

When she was sixteen, she had gotten impregnated by her boyfriend, who bolted at the news that she was with child. Her parents had been infuriated by their daughter’s ‘act of shame’. They had wanted to throw her out, but on advice from a relative, they waited until she delivered the baby before sending her out; such callousness, they never even asked to know what she was passing through psychologically and otherwise.

Luckily for my mother, she was taken in by an NGO that deals with young girls. This was where I grew up, with the full knowledge that I was a child born out of wedlock, without a father, and with a mom who only showed love to me when she felt like. I am… what’s the female version of a bastard? Well, I guess you can also call me a bastard. At ten years, no kind of hurtful word can get to me again; I’ve heard them all.

As I sat in the playground, quietly sketching the face of my mother, who I loved beyond comprehension, I was called by Miss Agnes, my favourite teacher at the Center.

“Chizoba,” she called, showering me with an ample smile, “come dear. The Matron wants to see you.”

The Matron? What could she possibly want with me? She rarely called the young ones… except… except when something bad happens. As I linked my fingers with Miss Agnes’s, my belly churned with the sudden realization that something had gone terribly wrong; was my mother okay? Had she finally escaped as she usually threatened? Maybe it’s a good news?

Inside the Matron’s grand office, I was led into a small chair by the side of her own huge chair and desk. She turned her swivel chair to face me, and took my small hands on in a gentle clasp. She looked at me with such tenderness that I felt that someone had really died. Then she hit me with the news.

“My dear child, I want to tell you something. But first, I want you to know that you’re loved by everyone here, okay?” I nodded, too surprised by her words to speak. She continued, “Your mo… your mother has left us. She has gone back to her parents.”

“What? Without me?” And without notice, hot tears poured out of my eyes. The Matron enveloped me in her large bosom, as years of bottled up emotions came out in torrents. I wanted to stop crying, but with each attempt, fresh wave of tears burst out.
After about three minutes, I was relatively calm. And then she told me another shocking news. “Would you like to be adopted by a nice couple?”

Me? Adopted? As I thought about it, I became ambivalent. It would be nice to have a nice, comfortable family, filled with people who loved you. But what if they didn’t love you? What if you would just be their servant and be maltreated? Wouldn’t it be better to remain here in the Center than to go to somewhere I didn’t know, among people I didn’t know?

“I… I don’t know. It’s nice, but…” My voice faltered. I was unsure of what it really meant to be adopted.

“My dear, don’t worry. When you get adopted by them, they will treat you like their own child. You will go to school, make new friends, and most importantly, you will have parents who will love and take care of you.”

“Uhmmm… For how long?”

“Forever.”

I stared wide-eyed at her. Forever? It was too good to be true. “I think I like that,” I finally said.

*******************

One month later, and I’m coming back from church with my new parents. They were actually old people, but they had taken care of me very well in these few days. After my talk with the Matron, they had come two days later to see me. At first, I was disappointed by the fact that they were so old (they had to be in their sixties), but they were so warm and friendly that soon, I became friends with them. They never seemed to care that I was not their daughter nor did they care that I wasn’t their age mate. We spoke so freely, and played like kids. I even slept on their bed in the first week, when I was having nightmares. They have truly changed my life.

As our car turned into our street, my mind went to my mother. I thought of her frequently, but the hurt of her abandoning me was abating. I had learnt from a friend of hers that she had left me because when she contacted her parents about coming back, they had explicitly told her that she must not step into their house with that her ‘rotten child’. And so she had left. Without even a goodbye.

It hurts, really. But I will get past it. Now, I’m among people who love me, and who I equally love. I had been starved of parental love for ten years, but I had the rest of my life to bask in the warm glow of the love my new parents shower on me; for I am no longer the child born out of wedlock, I am no longer wedlock-less. 


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