Kugatta, Part 3

I sat in a Ugandan Classroom 6 years after the adoption of my two children, Grace and Abraham. A head teacher of the boarding school had just taken Grace back for placement testing, and had given us a classroom to use while we waited. Abraham sat at a desk and removed a coloring book from his bag. He started to diligently work, as his Jaja sat a few seats away. I stood in the back, anxiously looking at the schoolwork on the walls. Gladys, now my cherished friend, and head of an organization in Uganda named ‘Kugatta,’ sat close by doing work from her phone. It was a beautiful Ugandan day. The sun was warm in the sky, and a light breeze blew through the classroom windows. The smell of dry dust and diesel fuel burned at my nostrils, and the sound of excited children starting back to school filled the air. Otherwise, in our little corner of the school, it was very still and quiet. Jaja dozed in and out of sleep, and Abraham was content working on his picture. It was a drawing of a super hero, which maybe had something to do with his next question. He starkly looked up at Gladys and blurted out, “Can you ask my Jaja why I am so small?” His Jaja, of course, spoke little to no English and everything needed to be translated by Gladys. Gladys let out a small chuckle, and began speaking Luganda to Jaja, who was now awake and alert. Jaja answered quickly in Luganda, “Only God knows.” She became still and quiet, her mind going to another place entirely. She turned to Abraham and begian a story which Gladys hurriedly translates. “When you were born, you were small. After your mother died, everyone pitied me. They told me that you would also die, and they warned me not to become attached to you. They told me that a child that small could not live without his mother. I would not believe them. I was determined to keep you living. I kept you warm, wrapping you in blankets and keeping you close to my skin. When you were old enough to speak you cried out to me, “Mama, Mama!” so that I would hold you. I was the only mother you knew. We were living in the slum at the time, and to feed myself and the other children living with me, I would fill jerry cans with water at the well and deliver them to families to earn enough money. When I would get ready to leave it would be very early in the morning. Abraham would wake from his sleep and stand at the door crying, “Mama! Mama!” I was very fond of him and I could not leave him there crying so I would strap him to my back and walk down to the well, carrying cans for water with a child on my back… When Gladys came to me and told me that an American family had adopted Grace and Abraham, and they were living in America, I could not believe it. I was so relieved that they were alive. The first time we Facetimed and I saw how well they were doing, I thanked God for answering my prayers. The day you arrived in Uganda and everyone saw Abraham walking down the lane, playing soccer with his cousins, none of us could believe our eyes. This child whom everyone thought would die, was here and he was alive and well. It was as if he resurrected from the dead.” I looked at Gladys. She had stopped translating and was now crying, as was I. Abraham also was sobbing. Since we arrived in Uganda, he seemed indifferent toward his Jaja, but the moment she was done sharing he jumped from his seat, ran around the table, and leapt into his Jaja’s arms. She held him like that for some time as they both cried. She looked at me and said something in Luganda and Gladys translated, “Thank you. You have kept him alive. You have brought him back here. I never thought any of this was possible.” I had no words for this strong and beautiful woman. She had sacrificed so much and now was thanking me. I did not deserve the thanks. Not long after this, Grace returned from her testing. She had passed, and everyone was very proud. Jaja yelped and sang, and there were hugs all around. Grace would be starting school in Uganda in just a few days.

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