My newest Ugandan friend, P. has the potential to be either the Eliza Doolittle or the P.T. Barnam of Rahab’s Corner. Clever, charming and too smart for her own good, this weaver of yarns tells a lollapalooza of a tale. As one jaw-dropping event followed another it was difficult not to get caught up in the story. Her storyline, one that would rival Steven King’s abilities to thicken a plot is so extraordinary, it is almost impossible not to believe. After all, how can an eighteen-year-old western African village girl make up such a saga? In this blog, i’ll share my experience with this clever Ugandan storyteller.
The girl launched right into her narrative starting at age two, I listened spellbound as she relayed a tale of multiple abandonments. First by her father, who denied the child as his own before she was even born, and then by her mother. According to what P.’s grandmother told her, the mother left the child alone “in the night” in a house she was caring for to go off to Kampala and marry another man. The tiny girl cried until a neighbor hearing her distress came to investigate. Upon finding the child alone, the neighbor carried her to her maternal grandmother.
By now I was hooked with my own righteous western indignation—How could a mother do such a thing?—while P. continued spinning her yarn. Her grandmother gave her “all the love I need. She was my everything.” This young consummate teller of tales drops in a little piece of seeming random information, “My grandmother has another son, is very rich here in Kampala” Granny informed the child that she didn’t have much money and that “she, P., could go to her mother and get some money.”
In a very Cinderella turn of events, young P. arrived at mother’s to find a new brother. Her mother’s response to her daughter’s request for money was, “I give you the money when you take care of the little baby. Don’t call me Mom. You need to call me Auntie.”
Not long after returning to her grandchildren, the grandmother died, again leaving little P. alone. At this point in the tale P. is unable to keep her emotions in check for a minute chocking back tears she continued. “I used to love my grandmother so much. ”
At this juncture, the tale takes a turn to make Steven King jealous. The uncle and the child’s mother tell her they will send her to live at her “father’s” house—a man entirely new to this narrative—and one P. has never heard about before. “That man gave a friend of the uncles an envelope of money” and the woman left. Though, “she said she would come back to see me she did not.”
The new father gave her food, and left the now eight-year-old in the house alone returning only every month or so to practice ritualized witchcraft with friends in a forbidden upstairs room in the house.