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An open letter to the mother who abandoned me



“When you are an abandoned child, you spend a lot of time questioning your mother’s decision to leave you. “What is it about me that she didn’t like?” You ask. And without knowing it, you nurture anger and bitterness.

Growing up, I was that child. I judged my mother harshly and thought that she could have done better. Being in a school where every child wanted to know of my background because of my skin colour and not having an answer to that was hard. As such, my childhood was often an emotional roller-coaster consisting of anger, withdrawal and occasional laughter. Even in my adulthood, it has not been easy. I was once questioned of my background and given all sorts of names by someone who was very close to me.

Faridah Khamis’ mother whom she says is called Kasech (left) posing with three men. This is the only photo Faridah has of her mother. PHOTO|POOL

In 1983, my mother fled the civil war that had started in 1974 between Ethiopia and the modern day Eritrea. She came to Kenya and in tow were my two siblings (they are twins) and me. My brother, Abdikadir Hassan and sister, Zahra Mbote were barely three years and I was about nine months. Her name is Kasech, a Semitic name which means that there’s a possibility that we came from Eritrea, If not, Ethiopia is the bet.
Shortly after, she gave us up for adoption without a legal procedure. I am told how a few days after she left us, she would come around just to have a glimpse of us one more time albeit from a distant. According to my adoptive mother, she got an asylum in the US and her Visa was facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Upon leaving, she communicated once and in a language I didn’t know. The stamp read United Kingdom. We didn’t hear from her again and regrettably we lost the postcard.

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I was 14 years, when I heard rumours that I had been adopted and my guardian confirmed it to me when I turned of age. For years after that, I kept going back to that line “she gave us up” but in retrospect, I figure that it must have been a difficult decision for her to make.

Her sister Zahra Mbote. Zahra is about three years older than Faridah. PHOTO|POOL

After she left, we were brought up by different Nubian families in Kibra and I only came to re-unite with my brother and sister as grown-ups. One day, my adoptive mother organised for us to meet one another. I promised them that I would find our mother and the search that I started at 19 is still on – trying to find the missing pieces to this puzzle. Our Kenyan parents have in many ways loved and cared for us with a selfless love like any good parent could and ensured that we attained education. So this is not a selfish pursuit, it is for me and my siblings to know who we are.

Without an answer to this question, there is an empty feeling…a void.

There are tough days and as the world marks Mother’s Day tomorrow, I can’t help but think of her, this time even more often. I have one photo of her, taken with other people that I clutch onto, place on my chest and wonder if she has one of us and does she do the same? Hope to meet us someday? Right now, she is in her 50s or 60s and my sister is a cut image of her.

Faridah Khamis and her elder brother, Abdikadir Hassan. PHOTO|POOL

When I first became a mother in 2002, I came close to understanding why she did what she had to do. I am a single mother of four, aged between six and 19 and I have made a lot of sacrifices to seeing them where they are today. Sometime back, I chanced upon a video headlined that a mother will always do the best for her children even if it means never seeing them again. It was a story of a dog saying goodbye to its puppy but it made so much sense to me. And when I calmly ruminated over our journey, I realised that things didn’t actually fall apart, they fell into place. God’s hands has been directing all my life – from having people take good care of me and having a conducive environment to raise my children here in Kenya.

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If I ever meet my biological mum, I will embrace her without asking questions. She did what a desperate mother had to do. If she ever gets to read this from wherever she is, I want her to know that her children love and terribly miss her. My siblings and I say how we long to meet her and take care of her if need be. Even though I am surrounded with love, I feel her absence. If she feels that maybe we don’t want to see her because of what she did, “you are wrong, mama.” We want to see you so we can be complete. And like I have whispered to myself for many years on a day like tomorrow, “Happy Mother’s Day.”


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