“Your sister the witch has cursed us!”
My husband’s violent accusation stabbed me to the core.
I was exhausted and weak from thirty hours of labor. Our first born child, a boy, lay suckling at my brown breast. This should have been the happiest day in my life but now, with this ghost child, so pale, so foreign...what was I to do?
“How can you say that?” I asked quietly, “No matter what he looks like he is still our son.” I rubbed my ebony hand gently on the top of his tight white curly head. His pale blue eyes looked deeply into my dark brown ones. He knew I was his mommy. He didn’t care the difference of our skin color.
“You let her bring that preacher into our house to pray for you. This...this....thing...this Ghost Child is the answer!” He kicked at the red dirt floor sending a plume of dust in my direction. I instinctively shielded my baby. He stomped out.
Twenty minutes later he returned. I was afraid he’d gone to the drinking house. The drink made him lose his mind. He did mean, even cruel things, under its influence. But he entered the hut whistling.
“I have been to see the Doctor,” he said proudly. “He has told me that all our problems are over.” He stretched out his arms to punctuate the extent of the salvation that awaited us. “I will bring the Ghost Child to him in six months and he will cause all curses to leave our home forever and we will be wealthy all the days of our life.”
“What will he do?” I knew he meant the Witch Doctor. That was why I had allowed my sister to bring the Preacher to my home. I wanted to be free from the tyranny of the Witch Doctor and the Spirit Dancers. They manipulated with fear and cruelty.
My sister had told me of Jesus and how he left his home in heaven to come to earth as a babe, how he laid his life down so I could be born again and how he ruled his kingdom with love. I so desired to be loved.
“You don’t worry about that. I will take the Ghost Child and that will be the end of that.”
“What shall we name him?” I asked changing the subject.
“He will have no name. He is not human.” My husband turned his back on us and left yet again.
The next day my sister came to see how I was getting along. She had been with me all through the labor. She helped me to accept this white wriggling infant as my own.
I told her of my husband’s decision to bring the child to the Doctor in six months.
“We’re leaving tonight. I’ll come for you after your husband leaves for the drinking house. Be prepared for a long journey.”
“What are you talking about? I can’t leave.”
“You must. There is no protection for your albino son here in Tanzania. We must flee to Malawi.”
“I know he’ll be teased but surely it’s not so bad that I must leave everything. I have a husband, a home.” I looked around at the bare red brick walls, my cooking pots and the tin roof. So many others had only leaky thatch.
“Your husband is going to sell your son to the Witch Doctor to be cut into pieces and skinned.”
When the full extent of what my sister said registered in my mind I began to shake. I ran to the floor and scooped up my tightly bound white son in his colorful cloth. I pressed him to my breast.
“No, you must be wrong!”
“It is the new spell to ward off all curses and to guarantee wealth and success: a body part or piece of skin from an albino. We must leave.”
I looked at the sleeping child. So strange to love such a white face. But I knew I would do anything to protect him. Even risk my own life. Since Jesus left heaven to come to earth for me I knew he would give me the strength to leave my home, my country, to save my son.
“Okay, we leave tonight.”
“As well as the belief that albinism is a curse, witch doctors in the country use body parts from albinos in magic potions they claim will bring people good luck or fortune.”
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