Addae opened his eyes. Dim light was filtering through shutters but the sun was not yet up. His little sister, Echo, was sleeping quietly on a mat beside him. He could hear noise outside. Momma and Lale, Addae’s older sister, were preparing the morning meal. Poppa would already be out gleaning grain in the fields, but would return in time to eat before catching a tro tro into the city for work.
Addea jumped up and ran from the hut. He loved to run. He would run everywhere. This morning was no exception. He looked at the sky. It was pink.
He ran faster.
He would wash himself at the village well and race back before the sun touched his hut. Addae’s name meant Morning Sun. Momma said he earned that name by making her wait all night for delivery.
Addae arrived at the well only to find that Raziya and her mother were already there. Raziyah was two months older than Addae. She was fast, for a girl, but Addae would never concede that she could out run him. He must have slept too long.
“Greetings, Addae.” Raziya’s mother smiled at him.
Addae bowed his head. “Good morning, Auntie. Hope you slept well.” Addae was still breathing hard, making it difficult to speak the greeting. Raziya smiled. Addae frowned.
Raziya’s mother drew a pitcher of water from the well and poured it in a bucket. “Does the morning sun withhold its smile from our humble village?” Raziya held the bucket for her mother.
“No, Auntie.” Addae grimaced.
“That is not much better. Come closer, Addae.”
Addae approached Raziya’s mother. Raziya scowled.
“Today is an important day. You must look your best.”
“Bow your head.”
Raziya’s mother poured cool water over Addae’s head and torso. He sputtered, scrubbing his head, then his chest with his hands. He wiped the water and sleep from his eyes and smiled for the first time. Raziya and her mother smiled back.
“I thank you for your kindness.”
Raziya watched Addae as her mother once again dipped the pitcher in the well. Addae looked up as morning rays touched tree tops.” He must hurry, he thought. “God’s blessings, Auntie.”
“God’s blessings, Addae.”
Addae sprinted from the well, down a dusty path. He wove between huts with great speed. When he rounded a corner and came upon his own hut, he stopped, abruptly. Something was different.
He looked to the sky. In spite of not being first to the well he had raced the sun and had won. Morning rays had not yet touched his hut.
“Momma? Poppa?” he called.
No one answered.
The charcoal fire was burning, serpentine smoke snaking in the gentle morning breeze, and there were cakes on the fire. The clay oven was lit and bread was baking, but neither Momma, Lale or Echo were close by.
Addae entered the hut.
Momma? Lale? Echo?
He heard something outside and ran out of the hut.
Addae jumped. Momma, Poppa, Lale and Echo were all there smiling and laughing as the morning sun washed over them. Addae laughed too.
“Greetings, my son, and birthday wishes,” Poppa said.
“Greetings, Poppa, and thank you,” Addae replied.
“We have a gift for you.”
“A gift?” He could see no gift.
“For your birthday,” Echo said, as Poppa drew a bundle wrapped in brown paper from behind his back. Addae’s eyes grew big and Poppa laughed. The paper crinkled as Addae took the package from Poppa.
“What is it?” Addae asked.
“You must open it, brother,” Lale said.
“Your sister speaks truth,” Momma laughed. “Open it.”
Addae beamed then tore into the package. When the paper fell away, he held up a brilliant blue, long sleeved polo shirt with three stripes on it and the word, Adidas.
“Put it on,” Momma said.
“It is Adidas,” Poppa said. “It will make you fast.”
“Addaedas,” Echo said. “like you.”
Addae put the shirt on over his naked chest and they all laughed. It was much too big.
“He will grow into it,” Lale said.
“He will grow out of it,” Momma said.
Poppa smiled. “Run, Addae. Run, before the morning sun climbs too high.”
Behind the scenes
The boy in the photograph was very proud of his Adidas shirt. He told us it made him fast. He received it for his birthday. His parents bought it at a store in Accra which sold used clothing donated from the United States. In Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw one child with a Los Angeles Lakers jersey . I live near Lone Peak High School in Cedar Hills, Utah and was surprised to see a boy in Sierra Leone wearing a Lone Peak High School jersey.
I have been to Africa many times. It is a continent of contrasts not free from turmoil or strife. Yet, in my travels throughout the continent, I have been blessed by many people of kindness, faith and love. The story above is based on a visit to the village of Yamoransah, Ghana. There I met a family I grew to admire in a very short period of time. Their lives are much different from my own. Yet, we share a common desire, to see our children grow up in the light of the morning sun.
2 thoughts on “Addae’s Birthday Gift”
Your story brought to my mind my nephew, Elias. He came to the U.S. from Ethiopia when he was barely five but before his adoption there we’re lots of pictures and video that gave us a glimpse into his life. At five it was the Hot Wheels in a care package that got his attention. He carefully picked each one up, spinning the wheels to make sure he picked thr good one that would be fast! It was a precious thing to him. Now, 7 years later, it’s Adidas! He’ll argue for hours on the merits of the brand (Nate likes to work him up). If only we could all be happy with the simple things. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing your story, Tammy.