Seven years ago, with my five children grown, I found that I still had a little maternal ‘juice’ left and began to mentor a young man of twelve, who I will call Andre. He and his younger sister were my summer gardening helpers. For them I was a safe harbor, a mentor who cared that they had a summer reading program and productive activities. They helped paint my garage and tend my vegetable garden in exchange for refreshments, mentoring and sometimes a little pocket change.
When Andre went to high school I knew he’d be in peril. Our neighborhood high school, Fenger High, was where my eldest son had constantly navigated gang affiliation. I had moved heaven and earth to get my other children high schooled elsewhere. Unfortunately, Andre had no options. A handsome, gangly kid with a flawless smile, he also liked to create his own reality, he was a liar.
One morning, in 2009, during summer vacation, I got an anxious call at work from a neighbor asking me if Andre was supposed to be in my house while I worked. I said “of course not!” and then he told me he had been seen running from my home with a laptop in hand and that my back door was wide open.
I rushed home to find my laptop, normally open on my dining room table, gone, and with it the file containing the latest version of my memoir, Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot. The back security door and the steel door had been kicked in. The wires to my security alarm had been ripped out.
This, was more than scrawny Andre could have accomplished alone. It was clear to me that a stronger, more experienced thief had helped plan and execute the crime. Only my laptop, and (oddly) a big bag of pennies had been stolen. But the fact that Andre, had ‘marked’ me, crushed my spirit.
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The police “investigated” and Andre’s mother, gave her son an alibi. Despite an eyewitness to his flight from my home, there was no arrest. Word on the street was that my laptop had already been sold. I subsequently repaired my door, bought a new laptop, recreated my manuscript and silently bore my pain.
Months passed and Christmas Eve, I heard a knock at my door and when I opened it, I found a battery operated Winnie the Pooh, tucked inside my doorway with a note that read, “…I think of you as my family. Merry Christmas.”
I paused, and forgave Andre in my heart, but was still too hurt to reach out. I decided to be still. Summer came and one morning as I pulled weeds, Andre came up behind me, called my name and said simply, “I’m sorry I broke into your house.’ I looked into his eyes and realized that despite his feet being firmly planted on the wrong side of the law, I could fully forgive him. I was healed.
– Susan Peters
Susan Peters, aka, Ahnydah (pronounced ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a treasure trove of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa, to her memoir, Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot. A native of Chicago’s south side, she has worked in women’s development, communication, sales, marketing, event management, fundraising and currently manages community relations at a prestigious academic medical center. A lifelong author of poetry, essays, short stories, and plays, Susan is poised for a May 2014 release of, Broken Dolls, a work of contemporary fiction and mystery.