When my parents decided that I would migrate to Boston in the United States they hoped for a better and more prosperous life for me. Adapting was very difficult until one day a friend told me about crossing into Canada. We did on foot through the woods near Lake Champlain in Quebec. After a couple months in Montreal we trekked our way west to Toronto. Eventually we made a life here and became citizens in a country that accepted and gave us opportunities.
Because the crossing had to be made at night our belongings needed to be kept to a minimum. All I brought was a few clothes, my identification papers and my Crocodile figurine.
My grandfather, Ngala, had been a farmer for hire in the mid 60’s when budding pioneers were trying to set up organized farming to raise crocodiles in the lake Kariba region formed by the mighty Zambesi River on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The job involved looking for young crocs and eggs that could then be grown under control conditions at a farm. The animals were highly prized in Europe and Asia for their skin and their meat. The industry was still very young at the time and men like my Grampa used to canoe the Zambesi from Victoria Falls to the Dam in Kariba. Sometimes He would be gone for months but always brought small gifts for us upon his return. In one of those trips He brought my mother, his daughter, a small crocodile figurine. We have no idea where He picked it up but it sat in our house for years until I was ready to leave.
I would never forget Mom’s face when she gave it to me. She cried and seemed resigned beyond words, but when she gave me the small figurine she told me Grampa would have wanted me to have it and smiled tenderly. She said it was a way to always remember the many sacrifices He had undertaken to give us a better life and now I would have better chances away from the river.