Mom was quiet on the train. They all were. My little siblings were quiet too. They were tired. We all were. We children carried our school bags and suitcases into the train. And mom carried the weight of her suffering into the train. We were all restless. We were all homeless.
We were escorted out of our home in Montreal by police officers in a hurry. My stepfather was escorted out of our home by police officers in handcuffs. A routine afternoon after school had developed into a night that changed the course of our lives. That night, my stepfather bruised mom’s face for the final time. He was placed into the back of a police car and sent to prison. We were placed into the back of a police car and sent to a shelter.
We survived inside a single room at a shelter in Montreal for a week or so before we carried our school bags and suitcases into a train headed towards Toronto. As the train moved through Montreal and away from Saint Laurent Boulevard, the Bell Center, and Jerry Park, my favourite park in Montreal—I vowed that I would never forget Montreal. I vowed that when I became an adult, I would return to Montreal—I vowed that I would return home.
When I emigrated from Ghana to Montreal when I was ten years old, the city quickly became my home. Montreal is where I saw mom for the first time in three years after she moved to Canada. Montreal is the first and only time I lived under the same roof with an older man. Montreal is the first and only time I had a semblance of a father figure in the home. Montreal is where I was introduced to my younger siblings. Montreal is where I first felt like I had a real family. Montreal is where my Habs play hockey. And Montreal is where I learned French. Montreal was my home.
But just as quickly as I adopted Montreal as my home, I just as quickly forgot about the city. Montreal was my home for three years, but within three years after I moved to the Toronto area, I couldn’t consider Montreal my home anymore. By that time, I couldn’t remember Saint Laurent Boulevard and Jerry Park as clearly as I did three years before. I couldn’t remember how to get home from Saint Laurent Boulevard and Jerry Park. I couldn’t even remember the name of the street in front of our home. And I especially forgot how to speak the language that marked Montreal as my home. I don’t remember how to speak French anymore.
But just as I vowed inside a train that I wouldn’t forget my home, I said the same inside a plane years earlier.
At an Accra airport, I hugged my uncle tightly, and in tears I begged him to move to Canada with me. I refused to leave Ghana unless he boarded the plane with me. I screamed in agony until I was dragged away into the plane. Inside the plane, I vowed that I would return to Ghana one day. I vowed that I could never forget Ghana and my uncle.
It’s been 22 years since that day, and I haven’t returned to Ghana. And I cannot remember the uncle’s face anymore. I barely remember all the experiences with him that made me love him so much. And on the rare occasion when we talk on the phone, I can barely speak with him in our native, tribal language, Fanti.
I am forgetting Fanti. I am forgetting my family’s language. I am forgetting our people’s language. I am forgetting Yamoransah. I am forgetting Ghana. Ghana isn’t my home anymore.