Me: How many kids are in your family now?
My neighbor Mariama: We are six.
Me: Are you sure? I think I can name more than six.
Mariama: Oh yeah. (laughing) Um. Eight.
Me: Are you sure? Name everyone.
Mariama: (counting on her fingers as she lists her siblings in order) Lamin, Isatou, me, Fatou, the twins Adama and Hawa, Sarjo, Ousman, Alagie and Baby Ousman.
Eh! 10! (looking shocked) We are 10! That’s a lot of kids, deh!
Mariama’s mother delivered her tenth baby during my tenth month in The Gambia. The family named him Ousman even though their seventh child is also Ousman. “But the new one, Baby Ousman, we will call him Karamo,” Mariama explained as if it made sense. Gambians are so funny!
The best part about Baby Ousman who is called Karamo is this: he made his brother Alagie somehow like me. Or perhaps I should say “tolerate” me. Alagie, the ninth child, is the fatest 18-months-ish-old kid I have EVER seen. You would think such a husky build would mean he’s a tough kid. WRONG. Despite living nextdoor to the child for TEN months, he screamed bloody murder every time he so much as looked at me. Everyone in the neighborhood – except me – found this to be absolutely hilarious. After TEN long months of making the child cry every day, it all suddenly stopped on the day the family’s tenth baby was born. Lucky Number 10, deh!
I went into my neighbor’s house to meet the newest little munchkin when he came home from the hospital. As I took the baby into my arms, Alagie eyed me suspiciously but didn’t make a sound. When I put down Baby Ousman who is called Karamo, his big brother Alagie crawled over to me and sat in my lap for an entire two minutes. And although he is still highly weary of me, Alagie hasn’t cried since baby number ten was born.