My Four Mothers

Arlene

Arlene: “My mother was the one who tied the bow just so beautifully, perfectly on the pretty package I would bring to my friend’s birthday party. She was the one who hugged me and said: “Now, go and have a good time.” Who was going to do that now? …”How do they know she is not coming back? My mom could make something fun out of standing in a boring line in a grocery store. I bet she will figure out how to come back. Gone. Not coming back. That’s what Dad said when I woke up from a nightmare and ran into his bedroom looking for her. Gone. Not coming back.”

Helen

Helen: “She went to India to escape. She came back with even greater practical and global skills. She taught Indian girls how to read, and she learned how to survive on her own in a foreign country. She brought back stories, saris, lace, material for her wedding dress and veil. It was a journey she never forgot, one she liked to share with me… Fabrics, patterns, threads, all the possible colors and textures could easily evoke memories of sewing moments she had had in India with other young girls. Between keeping an eagle eye on my stitches, she let me know that girls could go anywhere in this world, and should.“

Phyllis

Phyllis: “was a spontaneous, generous hugger. She hugged old people, little kids, church staff and fellow choir members before and after Sunday services. She hugged her kids going out the door to school. She hugged her friends when they dropped by for coffee. Phyllis hugged me. Long and tight. Her arms conveyed her message of abundant love.”

Katsuko

Katsuko: “looked me in the eyes and continued speaking in Japanese, as if she was talking to another Japanese person, not a 16-year-old, blond, blue-eyed American
girl. …She smiled at me, right through the confused look on my face, offering a non-hug, hug-equivalent moment of “it’s going to be ok.” But she revealed nothing about herself, her doubts about my being there, how upset she was with her husband for signing up for this added responsibility of hosting a student for a year. She showed me the way through the drugstore to the entryway. We took off our shoes and stepped up into the kitchen.“

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