Tales from the Willow Tree

Monday, July 11, 2011

June 1944: Desert Birth

My father, Yoshizo Yoshimura, born in Salt Lake City, was twenty-six at the time of my birth. My mother, Sachie, twenty-three, was born in Portland, Oregon. Both were American citizens, Japanese Americans—now confined to a camp in the California desert, Manzanar Relocation Center, surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gun turrets.

On June 14, 1944, my mother stepped out of Apt. 1 of Building 2 in Block 20. She and my father left their three-year-old son Johnny asleep on a government-issue blanket and cot back in the tarpaper barracks in the care of a young woman in Apt. 2, just on the other side of a blanket partition. Holding my father’s arm, Sachie crossed the sandy walkway to another hastily constructed green-wood barrack that had been converted into a hospital. Sagebrush and sand devils kicked about by the constant wind blew across her pathway.

Mama said she almost died giving birth to me. That she didn’t was likely a result of the patient skill and care of her Japanese American doctor, also confined at Manzanar.

I think about that young woman, her own mother and family across the ocean in Japan, which was engaged then in a terrible war with the United States. Six years earlier, Grandmother Minae Aono had put her bright-eyed seventeen-year-old daughter on a ship to return to the United States where she had been born, believing that her Sachie would be safe and would have a good future in this country. Grandmother Minae wouldn’t know about her daughter’s experiences until years later, after the war ended, after the atomic bombs had been dropped.

I think about giving birth in a hostile country, in a hostile environment, without the comfort of a husband —fathers were not allowed in delivery rooms in those days. What does a young woman fear when the contractions become so strong that the body feels as if it will be rent in two? And what does a young woman think when there is little comfort and not enough medication to keep the labor pains at bay and the labor continues for twelve, fifteen, twenty hours—into the next day?

In a quiet moment one afternoon, my aging mother told me that the thing that hurt her most when she was forced from her home in Los Angeles and moved to Manzanar was having to sell Johnny’s new baby furniture. He was the first born and had won the “Cutest Baby” contest that year. Mama’s hurt in being unable to shelter Johnny, to amuse him with new things, soft things, was still raw decades later. I think about that young woman, my mother.

There were many mothers and grandmothers in Manzanar. And when I flew to California to be with my daughter Tomo and new granddaughter Malia Sachie, I realized that Mama would have wanted to be with her own mother during childbirth. A few of the women gently helped Sachie as she recovered from the long labor and tried to breastfeed her newborn. But the milk didn’t flow easily at first, and Sachie had to bargain with other mothers to get enough milk for the infant.

When I was with Malia, I became the official diaper-changer by choice. I would sing to her, and sometimes the changing would take more than fifteen minutes because Malia became so relaxed—I started referring to “two- and three-diaper-change” changes. But she was always clean and fresh by the end of the process, and we would have exchanged smiles and engaged in grandmother-granddaughter small talk.

I wondered how my mother kept me clean—which she would have done meticulously—since the latrines and washing areas were in buildings separate from the barracks. And what happened at night, when I would wake, like newborns everywhere, soiled and hungry, when the mess halls were also in buildings separate from the barrack apartments? Did Mama have to cross the sandy walkways in the moonlight to get water to clean me? Did Mama have to dodge the sagebrush blowing about to get to the mess hall to find more milk?

I looked at little Malia in her bassinet and admired the new crib in her sunlit second-floor bedroom with cool breezes coming in the window, and I thought of my mother trying to make a soft place for me to sleep as I squirmed and squalled, hungry and fretful. I imagined Mama moving as close to the rough wooden wall as she could, tucking me in next to her on the army cot, her arm gently cradling me. There I would fall asleep each night for the first nine months of my life—secure and fiercely loved, warmed, and protected by a young mother whose dark eyes and dark hair were reflected in her newborn infant.

As I was growing up, watching my Japanese American mother, she never directly said to me “I love you.” But to help Papa support our growing family, she’d work into the night sewing housecoats to take to the factory boss the next week. She never directly said “I love you.” But she baked loaves of bread, canned tomatoes and peaches, and took the time to teach me how to cook rice and clean the kitchen and feel competent in the doing. Mama never directly said “I love you,” but she sewed and mended for her tribe of eleven children, and we were properly clothed for any occasion. She never openly praised me either, but attended every parent-teacher meeting, every piano recital, and every school event.

I think of my mother as a young woman in circumstances I will never know. No, my mother never directly said “I love you” until very late in her life, but I remember that whenever I sat next to Mama—at school, at church, at various events—I felt safe, content, secure, and loved. How did she manage, and how did I ever doubt that she loved me?

June 1997: High School Yearbook

Toby, the newly married grandson, greets Grandmother Sachie with his usual cheerfulness. It barely covers the concern in his voice. His bride, with a smile, gently greets Grandmother and grasps her once-strong hands.

Grandmother is awake but a little groggy from the morphine required to quell the pain deep inside her wasting body, which in decades past gave birth to many vigorously healthy infants. Words are quietly shared.

Then a wrenching sob emerges from Grandmother’s throat, filling the silent spaces in adjoining rooms. Startled, Sachie’s oldest daughter quickly enters the room as Grandmother pleads: “Don’t let her be alone, Toby. Don’t let her be alone . . . don’t let her be lonely.”

Toby looks at Grandmother, then at his bride, but he has no point of reference. Puzzled, he says, “I won’t."

The couple leave the bedroom, now swathed in shadows at sunset. The daughter approaches the bed, looking intently at her mother’s pain-wracked face and withered body, and recollects a wedding portrait taken of a luminous, beaming young Sachie some fifty years earlier.

Trying to understand the grandmother’s plea to the grandson, the daughter leans over the bed railing and asks quietly, “You were very lonely, weren’t you, Mama?”

And her mother, who seldom complains or cries, who has been the recognized source of strength and encouragement for a boisterous clan of eleven children, twenty-five grandchildren, and husband Yoshizo, looks at her oldest daughter with unbearably sad eyes and replies, in a whisper, “Yes.” Searching her mother’s anguished face, the daughter grasps for the meaning of this simple answer.

Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1921, her mother had returned to Japan when she was three years old to be educated and to grow up in a comfortable hillside home overlooking Hiroshima. Sachie came back to America when she was seventeen.

An arranged marriage took place, and a son, Hajime (Johnny), was born a year later. Some seventeen months after his birth, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the family was forced into Manzanar Relocation Camp, set in a desolate California valley where sand and snow blew through chinks in the uninsulated tarpaper barrack walls. They had lost their grocery store, called Jimmy’s Courtesy Market, along with a modest but comfortable home and most of their possessions, following the two-week notice that they were being evacuated from Los Angeles. Because Sachie was fluent only in Japanese, husband Yoshizo and barrack neighbors helped her learn English. Always a bright student, she practiced speaking and writing diligently, but the loneliness of those endless days and years in Manzanar was lifted only by conversations with elders who spoke Japanese, by playing with her firstborn son, and, after the passage of three more years, by taking care of a newborn daughter.

For more than three years, Sachie looked past Manzanar’s barbed-wire fences to the barren desert landscape framed by mountains. At times, distant Mount Whitney reminded her of Mount Fuji, thousands of miles across the ocean to the west. For three years while America and Japan were at war in the Pacific, there was only one communication with her mother, who sent a telegram through the Red Cross. Her mother, Minae, simply wrote, “Come home.” Sachie received nothing more, and she did not hear from her younger sister or brother, who remained in Hiroshima. Nor was Sachie able to learn what her high school classmates at Yaseda Girls School were doing, what their lives were like during the war.

By March 1945, when Sachie’s daughter was nine months old, the young family was able to leave the desert camp. With one-way train tickets east and a government stipend of twenty-five dollars per family member, the young family hoped to restart life in Chicago. In one of the suitcases carrying their meager possessions, Sachie had carefully wrapped her treasured high school yearbook, which had been kept safely hidden from the military soldiers and police who had rounded them up years earlier.

In Manzanar, the cherished yearbook had reminded her of classmates left behind and of joyful shared experiences. From time to time, while sitting alone in the barracks, Sachie had gazed for long moments at the yearbook’s black-and-white photos of students learning to conduct a proper tea ceremony, arranging flowers, and playing classical Japanese instruments. The photographs brought back memories of mathematics taught by a stern and exacting sensei (teacher), friendly games of volleyball in gym class, and laughter-filled days at the beach, swimming in the Pacific Ocean’s strong currents. In one picture her friends are wearing black swimsuits, but Sachie wears white; her smile is playful and sunny.

After graduation, some classmates worked for a few months with Sachie at the post office, where she successfully tested for and won a coveted position. But, agreeing with Sachie that her future would be too limited in Japan, Minae arranged for her daughter to sail under the supervision and protection of a friend, Mrs. Mori, who was returning to her own husband and family in America.

Hundreds of excited passengers and well-wishers crowded the pier. Laughter mingled with shouts of farewell, words of caution, and good luck wishes. In the midst of this boisterous human hubbub, before boarding the ship docked in Yokohama Harbor, Sachie turned to her mother and bowed several times, murmuring words of respect, gratitude, and thanks for all that had been done for her. Minae smiled at Sachie, believing and trusting that her beautiful, adventurous daughter would be safe in America. In the steamer trunk Sachie and her mother had packed a few kimonos, several Western-style dresses, and books, including the yearbook. In her senior-class photograph, Sachie was one of 121 faces, young women with shiny black hair worn pulled back or braided, their eyes bright, perhaps seeing future possibilities. Many pages were inscribed with good wishes penned by Yaseda Girls School classmates and teachers.

The good wishes were sometimes transformed by Sachie into prayers against suffering and a shield against loneliness.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, Yaseda Girls School and most, if not all, of Sachie’s former classmates and teachers ascended to the heavens in an atomic mushroom cloud that burst bright against the clear horizon, their voices and hopes lost forever in the roar of the monstrous blast.

In the decades that passed, Sachie never brought out the yearbook for her family to see. Only in quiet moments alone did she take the book from her dresser drawer and look at the hopeful faces—Kae, Mariko, Michiko, Tomo, Yae, Kazuko, and other school friends with whom she had shared dreams.

When memories weighed on her too heavily, she lifted this shield against loneliness and put the book away.

Now gravely ill and too weak to attend the wedding of a grandson to another bright-eyed, dark-haired young woman, Sachie no longer has strength to raise the shield against the loneliness in her life. “Don’t let her be alone,” she says, weeping. “Don’t let her be lonely.”

And Sachie’s oldest daughter sees that after all the years of making so many others feel secure, protected, and loved, Mama is really, finally, pleading for herself.

December 1930: Peach Blossom

Mama said that the low-hanging branches of the graceful willow tree are swayed by the spirits of the dead. She shared this brief observation one evening while preparing sushi for the family meal.

Mama was not trying to scare me with this bit of folklore from her Japanese heritage. It was simply an insight about the constancy of ancestral spirits in our day-to-day reality. Her remark compelled me to consider and listen carefully to all family stories.

The death certificate from the Buddhist Temple reports that Momoko died in Los Angeles on December 1, 1930, one day after being born. My father’s sister, Aunt Diane, tells me, “That isn’t true. I went to the Buddhist Temple to pray for her. I was happy to find her after so many decades. They did have a death certificate written in Japanese. As part of tradition, when the deceased soul is entering the afterlife, the Buddhist monk gave Momoko a new name, Shakumi. Momoko may have been the first infant whose ashes were interred in a little room at the temple.”

Some sixty-nine years earlier, Diane, a child then herself, had tried to console a baby who twisted and turned her head in search of a mother’s breast, in search of comfort and milk. Diane knows that the infant her mother named Momoko, “Peach Blossom,” lived for a month, crying, cold, soiled, neglected.

“My father was a Japanese soldier,” Diane says. “He served in the Russian-Japanese War when he was a teenager. Something must have happened in the war. To me, he was a beastly man, and in those days we were all scared of him. . . . If you did anything he didn’t like or put up a simple fuss, there would be a terrible consequence. I used to dodge away from him when I was young.

“I only remember one thing he told me about the war. Once he opened a door of a hut. A young Chinese woman was crouched in a corner; her clothes were pulled down a bit, and her shoulder was bare. Some of my father’s comrades said they were going to enjoy using the woman. Then they saw that she was nursing an infant. Father stopped his friends and reminded them that they were supposed to leave nursing mothers alone. Another friend started to shout in anger and wanted to shoot the woman. Father pushed his pal out of the hut and said that their captain might hear about this violation and likely have all of them shot.

“Growing up in Katsuyama, Papa learned to obey his parents, his teachers, and other village elders. When he joined the army, he obeyed without question,” Diane explains. “Then, when you have a family, each family member has a defined role and responsibilities and clearly understood rules of behavior. I was supposed to always act like a proper young woman. I wanted to go to college, but Papa said I should learn secretarial skills. He was very strict and I knew I had to obey. I knew there was no point in complaining.”

Remembering life so long ago, Diane reflects, “Mother Shizu was petite and attractive. She didn’t want to leave Japan. She wanted to stay in Katsuyama, where they got married, but Father believed his fortune could be made in America.

“After dinner was done, Mama would sit on the front steps of our little house and tell us stories of raccoons that danced in the moonlight in front of the temple sitting high on the mountain, of dragonflies that flitted around colorful lanterns on festival nights, of shoguns and samurai who protected villages against foreign invaders. But as we grew older, we heard fewer stories. I think everyday life in a place of stony-faced strangers took its toll. Few would even try to understand when she asked for street directions or when she needed to buy things at the neighborhood grocery. I think it just wore her down.”

Diane looks at her own graceful, shapely hands and remembers, “The skin on Mama’s delicate hands was wrinkled and blue-veined. One time, Jimmy, he was about twelve years old, caught her hand when she tripped in a field of ripening pumpkins that they were harvesting. Jimmy told me he was surprised at the roughness of her palm and the boniness of her fingers.

“Mother Shizu’s large brown eyes used to sparkle in a face often graced by a smile of delight or mischief. It was a look that captivated all of us, and had likely enchanted our father when they met at the Katsuyama teahouse where she was working. But the lightness and joy drained from her face. Over the years, Papa’s drunken curses and his beatings, which usually began at night, finally drove my mother away.

“He could only get low-paying jobs, even though he worked very hard and many long hours, because he wasn’t educated and couldn’t speak English well. We were very poor and never had enough money,” Diane said.

Kichigoro’s meager pay often did not last through the month, so after the children were old enough to go to school, Shizu found work in a nearby drinking house frequented by Japanese immigrants—fishermen, farmers, dockworkers, gamblers—men who appreciated her beauty and quiet manner. Unable to bring their wives and sweethearts from Japan because of immigration laws, these hard-muscled young men with dark-lashed eyes that betrayed their needs teased her and tipped generously.

In Katsuyama’s teahouse, if men became too loud or rowdy, they would be put out on the street. But here Shizu watched raucous patrons sing popular songs from home, play cards, and shout challenges to each other as they shared bottles of warm sake and expensive Western whiskeys. One night a man dragged his woman companion from the tatami room by her ankle, both too drunk to know how ridiculous they looked. The man pressed a handful of ten-dollar bills into the top of Shizu’s obi sash before he stumbled out the door with his disheveled lady.

Shizu often earned more at the drinking house than she made harvesting farm crops or taking in laundry. She always brought Kichigoro her pay and tip money, but he received her efforts with sarcasm and angry accusations. “Kichigoro was ashamed that his wife worked in such a place,” Diane says. “He was further ashamed that she made more money than he did. ‘Mitomonai. Mitomonai. It’s shameful!’ he would shout, and his drunken frustration and rage would transform his face and work-hardened hands into fearsome things. Then he would smack Mother hard. I would shake and tremble when that happened.”

Over time, a frequent patron, a square-faced young man with thick, straight black hair and friendly, dark eyes drew her attention—particularly because of his quiet, confident manner. He asked her name and sometimes followed her home, walking behind at a distance—a protector more than a seducer. So different from the angry, drunken Kichigoro who yelled and struck Shizu. After one tumultuous night, Shizu sought comfort from the dark-eyed stranger, who told her that he earned a comfortable living by gambling.

With the harvesting season done, Kichigoro no longer came home spent and bone-weary. He was playful with his two sons and daughter and helped Shizu with household tasks. He accepted that her income was needed, and his pride-driven anger turned to teasing and grunting appreciation. At times in the midst of drinking bouts with his army friends, Kichigoro would boast loudly that despite his age, at day’s end he was still strong enough to touch his woman’s softness. His anger was absent during the months that Shizu’s belly swelled, and the house was unusually peaceful. Before Momoko was born, Shizu told her three children of the hope and dreams she had for the child that was coming.

In early November, after the girl baby was born and the birthing fluids wiped from her skin, Kichigoro stared hard. While the midwife was trying to clear bloody towels and sheets soiled by the birth from their bed, Kichigoro sneered, and Diane could hear him shout that this “number four” child was not his. Though dark-haired, the fair-skinned baby with moon-arched eyebrows did not resemble his other three children. Shizu’s head was bowed, and she shuddered at Kichigoro’s use of the word shi. “Shi,” says Aunt Diane, “translated as the number four, but shineen translated not as ‘four people’ but as ‘dead people.’”

Shizu looked at the delicate, perfect features of the infant’s face and whispered that her name would be Momoko, “little Peach Blossom.” Momoko instinctively began rooting for her mother’s nipple and the warm milk that would flow.

Four days after the baby was born, a terrible quarrel that lasted into the night ended with Kichigoro hitting Shizu, shoving her out the door, and flinging her down the front porch stairs. She caught onto the cold metal banister to keep her balance. At the bottom of the steps, Shizu stood in front of their little house in her cotton nightgown and bare feet. Her long black hair a mess, she tearfully called out, “Diane, you come with me. Come, Diane.”

“But I was only seven, trembling with fear,” Diane says. “I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. How could I leave my father, my brothers, and the bedroom with my kimono-clad dolls and colorful quilt made by Mama? And where could Mother go wearing only a light gown on a chilly night?”

“Come, Diane, Mama will take care,” Shizu said.

“But I leaned against the doorway, a sense of dread growing with each second. My stomach was churning and I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Older brother Jimmy stood next to me, looking at Mother and then Father. I glanced and could see his eyes starting to well up. He pressed his lips tightly to keep from crying out. I think we were hoping that this night would end—like many other nights—with Mother returning to the house to sleep on the couch. Used to such commotion, Papa’s favorite child, Joe, was asleep in a back room, oblivious to the turmoil.”

Papa stood in the doorway, cursing and shaking his rough-veined, mallet-shaped fists at her. “Go into the ocean. Take your children with you. Take the shame with you.”

“Mama backed away a few steps, looked at Jimmy and me, and then retreated into the night darkness,” Diane says.

“Go to bed!” Papa shouted at his children.

Kichigoro’s anger filled the air while good-luck crickets and vigilant night birds kept silent. Diane’s desire to go with her mother was prohibited by her father’s command, and she darted to the safety of her bed and quilt. That night a permanent fissure, an unbridgeable crevasse, in feelings for her mother began to form in Diane’s heart.

The shouting had waked Momoko, who began crying. Shizu could surely hear the infant’s mewing, but she was afraid to go back into the house that night. After this, never letting her family know where she was and moving from workplace to workplace to avoid being found by Kichigoro, Shizu decided to live.

Shizu chose to be different from other Japanese mothers who, in moments of hopelessness, followed tradition by strapping their infants onto their backs or holding their children’s trusting hands to walk into the sea: the salty ocean waves would soon engulf its victims. No cries or weeping would be heard, only the rhythmic noise of the water dashing against the rock-lined shore and the call of seagulls.

“Nobody fed my little sister. Nobody did anything,” Diane says. “I remember carrying the baby outside; I went looking for somebody. I would carry her and sing ‘Akatombo,’ a song about red dragonflies. I opened the refrigerator and saw milk. I remember thinking this is not the kind of milk a baby should have. Little sister was crying, whimpering. So I took the milk and poured it into a bottle. Maybe the bottle wasn’t clean enough, but I didn’t know. My mother wasn’t around. She had left.”

Shizu went home once for a few minutes while everyone was away. She grabbed a few clothes and documents and left a single piece of chocolate for her oldest son, Jimmy. Jimmy came home from school and saw the treat, nestled in brown waxed paper with pleated edging, which had been placed on the top of his wooden dresser. A cool winter breeze blew through cracks in the window frame, riffling the curtain and letting shards of the afternoon sun play into the small, spare bedroom.

“I saw Jimmy standing at his bedroom door, staring at the chocolate. ‘I won’t eat it until she comes back,’ he said to no one in particular. Each night after that, after finishing dinner and homework, Jimmy would whisper to me that he was going out to look for their mother again. ‘Where?’ I would whisper back. Jimmy would shrug his shoulders and shake his head.”

For five days, the chocolate sat atop his dresser next to his balsa airplane and some of his school papers marked with “A” or comments of “excellent.” Joe pestered him for the candy, but Jimmy shoved his brother away with the threat of a beating if the chocolate was disturbed. Sitting on the floor with Momoko in her lap, Diane glanced up at her brothers and said nothing.

But Shizu didn’t return for Momoko. Too frightened to look through the house, she’d fled with her meager possessions. And did she later overhear some women on a street corner talking about a newborn baby who had died at birth and been cremated at the Buddhist Temple?

“My father would not pay any attention to the baby. He was not treating Momoko like a daughter. I would yell, ‘Momoko is crying. Give her something! Do something! . . . Baby miruku [milk], baby miruku!’ But nobody came. So I put a nipple on the bottle and Momoko was drinking milk like she couldn’t drink enough. Her tiny fists and eyes were closed tight as she sucked the milk. She was hungry, so hungry.

“I was a new student in the first-grade class and hadn’t made any friends yet. So every afternoon, at the end of the schoolday, I ran home to see if Mama had returned. And I wanted to see Momoko. I was glad to have a little sister. Papa was often at work cleaning and fixing things at a small hotel or working at some truck farm. To help with home expenses, older brother Jimmy got a stockroom job in a food market. I remember he worked hard and bought me a new red coat when the weather got really cold. Joe usually went to play at his friend Shorty’s house."

“My father forbade any of us to take care of the baby. My brothers obeyed Father. Jimmy would leave the house. He said Momoko’s crying was too sad. When I got home from school, she would be off crying in this little dark room. I couldn’t stand it. No one else would be home. Even though I might get hit, I didn’t care what my father said. Nobody changed her diaper and nobody would feed her. But I would try. I didn’t even know how to carry her right, but I would pick her up. I would carry her everywhere."

“I’d run in and say, ‘Momo, I’m here,’ and I’d pick her up and take her to the kitchen. I’d fill a bottle, sit with her on the floor, and try to feed her. Sometimes, if she had a wet or dirty diaper, I’d look for a towel or rag to clean her. But she didn’t seem to get dirty very often. One day there was no milk in the refrigerator, and I asked Papa to bring some home, but he threw his shoe at me and shouted, ‘There is no money. You should not be wasting milk on that one!’"

“Sometimes I’d put the milk bottle that was handed out at lunchtime in my schoolbag and bring it home for Momoko. But some days all I had to put in her bottle was water or cold tea. Once I tried to feed her mashed-up rice from the pot on the stove, but she was too little to eat, and she just choked."

“When I got home the front door would bang shut behind me, and then I’d hear Momoko start to cry. One day she didn’t cry when the door banged. I ran to pick her up. She seemed so small. I carried her to my doll crib, laid her down, and covered her with a kimono quilt that mother had made. Momoko fit just right in that toy crib. Her eyelids opened, and her dark eyes looked like little diamonds. I saw her mouth make sucking movements. I touched her short dark hair that felt soft around her face. Her doll-like hands that usually would be clenched when she cried were limp. I rocked her in my doll’s crib and sang the ‘Red Dragonflies’ song. And then I sang the ‘Tumbling Acorn’ song and told Momoko that I would teach her that song when she got bigger. I looked at my little sister and said, ‘Maybe you need to take a nap? You look so sleepy, Momoko.'"

“‘Mama’s going to come home,’ I said. ‘Mama always does.’ I put my arm on the crib and looked closely at Little Sister. I felt scared, and I felt so lonely. Momoko didn’t cry. She just looked at me. And then I heard Momoko cough and make a soft windlike sound. Her face was turned to me, and then she didn’t make any more sounds."

“I saw Momoko’s coffin. I saw her funeral. Then they lowered her little coffin into a huge oven.” Nearly seven decades later, Diane says she can still hear the deep huuuummph sound of the gas-fueled fire that consumed Momoko and her coffin. “The adults were all sitting there behind me. I was sitting alone in the front row. It brought nightmares to me,” she says.

Now a mother of three adult sons and a grandmother to several lively, healthy children, Diane stares intently out the window of her neat living room. Her short-cropped dark hair is streaked with silver. Her most notable feature, though, is the kindness illuminating her face and the evident tenderness that briefly comforted an infant.

“After all these years,” my aunt says to me, “I think, golly, that was my little sister. My only sister. How I would have loved having a sister to grow up with. And after all these years, when I recall her little face, I see some of Mama. And sometimes, I think I see some of Papa.”

Friday, July 1, 2011