Aiko: Pamela, tell me why we are doing this again?
Pamela: Mom, we’ve been over this a thousand times. I’m working on a project for school. I need to interview someone who’s lived through a major event in American history.
Aiko: And how is that me exactly?
Pamela: Mom, you know how.
Aiko: I just don’t see how my experiences in the camps are worth talking about.
Pamela: That’s because you’ve spent the better part of your life pretending it never happened.
Aiko: You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Pamela: Mom, let’s just start….
Nausea washed over Angela like a wave, causing her to step back and lean up against the wall. Her morning sickness had worsened just since yesterday, but she was playing it off as grief, not pregnancy. No one, not even her husband, knew yet. At times she could convince herself it wasn’t morning sickness at all, that the whirlwind of the past few days and the raw emotions of losing her grandmother were still washing over her. But the urge to divest all of the contents of the inside of her body was too strong to be mere lamentation.
It was all just too much. Some people say that the death of an older person isn’t as sad. Many people had come up to her in recent hours and offered the consolation, ‘your grandmother lived a long, full life.’ But to Angela, that was little relief. Her Obachan was gone, and Angela already missed her.
She stepped into the kitchen and turned the faucet on, letting the water run for a few seconds until it became ice cold. She thrust a mug into the water stream and then greedily drank every last drop before she had even fully turned the faucet back to off. ‘The baby is thirsty,’ she thought to herself.
She hung her head down low, surprised at how quickly she had started to think of the world in terms of what the baby felt and wanted. She confirmed its existence less than 48 hours before and her whole world perspective had already changed. When would the baby let her eat?
Carl would be thrilled. More than thrilled. He’d been wanting kids for years now. But she still couldn’t bring herself to tell him. Part of her thought she was being magnanimous, not wanting to steal the thunder from honoring her grandmother. But, really, she just wasn’t ready yet. She had resisted having children for so long. For her, a child would be the last step in the entire white-out of her family line. The culminate consequence of marrying a white man, just like her mother had before her, both choosing love over heritage. The sadness of that, the loss of their race and history, on top of the loss of her actual grandmother, was almost too much to bear.
She placed the mug back in the sink and re-entered the living room, witnessing mingling, quiet sipping of tea, and eating of finger foods. She made eye contact with Carl and couldn’t help herself but smile. He gave her a classic Carl wink, a wink she used to find incredibly annoying but now could only find endearing. It was her wink now, hers and his, a wink they shared forever.
As she turned to walk towards him she noticed her aunt walking up the stairs carrying a large wooden box. Angela had seen the box before, something that lived in the childhood bedroom her mother and Pamela shared. Angela couldn’t help but wonder how it had made its way downstairs, and why Pamela was now carrying it back up.
She followed Pamela up the stairs, close behind as Pamela sat down on her old bed, gently touching the box with her fingers, delicately tracing its borders. Pamela looked up at her and smiled.
“Come, sit,” she said as she patted the bed. Angela sat down, waiting for her favorite aunt to speak.
“I brought this downstairs, looking for you, and here you are, finding me.”
It was such a cryptic opening line, Angela didn’t quite know what to say. She decided to keep waiting, to see what Pamela would say next.
“I don’t know if your mother ever told you, but many years ago I took it upon myself play the role of family historian. It started with a school project, and continued on rather ferociously for a time. I went around interviewing people, recording their memories and experiences. I even stole journals from your mother,” Pamela paused with a light laugh, “salacious as they were.”
“You stole mom’s journals?” Angela asked. Curiosity burned through her, adding to her nausea. There were so many things about her mother she didn’t know.
“Yes, although I haven’t thought about them in years. I kept everything in this box. And as soon as Mama died, I remembered it. And I ran to the house to make sure the box was still here. That she hadn’t thrown it out. That the recordings of her voice and her story were still safe. That we didn’t lose all of her at once.”
“You have recordings? Recordings of Obachan?”
“Yes. All on tape. It was state-of-the-art technology at the time,” Pamela laughed. “And now I’m worried they will all turn to dust.” She turned and looked at Angela. “So I want you to have them.”
“So I can convert them to a digital format? I’d be happy to…”
Pamela cut her off. “No. That’s not the reason. Although I suppose that would be nice,” she paused. “No, I want you to have them because I want you to hear these stories from my mom and from yours. So you can learn where you came from, so you can share it with your sons and daughters.”
Angela took in a shocked breath. Could Pamela know? She must only be a few weeks along. Was it already that obvious?
Pamela lifted her hand off the box and placed it on Angela’s cheek. “So many years, and so much inner conflict. I have seen it in you. Your life pulling you in too many directions. Your resistance to being who you are, someone made up of more than one thing. It’s my hope that these stories will help you. Show you. That the color of your skin, the shape of your eyes, the make-up of your ethnicity, cannot change where you have come from or your family story. That even if that baby you are carrying comes out with blonde hair and blue eyes like Carl, he… or she… will still be part of Obachan’s story.”
“How did you…?” Angela began to ask, but was rendered speechless.
Pamela handed her the box. “Because I know you.” She stood up and walked towards the door. “But don’t worry, I don’t think anyone else has noticed. Loss can mask many things.”
Pamela walked back towards Angela and held out her hand. Angela took it. “Congratulations my sweet angel. I am so happy for you.” She squeezed Angela’s hand and then turned around and walked out the door.
Angela sat...Continue Reading