Part 2 - Mom & Dad
Peaches was trying to recall her memories of
her parents. She is sure that her father is a tall man. Whenever he used to lift
her up onto his lap, she would inhale the special scent of his aftershave. She
would recognize that smell even now after all that time. She wants again to
touch his chin because she remembered it used to feel so funny like sandpaper.
About her mommy, she cannot recall so clear a picture except for the goodnight
kiss she would plant on her forehead every night after reading a bedtime story.
She heard her
mother's voice on the phone telling her they had landed, that they were in the
process of collecting their luggage and would be coming out to join her and Aunt
Bette soon. She had spoken to her mother several times on the phone before and
had seen some pictures they had sent her, but the young girl was still anxious
about meeting these two people who had created her but were now like virtual
strangers, globe travelers who had left their little girl behind. Her mother's
English was strongly accented; she could hardly place the language that coloured
her mother's speech so.
Peaches' parents were in diplomatic service and had made a decision very early
on to spare their child the rigours of changing homes every few years. She was
left in the care of her Aunt Bette who had taken care of her for many years now
ever since that tragic night in Saigon; the night that all the older folks were
very careful not to mention in her presence. Peaches loved sharing Aunt Bette's
home. She never felt alone or unloved in her aunt's care, but changing homes is
something they had done. After Saigon, Aunte Bette had whisked the young child
away on a whirlwind tour of the world before they finally settled on the small
island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean where the days were peacefully warm and the
seasons unchanging. They had just returned to Aunt Bette's childhood home in
Scotland last summer as it was decided that the opportunities for schooling
would be better in the UK.
"Peaches, darling," Aunt Bette said softly in her ear. "They are here."
At least, Peaches reached her parents, after a
moment of hesitation. Something has changed in her parent's appearance: they
have both lost weight, they have gotten tans. As she embraced her father, she
noticed he has changed his aftershave. This one is stronger. It reminds her of a
flower's fragrance but she couldn't find its name. Her parents were moved and
happy. They were constantly repeating, "You have grown up!"
Peaches was so anxious that as she reached for them to hug,she was wondering if
these were her parents, she reminisced the time when they brought her chocolates
whenever they arrived from a trip. Aunt Bette was hugging her brother and said;
welcome back Joshua, as her brother hugged her, he whispered;" how are the
kids?". Joshua was divorced from his previous marriage and had 3 sons from his
previous marriage. While Peaches' Mom was so busy getting something from her
bag. Peaches wanted to ask about her chocolates and suddenly her Mom surprised
her and said;"Peaches look what I've got for you". Her eyes were glittering as
she smiled and said: "oh Mom how I love it, thank you very much".
from India! But a big puppet doll!
This puppet has ankles. It's a figure from the mythological epic Maha-Bharata.
Peaches's mother took classes in Hindu puppetry. She wants to show her daughter
how they fly, harvest flowers, dance and sew. It's a marvelous world with its
Her mother brought her Vidouchaka, a comical caracter. He is ugly and full of
fault but he overcomes all the events with the enormity of his words and
The little girl could hardly wait for her aunt
to drive them home where she would have more peace, place and time for all those
nice presents. All of a sudden she remembered something. She caught her father's
gaze and her father instantly knew what she had on her mind so he passed her
with a wide smile.
"Don't worry Peaches, my dear child, I did not forget!"
He lifted her up in his arm and with the other hand propelled the luggage
stroller out the automatic doors towards his sister's car.
quickly lowered Peaches onto the pavement. His little girl had grown up; there
would be no more bouncing on his lap or throwing his baby girl up in the air.
Peaches, for her part, was in an euphoric seventh heaven! She crushed the puppet
to her face and inhaled deeply. It wasn't the chocolates she had anticipated,
and the strong scent of saffron mixed with her father's pungent flowery
aftershave was dizzying, but she was thrilled for this gift and for the
opportunity to hold her parents in her arms.
"Oh Bette dear, I have so much to tell you!" Bertie's companion rambled on. She
hadn't stopped babbling since they all had set eyes on each other. Bette smiled
gingerly then more broadly.
When the couple had first crossed the waiting area to greet them, Bette had been
taken aback by this ebullient woman who seemed so caring and affectionate. She
had wrinkled her brow, twitched her nose and laughed contently to herself as she
had wondered who in the world this charming and effervescent woman could be.
Same hair, same eyes, same voice, but oh so not the Maudrianna who had fled
Saigon all those years ago. Bertie had caught Bette's puzzled look and had given
his wife a knowing look. The redhead had simply planted a loving kiss on her
husband's cheek and just kept right on talking.
"Oh yes, Maude. I am sure you do!" Bette smiled brightly at the woman who was
pulling her gently by the arm. Her brother's wife had made quite a change -
hallelujah!- and she was truly elated to have this delightful Maude by her
"So what would
like for breakfast in the morning? Peaches is a great fan of my 'night before'
"Your what?" Maude broke into a wide grin.
"My 'night before' I tell you," Bette responded as she tried to keep a straight
"Yes, Mum. Aunt Bette makes the greatest 'night befores'. She looks through the
refrigerator and whatever is left over from the night before is seasoned and
mixed with eggs that she beats up and it becomes the most delicious breakfast
ever!" The young girl could barely conceal her excitement. "Will you, Aunt
Bette? Can we have night before for tomorrow? Yes?!"
"Of course, my darling."
Maude's smile dimmed as she observed the affectionate exchange between Bette and
the young girl. She stroked Peaches' silky red hair with more speed and pressure
than she had intended, but Peaches didn't seem to care. The red-head was just
happy to be laying there with her head on her mother's lap and Vidouchaka
smiling down at her from above.
"Peaches, take care with that puppet! I don't think you were meant to pull those
arms out so!"
"Oh Bette, let the girl have some fun!"
Bette's merry smile did not fade but she did pause to wonder what Maude meant by
that. Peaches was always allowed to do as she pleased, with some guidance, of
course. She quickly cleared the remainder of the dishes from the table and
headed for the kitchen to do the washing up. Washing up was Peaches' job, but
she dare not mention that tonight.
"Aunt Bette, that's my job!"
Maude continued to steadily stroke the waves of silky hair.
Peaches went to kitchen. She likes to put
dishes into the dish washer even if in general such work is not considered as
something that people would generally like to do. However, her auntie Bette was
able to show her joy in almost everything. Bette often said, “When things or
tasks are boring, hard or impossible just use your imagination!” It was magical
a sentence, which makes her forget what boring, hard or impossible mean. Of
course, her mum did not know this detail so her last words about “her job” might
have made wrong impression on her mum as if her auntie would take advantage of
her. It was nice that her parents are here but she does not want to lose her
While Peaches went about
her daily routine of turning the evening's dishes into sparkling orbs worthy of
any royals' table, she happened to glance over her shoulder at her mother. Maude
had a look of bewilderment that seemed to make Peaches a little uneasy.
"I wonder if mother believes Aunt Bette to be too strict with me," she thought
to herself. "Worse yet, what if she thinks that my life here has been so horrid
that she takes me away from my dear Aunt?!"
A slight jolt of panic coursed down Peaches' spine. She had to do something, and
fast! She loved her mother with all her heart, but Aunt Bette was the most
familiar person in the room right now.
As Peaches placed the final silverware into the warm sudsy water, she turned to
Aunt Bette and smiled. "Aunt Bette do you remember the first time you asked me
to do the dishes? I was so scared that I would break something or worse yet,
that it would be sooo boring."
"Yes, I remember, Peaches."
"Do you remember what you told me?"
"What did she tell you, darling?" Maude questioned, with just a tad bit of
annoyance in her voice.
"Well Mother, Aunt Bette told me that 'when things or tasks are boring, hard or
impossible just use your imagination!' Now, every time I do the dishes, I get a
chance to imagine all types of different and wonderful things!"
Maude's voice relaxed, and when she spoke to her daughter this time, Peaches
could feel some of the tension leaving the room. "That sounds interesting, dear,
please tell me, what do you imagine?"
Peaches' face lit up, and without hesitation, she began to tell her mother about
her latest story. "Let's see. Last night, when the snow began to fall, I
imagined that the suds in the water were rolling hills that stretched out for
miles at a time. They were all covered with the softest, most delicate dusting
of snowy powder that I had ever seen. The flakes were so light, and moved
through the air as happily as the bubbles that blew up from the soapy water."
Peaches' eyes lowered a little, as if she were in a dream, and her hands became
limp in the sink.
"Then, out of the blue, a sleigh appeared in the distance. Ohhh! It was so
beautiful because it was being pulled by four of the most glorious horses I'd
ever seen! They were the palest of white, as was the sleigh itself, and when the
moon shone down on them, Mother, they looked almost blue!"
"Why Peaches, that is the most enchanting story I've ever heard!" Maude
exclaimed, sounding as if she, too were looking at the distant sleigh coming
"But that's not the best part, Mother! As the sleigh got closer and closer, I
thought it was going to just pass me by. Instead, it started to slow down in
front of our door. A tall, lean coachman jumped down, and I ran to the gate to
see who had come calling. Surely, it must be a Queen or some other sort of
royalty because no mere townsperson could possibly own horses and a sleigh that
magical. I watched intently as the door was being opened, holding my breath, and
preparing myself to do my most regal courtsey. At first, I couldn't see who it
was, then the coachman started to step back to let the sleigh's passenger out."
Peaches stopped suddenly. She had forgotten that her hands were still submersed
in the now cooling water.
"Who was it my love? Please go on, I must know." Maude was on the edge of her
seat. Not surprisingly, so was Bertie. Even Aunt Bette, who had been privy to
the story the previous night, couldn't seem to hold her excitement, either.
"Yes, dearest, please continue," Bertie chimed in.
Peaches picked up the towel that hung on the hook near the sink, and slowly
dried her hands. Looking up, she smiled sweetly at the three people she adored
most in the world.
"Well, the coachman stepped to the side, and that's when I realized that it was
not royalty at all, and not only that, it wasn't just one person. I can imagine
that another person may think this to be a stroke of misfortune to not have the
chance to meet a Queen or a King or a Princess, but I was more elated than
before. Do you really want to know who is was?"
"Yes. Yes, indeed," Maude and Bertie said in unison.
"It was a lovely woman, and a very handsome man. It was you! My loving Mother
and Father!" With that, Peaches ran into her mother's arms.
"Oh.....my!" Maude was speechless as tears welled in her eyes, arms wrapped
tightly around her little girl with silky red hair, and a vivid imagination.
"So you see, Mother," Peaches whispered, "It's a good thing that Aunt Bette has
me do dishes. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to have such lovely stories to tell."
Maude turned to Bette, who also had tears in her eyes. "Thank you."
Those two little words made Peaches feel everything would be all right.
“Josh, do you ever
have moments when you feel that maybe you’ve got your priorities all wrong?”
Bertie continued to remove his trousers, slowly, laboriously, with his head
bowed and an uncharacteristic look of concern on his face. He had been touched
too; he just couldn’t help it. He had seen the bright smiles and had been warmed
by the good feelings that radiated from all their faces as they returned from
the kitchen to join him by the fireplace. Maude and Bette must have been crying;
the redness and slight puffiness of their eyes told him so, but they seemed
happy. Later, when Maude told him what had taken place in the kitchen, about
Peaches – ah Peaches – about the sweetness and candor of the girl, the affection
and ardent wishes that even world notorious fear of embarrassment could not
dampen, he too began to give credence to doubts.
Maude stared absentmindedly at the nickel band that had been strategically
placed to add weight, to make the nightly ritual of brushing her hair with the
tortoise shell brush more like a pleasure than a chore. The Chinese craftsman
had designed it especially for her, to her liking, years after it had been
deemed illegal to use tortoise shells for this purpose. But she had wanted one
and Maude always got what she wanted. Yes, life had been lived that way for as
long as she could remember: wanting and receiving, needing and immediately
having needs fulfilled. But tonight things were different, so much so that she
found herself burdened by feelings that were very unfamiliar to her, by worry.
In fact, she had been so caught up in her own thoughts that she hadn’t even
noticed that her question had gone unanswered.
Bertie finally finished buttoning up his pajamas and slipped under the covers.
Maude removed her duster and she too settled into bed. She reached over and
pulled the string on the lamp and in an instant darkness descended upon the
bedroom. Well, all would have been cloaked in blackness if not for that
inquisitive ray of moonlight, intensified by its reflection on the remaining
cover of snow, that shone crisply through the window and illuminated the wide
valley of space between the two isolated bodies of the man and the woman.
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