My friends and I had been a trio for as long as I could remember. We latched on to ourselves in the sand box many years ago, all three of us not yet school bound. I remember our mothers initially sat apart, watching nervously as their children hung on to each other, pouring sand into buckets, holding hands, singing songs we taught ourselves and speaking in a language unified in love. My mother was African. She braided my hair and added beads to the ends of my corn rows. She dressed me in brightly colored tie and dye dresses and adorned my neck with white cowrie necklaces and my feet shod in matching sandals. Her hair was full and more often than naught left to frame her round, lovely face. She wore long ankara skirts and thin strapped tops. My mother’s attire always matched mine. She show cased her heritage with brio and carried herself with such grace, people were always drawn to us. Like bees to honey, we had quite a following on the playground.
My friends were Lily and Anna. Lily’s mother was Japanese and we all called her Pearl, even her daughter. She was a tiny slip of a woman with hair the color of night. Her hair was long and full and hung like a curtain just below her bottom. She always wore dark colored pants and bright colored flip flops. Lily was a smaller version of her mother, her hair cut in a mullet. Anna’s parents were from some Scandinavian back water. They had migrated when she was a little over a year old. Her mother was a good head taller than mine, blue eyes, blonde hair, built like an athlete. She always wore trainers and sweat pants, her laugh was infectious. She was my favorite. I called her Mana, even though her name was Rose. Anna didn’t look anything like her mother though, her hair was dark, her nose a cute little button, her limbs were dimpled.
The mothers were united in their circumstances. My father worked long hours. My mother was satisfied being my primary care giver. Memories of my father back then was of a huge birth of a man who swung me into his arms while I teetered in between sleep and consciousness. He would hold me close to his chest, his stubby chin scratching my soft cheek. He would kiss me all over my face and whisper “Iya mi“. As the years plied on, my father’s hours were reduced and my mother took on work as a librarian in our district. I spent more time with him. When I spoke to him about those nights when I was younger, he blinked back tears and expressed such joy that I remembered. I had small crevices in my heart where I hid delightful memories of my childhood. We all lived in the same apartment building, which housed the play ground where we first became friends. We all attended the same school and always sought ourselves out during recess. No one could penetrate that bubble of love.
As we grew older and a wave of financial prosperity enveloped our parents, we saw a potential pulling away. My parents were talking about buying a home in the suburbs and leaving the city. Anna’s parents were eyeing property in another state, her father had taken a higher management position and had moved a year before. The back and forth between states over the weekends was taking its toll on his sensibilities. Lily’s parents were talking about going back to Japan. Her paternal grand father had passed away, leaving a tidy fortune behind-there was no need to struggle for the American dream; the Japanese dream had become a reality. It was possibly our last summer together, we were thirteen respectively. When my parents asked if I wanted to go to summer camp, I said no. I asked if I could take a trip with my friends knowing they were making similar requests. There was a lot of debate, the mothers speaking to themselves on the phone. A lot of whispering during car pool, with us three seated at the back. I felt a sense of panic as summer approached.
Eventually, our parents decided to take us to a family camp. The day I was told, I was ecstatic. I packed my bags and told my parents, I wanted to ride with Mana. My father chuckled and said if Mana didn’t mind, he didn’t care. The drive to Lake Huron was shrouded in a fog of sleep. I had been so giddy at the prospect of the journey, I hardly got any sleep the night before. And so, the minute I strapped on my seat belt, I fell into such a fitful slumber-I have no recollection of the beautiful landscape my friends captured on their cameras. They also mischievously made a short video of me snoring loudly with fries stuck in my corn rows. We all stayed in log cabins, a cabin for each family. Lily’s father surprised us in the morning with fish and fries for breakfast, he knew it was our favorite. We ate all our meals outside facing the lake, on wooden benches, our paper plates cradled on our thighs. By evening we had forgotten about the benches and taken permanent residence on an old blanket Mana brought with her. We took long swims and chased ourselves around the cabins, played hopscotch and monopoly.
It was the first time in a long time all our parents were together. The quest to provide had ensured an incomplete circle. My friends and I stayed up long into the night, Mana had brought along a tent big enough for us three. The tent was pitched strategically from all three cabins; each parent had a view from their bedroom window. We talked about our past, spoke incessantly about the present and shied away from the future. At the end of the summer, Lily had started her period-another stamp on change. My parents also seemed to find something that summer. Long hours apart and the routine that befalls married couples had put a damper on their relationship. By the end of the summer, I noticed an awakening between them, a light in my mother’s eyes, a bounce in my father’s step. They lingered more in each others arms and seemed to see each other more clearly. The jaunt had brought a great gift to us all.
Our journey back was cloaked in silence. Each knowing, each accepting. I hit the ground running when I started high school in the fall. Lily and her family returned to Japan. Skype made the transition easier. Anna and I stayed united for longer. Our parents moved to the same suburb and we attended the same high school because her father was transferred back. We both did our happy dance to Pharrel’s song when we found out. Though we know change is inevitable and distance will eventually separate us, for now, we will bask in the euphoria of the added lease our bond has been given.