Tuesday, March 9, 2004

First Memory of Sadness

We were way up high in a New York Hotel. My parents had waited eight years for this furlough to go back to America to see family and friends. But why such deep sadness? Why the tears on my mother’s face and her grief?

Daddy was comforting her while Shirley and I sat on the bed bewildered. Why was this piece of paper in my mother’s hands causing her to cry so bitterly?

It was a telegram sent to the hotel. We had spent many long weeks on the ocean and taken a train trip down the steep mountains of Ethiopia to Djibouti. But nothing stayed in my three-year-old memory except for the deep sadness we felt as we tried to comfort my mother.
My mother’s sister, Elsie, had died. It was an anesthesia death during a routine appendectomy. Elsie had come from her teaching position in Hawaii. It wasn’t until many years later, while reading family letters, that I realized how much her eleven Hanson brothers and sisters loved their sister. She was only twenty-five. She was graceful and lovely with soft auburn hair. She was kindness and optimism personified. There had been letters between Hawaii and Ethiopia filled with the excitement of a coming reunion. Maybe Elsie would even come back to teach in Africa. It was not to be.

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