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September 3, 2007
I was taller than most of the ladies. Tiny Japanese women, former war brides, war refugees, long-time natives of Tacoma, Washington, pioneers, few of them spoke English. My mother bowed, Konichiwa, and smiled, her hands pressed together displaying yellow stained fingers of a seasoned chain smoker while her lipstick cracked apart. I was embarrassed. A couple of women tittered and smiled, Irrasshaimase, panning their cupped hands over the room to indicate we could sit where we wanted. Domo arigato gozaimasu, my mother said. I heard the women whispering Gaijin, Gaijin. They settled into rows, tucking red mats under their knees.