When my mother first arrived in Washington, D.C., she stepped out of Union Station, entranced by the cherry blossoms. Those pink-and-white flowers blooming from the trees must have looked like a technicolor Oz, far from the green moss and brown bayous of small-town Louisiana she’d just left behind. She was nineteen then and had never been farther than Texas; well-wishers advised her to not reveal that she was from out of town so she wouldn’t get scammed. So she and her sister Liz jostled together in the back seat of a cab and acted unimpressed by all the sights—Oh, just the White House? The Capitol? We’ve seen it all before. But it must have been hardest for my mother to pretend to ignore the cherry blossoms. She told me this story once, years ago, and I like to think about my mother then, long before she was a mother, a woman I will never know. I like imagining her in the back seat of that cab, in awe of the world.
Brit Bennett is the author of The Mothers.
Excerpt from the new book Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them (Abrams Image), collected and edited by Edan Lepucki. © Brit Bennett and Edan Lepucki.