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Lions Roar : November 2013
MY MOTHER WAS BORN in 1922 in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of what was then the British colony of Malaya. As the only daugh- ter of a prosperous Chinese merchant family, she enjoyed many luxuries, such as her personal amah, or servant, and the delicacies that were served at every meal. Her own mother was a formidable character. Although in my grandmother’s youth women were still purchased like property, she managed her own finances and rou- tinely traveled to the commercial district to make deals on com- modities with the menfolk. She also delivered food and medicine to community members in need, her daughter in tow. At age thirteen, the first blow in Mom’s life occurred when her much-revered mother became ill with diabetes. Mom dropped out of school for several months to care for her until she died. Soon afterward, her father took a young second wife and, in time, Mom acquired seven half-siblings. These events, however, did not interrupt her life of privilege; on a typical Saturday eve- ning she’d gather up her girlfriends in her stylish convertible on their way to an elegant dance at the British Embassy, all of Kuala Lumpur to California ELAINE PIERCE describes her mother’s moving journey of forgiveness. Clockwise, from top left: Helen Pierce as a teenager in Kuala Lumpur; with her father, uncle, and cousins; in San Francisco, ca. 1947; newlyweds, 1953; with the author, ca. 1959; digging for clams with the author in New Zea- land, ca. 1967; at 90, a few weeks before her death. Photos courtesy of the author. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 13