All Our Me-birth
Making Amends by Toshiya Kamei
by Toshiya Kamei
What was your wedding like, Mom Miyuki?” my daughter asks. “Where are the photos? What did you wear?” My daughter is way too young to think about getting hitched. Still, she brings up the topic often these days. Like it or not, the advent of neuroscience nanotechnology has considerably accelerated her intellectual development. Sometimes she sounds like a grown-up.
“Well, you want to know the truth, sweetie?” She nods innocently, but I hesitate for a moment. Then I make up my mind. I trust her. She’s practically my twin but thirty years younger. I’m the biological mother, after all, even though Sayuri is the one who carried Misa-chan for nine months in her womb before giving birth to her. If I may say so myself, our daughter is wise beyond her years because she takes after me. Besides she’s no longer the baby she once was. Misa-chan has grown by leaps and bounds. She’ll start first grade when spring returns to Neo Tokyo. I smile and gently brush back the loose strands of hair that had fallen onto her face. “Your mother and I never had a wedding. We eloped.”
“Excuse me?” She puts her arms akimbo. “What do you mean by ‘eloped’?” she asks, puzzled. “Is it something bad, Mom? What did you guys do?” She wiggles her nose as if itching. “Now you gotta tell me everything!” Her young face shines with curiosity.
“Well, sweetie,” I say and pause, looking her in the eye. She’s a dead ringer for my younger self. Honestly, I don’t relate to my older daughter in the same way. And it may not be okay, but my wife’s love for Satoko makes up for it. “Your grandma was against our marriage. She didn’t approve of my choice.”
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“Your grandma didn’t want me to marry Sayuri.”
“Get out of here, Mom! You’re pulling my leg!” Her eyes widen.
“No, I’m serious, Misa-chan.” I look down. The pain I thought I’d buried years ago returns.
Misa-chan gets up, fetches Sayuri from the kitchen, and makes her sit next to me. “Mom Sayuri, is it true Grandma didn’t like you?” Misa-chan frowns. “How come?”
“Well, Misa-chan. Because I’m an android.”
“Are you serious, Moms?” she gazes alternately at us. “Just because you’re an android?” She looks at Sayuri. “And you’re not,” she adds as she returns her gaze to me.
Sayuri and I nod in unison.
“That’s silly, Moms!” she pouts. “Miss Hikari is also an android, but she’s the most popular teacher in my kindergarten!” Her face flashes in excitement. “Kids adore her! Ask anybody in my class and they’ll tell you she’s the greatest! Many of us want to be like her when we grow up!”
“That’s great, sweetie,” Sayuri says.
“But Grandma came around eventually,” I point out.
“That’s right, Misa-chan,” Sayuri tries to assure her. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Come here, sweetie,” I say and join in a three-way hug.
* * *
I’ve got two moms like many kids in my grade. But Mom Miyuki says Grandma didn’t want her to marry Mom Sayuri! How is it possible? They’re so good to each other. And Grandma treats us like the family we are. What happened years ago? I’ll get to the bottom of this.
“Hey sis, did you know that our moms had no wedding?” I ask.
“You didn’t know?” Satoko answers. “Have you seen any photos of their wedding? No, right?” she snickers condescendingly.
“Don’t talk down at me like that, sis,” I protest. “Remember I’ll start first grade soon. I’ll catch up with you in no time! You’ll see!”
Satoko rolls her eyes. “Whatever you say, Misa-chan! You’re the smart one. I’m the cute one.” She pats my shoulder.
“But we should do something about it!” I insist.
“Like what? What can we do, kiddo?” Satoko flashes a half-smile. “Last time I checked, we’re just kids. Remember?”
“Well, let me come up with something.”
I pull my phone out of my pocket and speed dial Grandma Yuka.
* * *
“Grandma, is it true you didn’t like Mom Sayuri?”
“Excuse me, Misa-chan?” she flashes a nervous smile on the screen. “What are you talking about?” She touches her gray hair and gazes at me. She lives with her girlfriend two cities away. “You lost me there, honey. Start from the beginning. But calm yourself a little bit.”
“What do you have against androids, Grandma?”
“What kind of question is that, Misa-chan? What’s gotten into you, honey?”
“Well, Mom Miyuki says she didn’t get to have a wedding because of you!” I shoot an accusatory glance at her.
“Well, I have to admit I was partially to blame.”
“What do you mean ‘partially’?”
“You’re right, honey. I was completely responsible for ruining their wedding!”
“Then what are you going to do about it, Grandma?”
“Let me think, Misa-chan. Well, can you keep a secret?”
“What do you mean ‘depends’? You sound just like your mother when she was your age!” She laughs, her eyes disappearing into creased flesh.
“I’ll tell you what, Misa-chan.”
“Go ahead. I’m all ears.” I lean forward. “It’d better be good, Grandma.”
* * *
My baby sister has dragged me into this. I may regret doing this, but what the heck. For a little girl her age, I have to admit, Misa-chan has guts. Hats off to her, I guess. Once she makes up her mind, she charges like a bull. I’m more easy-going, though. I just go with the flow. That’s my motto.
Mom Sayuri drives us to a temple nearby. We get out and go inside. A white-robed priest greets us. She’s also an android, but that’s not a big deal anymore. Almost everybody accepts androids as our equals. Why not? Androids are commonplace these days.
“So what’s going on, honey?” Mom Sayuri asks.
“Beats me. They’re giving free makeup sessions.”
“At a temple, though?” She frowns.
“Why not? They, too, need new customers.”
“Well, if you say so,” she says, unconvinced.
A hairdresser appears, makes her sit, and applies makeup to her face.
When she’s done with Mom Sayuri, we help her put on a snow-white kimono.
“You look pretty, Mom! Way to go!”
“Thank you, honey.” She blushes.
“I meant it, Mom. Look at yourself.” I hand her a hand mirror.
She touches her hair a bit, looking quite pleased.
“Oh my,” she says at last. “You’ve worked a miracle!” She hugs the hairdresser, who shyly smiles.
“Hey, Mom. Let’s go!”
“Never mind.” I roll my eyes. “Just follow me, Mom.”
* * *
Following Satoko, I step into a spacious hall.
What’s going on? Friends, family, and co-workers are all dressed up. Even frenemies are all smiles. They all look back toward us as we enter. They cheer and blow kisses. Flashes flicker around us.
My mother-in-law beams next to her girlfriend.
“Congratulations, Sayuri!” Yuka comes up and hugs me. “Please forgive me. I’ve been unfair to you. I never gave you the benefit of the doubt. Admittedly, I was suffering from a severe case of androidphobia. Thanks to Misa-chan, I finally saw the light.” She squeezes my hand. “Your little one made me realize I wronged you years ago.” Her face is wet with tears.
She leads me to the altar where my bride, the co-mother of our daughters, smiles in her snow-white kimono. I almost faint, but my mother-in-law squeezes my hand again.
Seated in the front row, Misa-chan winks at us. “Way to go, Moms! You both look pretty!” The crowd roars with laughter. I can’t believe she did all of this for this. And Satoko, too. Our beautiful kids. As I turn to Miyuki, I lose myself in her smile. She radiates calm, warmth, and quiet strength. She’s my anchor. I imagine the feeling of fulfillment a human heart can attain. I imagine emotions as neurotransmitter chemicals. I imagine hate melting into acceptance, then peace. But I don’t need to imagine love. She stands in front of me.