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Sofia was now twenty-six and Carla would be thirty-one
next month, but Laura still insisted on calling all of the sisters
"the four girls." She always felt that she had to apologize to strangers
and their father that there were no boys in the family. Carlos always said,
"Bulls sire good cows." The mother dressed each girl in a particular
color, Carla in yellow, Sandra in blue, Yolanda in pink and Sofia
in white. Sofia was jealous of her older sister's pink outfits,
but Yolanda insisted on keeping pink for herself. The mother would sometimes
get details about the different girls confused, but she had a particular
story for each that she liked to tell on special occasions. Carla
grew up to be a psychologist, and analyzed her own story for unresolved
childhood issues. Carla's story was referred to as the story of
the red sneakers.
When Carla was younger the family was poorer and had little money
to spend on unnecessary things. Carla constantly begged anyway for
a pair of red sneakers. A neighbor offered to give Carla a pair
of white sneakers, but she only wanted red ones. Her father suggested
that they paint the sneakers red with her mother's nail polish,
which was what they did. Her mother told this story at Carla's wedding.
Yolanda wanted to be a poet but ended up a schoolteacher. At a poetry
reading, her mother described Yolanda's nervous nature—as a child,
her hair fell out—to Yolanda's boyfriend, a fellow literature professor
named Clive. She also told stories of how Yolanda used to recite
poems on buses. The mother did not like to tell stories about Sandra,
because she said she would like to forget the past. She and her
husband had to commit Sandra to a mental hospital because her anorexia
led to a mental breakdown. Sandra had started dieting during graduate
school and ended up in the hospital, able only to read. She felt
she was turning into a monkey, and had to read all the great works
of man before she ran out of time. She felt that evolution was going
backwards and she would eventually turn into all the animals her
mother was trying to get her to eat.
The night Sofia was born, the family was robbed, but the
robbers were caught and everything was returned. Her mother felt
that Sofia was lucky for this reason. She told this story to a handsome
stranger while watching her granddaughter in the hospital. A week
after Sofia's daughter was born, the daughters gathered at her house
for Christmas. Sandra had been released from the hospital for a
month, but was still sensitive and cried easily. Sandra had a new
boyfriend, and Yolanda's boyfriend had just gone back to his wife
again. Sofia confessed that she made love to Otto on the fourth
day she met him. In her mother's version of the story, they met
in Peru rather than Colombia, and Sofia never fought with her father
over the letters. Yolanda complained about Clive's betrayal.
Laura's perspective on each of the girls is shown through
the stories she chooses to tell about each of them during proud
moments. What she leaves out or changes in each of the stories also
indicates her current attitude toward each of her daughters. She
is able to create a reality and history for the family that is more
comfortable and positive by redefining the more difficult moments
her daughters have experienced.
She smoothes over Sofia's betrayal of the family, her
running away and fighting with her father, by calling it lucky that
she ended up with such a loving husband and a beautiful blonde baby.
Her story about the thieves who got caught the night Sofia was born
similarly reflects her desire to look on the brighter side of things.
She needs this positive attitude to craft positive family stories
out of unfortunate events.
Her story about Carla's red sneakers reflects her pride
that her family was able to work creatively during a time a relative
hardship in order to provide for the children. Instead of overly
dwelling on what she and her husband were not able to offer the
children, she highlights their resourcefulness in pleasing the children's
every whim, no matter how trivial. Also, though one could fault
Carla for being spoiled and ungrateful for refusing the white sneakers,
her mother only sees the father's loving desire to give his daughter everything
she wanted or needed.
Yolanda's career as a poet and her trouble with men also
get a positive spin when told by her mother. Though her mother is uncomfortable
with the sexual or romantic content of her daughter's poetry, she
seems to ignore this when she attends readings, and behaves as a
proud mother would. Though Yolanda was unsuccessful as a poet, her
mother still would assure strangers at her readings that she was
brilliant and always had been, even since she was a child. The mother's
inability to talk about Sandra's mental illness indicates the limits
of her ability to transform negative experiences into funny family
stories. She has nothing positive to say about Sandra's breakdown,
and so this story is not repeated. The doctor at the hospital is
the only one who hears the mother's perspective on Sandra's mental
illness, and she does not tell the story proudly, but instead tragically.
This omission indicates the limits of motherly pride, which will
forgive rebelliousness, selfishness, or failure, but not insanity.
Ace your assignments with our guide to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!