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18 7 It is Shrove Sunday. Maria watches in amazement when Father puts on Grandmother’s skirt and blouse. He ties a scarf round his head and hides his face behind a black cloth with three holes he has cut out for his eyes and mouth. Father is unrecognizable. Maria follows him downstairs into the living room. Grandmother laughs when Father prances around disguised as a very fat woman. All that morning and into the afternoon strangely dressed figures are dropping in, chasing the children and dancing around until Mother gives them little cakes baked in lard. Only then will they go off again. Father, Willi, and Klöss go out into the cold, and all kinds of disguised figures run after them, from house to house, throughout the entire village. Maria is alone with Mother and Christina. What will Mother do? Is she going to get dressed up so strangely, too, and jump about and be merry? Now she goes to the front door and slides the bolt across. She fills the stove up with wood, sits down between the high windows and starts knitting. No one can see her from outside. It is dim in the pale winter light. Maria looks at her mother, who appears to be sad and lonely. She presses up against her and plays with Mother’s hair. She wants to be close to her. Mother lets her do as she pleases. Maria pulls the hairpins out of her bun and when they are all lying on the table, Mother’s long plait falls down. Mother does not move, she keeps knitting. Maria undoes the plait so that Mother’s hair hangs down over the back of the chair, then she picks up the comb from the windowsill. It is already missing quite a few teeth, but that doesn’t matter; one can comb so finely with it. Mother’s hair is thick and, now that she is sitting down, it reaches right down to the floor. Maria stands on tiptoe and lets the comb glide through Mother’s hair, but she must bend down to reach the ends. Lovely! Mother’s hair is different from Maria’s, it’s much thicker, stronger, and darker. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 18 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM The Stories They Told Me 19 The room gets dark, and sometimes it seems to the child that someone is rattling at the door. She can feel it through the floor. But it looks as if Mother does not want to open it. Maria lets the comb glide through the hair again and again, gently and carefully. Does Mother enjoy it? The child looks around the chair at Mother’s face. It is lovely, and quite sad. Is Mother crying? Maria keeps combing softly. Why is Mother sad when everyone else— even Father—is so merry? Mother puts down her knitting, plaits her hair again and pins it back up. She pays no attention to the little girl, brushes the loose hairs from her shoulders, and then goes out the kitchen door, back to her work outside. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 19 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM ...

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