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In an otherwise unremarkable September morning, long before I learned to be ashamed of my mother, she takes my hand and we set off down New Jersey Avenue to begin my first day of school.

Although this passage is only the first line of the story, it is extremely telling of the emotion the child feels toward her mother as the story progresses. This line is so important because we learn that the mother, although she can’t read or write, is doing everything she can to provide a good education for her daughter. The daughter slowly picks up on the uncomfortable reality of her mother’s life.

Throughout the story, we see how differently the mother and daughter are viewed by other people who may be more educated. In the end, the narrator states, “I can still hear my mother’s footsteps above it all.” This incident creates a sense of embarrassment for the child — as though her mother is set apart from the rest of the crowd.  The truth behind her mother’s loud footsteps demonstrates the “loud” feeling of a subtle moment, conveying how difficult it must have felt for the daughter to see her mother as illiterate in an ever-progressing world and the struggle of knowing that soon she will surpass her mother academically. The beauty in these two sentences is that they coincide almost perfectly. In a way, I see the first sentence of the story as the narrator’s explanation for what the last sentence is showing.

Reflecting back to the class discussion, I see this story in a different way than when I had read it alone the first time. The meaning of this story is not to put shame or pity on the girl’s mother for being uneducated. This story is really a love story written in the honor of the girl’s mother. We can tell by the ending sentence in the last paragraph that her mother’s loud footsteps may not be an embarrassing sound. Rather, the girl, now grown into a woman, sees her mother as an admirable woman and thinks of her with fond memories.

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