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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Tiny Love Stories: ‘I Forced Cinderella to Scrub the Stage Floor’

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Old Roots Bearing Fruit

On a brisk November morning, I found myself climbing a fruit tree in my mother’s backyard in suburban Virginia. My 3-year-old insisted that I pick the last persimmon at 6:30 a.m. My father planted that tree two decades ago because the persimmons reminded him of the home he left behind in Korea. Now each year, come Thanksgiving, the tree bears vibrant orange fruit on the grayest of almost-winter mornings, and I am reminded of him. I think of how he would have held his granddaughter’s hands, had they been given the chance to meet. — Heidi Shin

My daughter holding the final persimmon of the season from my father’s tree.

A Kind of Cinderella Story

In second grade, I was cast as Cinderella’s wicked stepmother in my school’s medley of fairy-tale skits. Tall, with dark hair pulled back, I forced Cinderella to scrub the stage floor. With a body I thought was too big for fairy wings, I ached to be fragile. Backstage, I playfully shoved my crush Vito (dressed as one of the three little bears). He fell back, squashing Tinkerbell’s wings. Everyone hurriedly helped her. I felt shame. Had Sister Rosemary sensed my inner wickedness and cast me accordingly? She found me hiding and whispered in my ear, “You were magic out there.” — Lisa Fogarty

The evil stepmother costume my mother sewed for me. Clearly, I was thrilled.

‘Two Old Girls Putting on Lipstick’

Three weeks after my 89-year-old mother broke her pelvis, she steered her walker to the bathroom sink. Her dementia led her to believe that I was her friend Shirley. Muscle memory took hold when she opened the medicine cabinet. She removed a cracked tube of Cherry Frost lipstick and painted her mouth in bold strokes. Laughing, she said, “This is funny: Two old girls putting on lipstick.” Her blue eyes sparkled. “I wish someone would sneak up and take a picture of us.” I pulled my smartphone from my bathrobe pocket. We grinned. One with lipstick. One without. — Karen Buley

My mother and me in front of the bathroom mirror.

Accepting His Beautiful Mess

Lou and I fit together like interlocking fingers, but I didn’t know how much I loved him until the day a speeding taxi missed him by the width of a fingernail. For whatever reason in that moment, I thought of his side of the room we call our office, a jumble of precarious stacks of stuff that no effort at feng shui could fix. After the cab whizzed by, we hugged and shivered. Through my tears, I smiled up at him and said, “Something good has come of this. From now on, you can be as messy as you like.” — Leida Snow

One of my favorite photos of me and Lou taken years ago while visiting friends.

See more Tiny Love Stories at nytimes.com/modernlove. Submit yours at nytimes.com/tinylovestories.

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