Layer by layer, lace by lace, Mother Wu draped her daughter in the garment she began while Xia was pregnant, before she knew the baby would be a girl, let alone what kind of girl she would grow up to be.
Mother Wu crowned Xia with the golden headgear. Everything fit. Mother Wu’s stoic face melted, the deep lines of hardship recast with the dignity of sacrifice. According to the Dong people, the dress should be presented to the child during an auspicious event in her early adult life, usually a wedding. But for Xia and her mother, today is the day: Xia won a university place.