$16.95 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781608440054
316 pages
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Excerpt from the Book

Early Recollections

Looking into the memories of my early childhood is like looking into a tunnel where darkness prevails at the farthest end. Things may be float­ing in that mysterious depth, but they would not take any definite shape. When I shift my eyes slightly, however, I begin to see snatches of the film here and there.

My earliest recollection of my childhood must be when I was close to four years old. I remember running excitedly through large rooms covered with tatami mats. I asked my mother where that house might have been, but she could not remember it. For any small child, most rooms might look big, but I know that the house was bigger than any house I remember living in. I probably was a rambunctious and not-very-welcome guest at someone’s house in this memory.

My memory patches become clearer and more numerous as I became four years old. One day, my mother was sewing at the sewing machine.

I walked up to her and burying my face in her knees, I said, “Oh, Mommy, you smell so good. I can smell my mommy.”

At another time, I was trudging along, holding on to my mother’s hand as we walked through a narrow street. I pointed to the building I could see through some bushes and said to her, “That’s the kindergarten I will be going to next year, right?”

I also remember my grandparents’ home. My grandfather on my father’s side was a very innovative man, always experimenting with various things in his workshop or making toys. He had a garden with a pond that had goldfish in it, and one day, I was running around and fell smack-dab into the water. I was fished out and got a good scolding for running so wildly.

After that, air raids of the war blanketed the skies of my childhood. I had an older sister, who was six years old, and a younger sister, who was three years old. My father was out of the picture because he had been drafted into the army. My mother was busy taking care of us and struggling daily to find food.

I clearly remember the day I was standing beside a fence across the narrow street from our house. I put some crayons on a wooden slat of the fence, which was bathed in the sunlight. I was watching them become soft in the heat of the sun while straining to hear my baby sister waking up from her nap. A friend in the neighborhood came and asked if I could play with her, and I shook my head.

“No, I have to stay here and baby-sit my sister,” I said.

I began going to kindergarten soon after that, but school was dis­rupted often by air raids. Because our school did not have any shelter, whenever wails of a siren were heard, our teachers hurried us out of the school building to go home. Oh, such terror! On one of those raids, the strap of one of the wooden clogs I was wearing broke. The pebbles hurt my foot, and I could no longer run. I was limping home, crying.

The nights were no better. Our windows were covered with thick cloth to block any light from escaping. Our family had an agreement with our next-door neighbors to share their shelter, and many nights, we went to bed with our clothes on. Our mother gave each of us a whistle and drilled us to blow it whenever we heard our name called.

I cannot say that my earliest recollections were of the war, but the war did come soon afterward to darken my childhood memories. We survived it, and would you believe it, I am now married to an American! May all changes be for the better like this.