Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Visitors from Japan

Tiny painted dolls from Japan sent to me by my father's Army buddy about the same time this story took place.

This story becomes a different story when I consider what I knew then and what I know now.

What I knew then:
I was about 7 years old, and it was suppertime. My brother closest to me in age—two years older—ran with me into the house at my mother’s call, and we began to wash up at the little sink in the corner of the kitchen of our farmhouse.
I could tell my mother was not in a good mood. She was frowning, she wasn’t saying much, and she moved quickly to place bowls of food on the table, letting them slam a bit as she set them down.
I knew better than to say anything, so I just joined the rest of the family at the table.
Later in the evening, my parents told my brothers and me the news: one of Daddy’s Army buddies was sponsoring two Japanese students on a tour of the United States, and he wanted to know if the young women could stay at our house for a few days. Mama and Daddy had said yes.
I was ecstatic. Company! And two girls, college aged! And they were from a foreign country! What could be more fun?
My contamination OCD hadn’t touched me yet, so I had no concerns about strangers in the house or strangers using the bathroom.
So that summer Yoko and Famiko stayed with us for several days. They were wonderful guests, kind, always eager to learn something new about the U.S.

Key ring given to me by Yoko and Famiko. Its woven ball has a bell in it.

I followed them around, awestruck at being around college girls who came from a place far away.
We showed them around the countryside. They were interested in the crops that we grew, especially the tobacco that many of the farmers in the community still raised back then. We took them to some nearby sights, including Natural Bridge.
When they left, I went with the rest of family to see them off at the bus station. My mother gave them each a tube of hand lotion.
When we got home, I remember my mother immediately tearing off all the bedclothes from the beds they had used and washing them.
Yoko and Famiko sent us Christmas cards for a few years after that, sometimes with little crackers included, sometimes an origami figure.

What I know now:
My mother did not want the Japanese college students to visit us.
It was only years later that I connected my mother’s bad mood on the evening we found out about their visit with her feelings about having them visit.
She was a teenager during the years the United States was involved in the conflicts of World War II. She harbored resentment against Japanese people, even though the war had been over at least 25 years by then.
My father was a World War II veteran. He served as a medic in the Pacific Theatre. He was wounded in battle.
But he made the decision that, despite my mother’s resistance, we would host the two Japanese college students.
I don’t know why Daddy was so willing when my mother was not. My mother told me once that part of the reason was because Daddy thought so much of his Army buddy.
What strikes me as impressive, though, is that neither parent discussed any of their possibly conflicted feelings with my brothers and me. My mother never said anything about not wanting the young women to visit.
My parents treated Yoko and Famiko with respect and tried to make their visit fun and educational.

It’s a better story with what I know now.



Have you ever had visitors that changed your view of the world?

32 comments:

  1. I was 31 when my Father passed away and I had never NEVER heard them disagree or exchange thoughts on events in the house, I'd learn years later as you had why certain moods prevailed...it wasn't so much a visitor but a surrogate Aunt that travelled as a secretary to a Canadian Ambassador to all points of the world and sent us postcards which in turn would lead to the world encyclopedia and the library..widen my only child world conciderably.

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. Yes, we remembered the moods from childhood that we didn't understand at the time. What a wonderful loook at the world your aunt gave you through her postcards! It's so great that your parents helped in your exploration.

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  2. Oh Tina I love this story your parents were teaching valuable lessons without you even knowing. Your Mom put her feelings aside for the better good. B

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    1. Thank you, Buttons. You're right--I did learn some valuable lessons. Some I didn't even realize I learned until years later.

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  3. I think that this is good that they didn't express the differencees in front of you verbally. And i most definitely think that letting them stay was the right choice. Did your mother seem to enjoy their company while they were there or did she mainly just "accept" it? Just curious.

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    1. Thanks, Keith. I'm glad I didn't know about the controversy at the time. From what I remember, my mother was kind and generous to them. It was a really nice visit all around.

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  4. i am glad they were gracious to two young women who had nothing to do with the war at all.

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    1. Thanks, Theresa, I am glad, too. And you are so right. They had nothing to do with war. They were two beautiful young women eager to see the world.

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  5. I echo Buttons' comment, Tina. :)

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  6. This is a beautiful story with a very valuable lesson for us all.

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    1. Thank you, Jill. Even writing about it, I felt like I'm still learning--about my parents, about people in general, and more.

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  7. What an amazing story. Its neat you got to host them despite your mom's reservations.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I'm glad, too. It remains one of my favorite childhood memories.

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  8. Great story, Tina! I think the fact that your mother didn't express her feelings to you means she believed, on some level, that her feelings weren't "right." She knew it was wrong to pass on her prejudice to you, and so she did the right thing...she kept quiet.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. You hit the nail on the head. I think the same thing--that she knew she shouldn't let her feelings affect what was the right thing to do. And she didn't try to influence her children to have fearful or prejudicial thoughts.

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  9. I think it was a gift to you that your mother kept her feelings to herself at that time, treated the girls with respect and let you make your own decisions about them. I remember growing up we were never allowed to say the "N" word even though others around us used it. I am grateful to my parents for that. It gave me a chance to decide for myself whether or not it was right to call people names when I didn't even know them personally. Terrific story you told there.

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. This reminds me of how important our parents' attitudes were in shaping how we think about things.

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  10. I love the way your mother embraced the visit despite some of her feelings. Also, wonderful to have such memories, thank you for sharing them with us.

    Madison:)

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    1. Thanks, Madison. She really did take the opportunity to be a good hostess and helped to give them a wonderful visit.

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  11. What an interesting story. It's so funny that sometimes when we look back we understand things so much better than we did at the time.

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    1. Thank you, Sunny. Sometimes it takes the passage of years to fully understand something, doesn't it?

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  12. I have a story like this that I will likely never share -- at least not until I know for sure who reads my blog. But this knowledge and the years have indeed helped me to understand many aspects of my childhood.

    Great post Tina.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. Time and a gain of knowledge and hopefully wisdom as we get older can really change our perspectives.

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  13. WoW....sounds like a wonderful experience. my mom always got her "anger" across in the same way!!

    a great read, i really enjoyed it!!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. It was a wonderful experience. I still think about them and wonder what kind of lives they're having--good ones, I hope.

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  14. I would have to think about that one. I'm sure someone has made an impression!

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I think we have so many experiences in life that it's hard sometimes to pick out just one to use as an example of something.

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  15. That's a neat story. It's even better knowing your mother made an effort to be flexible, and that she made the girls feel welcome. Good memories!

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    1. Thank you, Jean. Good memories, indeed! :-)

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  16. It certainly is an interesting story with what you know now. Your parents handled the situation with such grace, and you had a wonderful experience. I can't think of any experiences like this one - I'm going to have to think abut it.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I agree that my parents did handle the visit with grace and compassion. I like remembering that.

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