|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?