SUPPLEMENTARY READING 2
Tomorrow is coming, children
From Yokohama, California by Toshio Mori
Long ago,children, I lived in a country called Japan. Your grandpa was already in California, earning money for my boat ticket. The village people rarely went out of Japan and were shocked when they heard I was following your grandpa as soon as the money came.
“America!” they cried, “America is on the other side of the world! You will be in a strange country. You cannot read or write their language. What will you do?” I smiled, and in my dreams I saw the San Francisco your grandpa wrote about: San Francisco, the city with strange enticing food; the city with gold coins; the city with many strange faces and music; the city with great buildings and ships.
One day his letter came with the money. “Come at once,” he wrote, “Don’t delay.” The neighbours rushed excitedly to the house. “Don’t get. Live among us,” they cried. “There will be war between America and Japan. You will be caught in mid-Pacific. You will never reach America.” But I was determined. They painted the lonely lives of immigrants in a strange land. They cried on my shoulders and embraced me. “I have bought my ticket and my things are packed. I am going,” I said.
For thirty days and nights the village people invited me to their houses, and I was dined and feted. It was hard not to change my mind and put off this trip. They came to see me of at the station. They waved their hands cheerfully, though their eyes were wet. But my spirits were not dampened I was looking steel, thinking of your grandpa and San Francisco...
What was I wearing, Anabelle? My best kimono, a beautiful thing. But do you know what your grandpa did when he saw me come off the boat? He looked at it and shook his head. He hauled me around, as he were ashamed of me. I could not understand.
“Never wear this thing again,” he told me that night.
“Why?” I demanded “It is a beautiful kimino.”
“You look like a foreigner,” he said, “You must dress like an American. You belong here.”
He gave me a dress, a coat, a hat, stockings and shoes, my first American clothes. I stopped dozens of times in front of the mirror to see how I looked. Yes, I remember the big hats they used to wear then, and the long skirts that dusted the dirt off the streets. Some day I shall go up to the attic of our Oakland home and bring down the old album and show you the pictures of those old days.
I cannot find the street now where your grandpa and I lived that first year, but it is somewhere in San Francisco. We had a small empty house and no money. We spread our blankets on the floor and slept. We used big boxes for tables and small ones for chairs. The city of my dreams began to frighten me. Rocks were thrown at the house and the windows smashed to bits. Loud cries and laughter followed each attack, and I cowered in the corner waiting for the end.
“Oh, why did I come? Whatever did we come for?” I asked your grandpa.
He looked at me. “Just a little more time…” little more time,” his eyes seemed to say.
I could not refuse. But we moved out of San Francisco. We came across the Bay, and after much moving your grandpa bought a bathhouse in Oakland. And that was there your daddy was born. We lived in the rear, and for four years it was our home. Ah, the year your daddy was born: that was when for the first time I began to feel at home.
It was on account of a little neighbor, the white American wife of a Japanese acrobat. They were touring the country as headliners but had settled down in Oakland for some reason. They lived next door with their adopted Japanese children. “Mich-chan, Taka-chan! Come here! Mich-chan, Taka-chan!” Her cries used to ring across the yard like a caress.
The Japanese acrobat came after. “Please, come and talk with my American wife. She is lonely and has no friends here,” he told me.
I shook my head unhurriedly. “I am lonely too, but I cannot speak English. When your American wife starts talking, I am in trouble,” I explained.
Then he would laugh and scold me. “Talk? You don’t have to talk. My wife will understand. Please, do not be afraid.”
One day the American lady came and we had tea. We drank silently and smiled. All the time I was hoping she would not begin talking. She liked my tea and cakes. I could tell. She talked of simple things so that I could grasp a little of it. She would pick up her teacup and ask, “Satauna? Satauna, Japan?”
I would nod eagerly “Yes, Satauna.”
She came often. Every time we sat silently, sipped tea, and smiled. Every once in a while her Japanese husband came and thanked me. “She is happy. She has a friend.”
“I do not speak to her. I cannot express myself.”
“No, no. She understands. You do not have to talk,” he said.
Ah, I can never forget her. She knitted baby clothes for your daddy. “I think it will be a girl,” she said. But it was your daddy. I cried when she had to go away again. Yes, it was long ago. All your uncles and aunts came afterwards: Namuri, Yuri, Willie, Mary Ann, Yoshio and Betty.
Yes, time is your friend in America, children. See, my face and hands are wrinkled, my hair gray. My teeth are gone, my figure is bent. These are of America. I still cannot speak English too well, but I live among all kinds of people and come and go like the seasons, the bees and the flowers. Ah, San Francisco, my dream city. My San Francisco is everywhere. I like the dirty brown hills, the black soil, and the sandy beaches. I like the tall buildings, the bridges, the parks and the roar of city traffic. They are of me and I feel like humming.
You don’t understand, Johny? Ah, you are young. You will. Your grandpa wants to be buried here in America. Yes, little ones. Once I had a brother and a sister in Japan. Long ago they wrote me a letter “Come back, sister, they said, we want to see you again. Hurry.” Oh, it was long before you were born. But I didn’t return. I never saw them again. Now they are dead. I stayed in America; I belong here.