When Mr. Wu told me his father, like mine, had fought in WWII, I told Mr. Wu the story I am about to tell you.
And since I am telling the story, I will begin with the beginning as it unfolded and as I knew it, thus it starts on the hardwood floor at the edge of the rug located behind the end table lit by a large lamp shaped like a rooster and next to a large mahogany radio/ record player situated next to the cabinets in the living room. I spent hours in this secluded space reading odds and ends of knowledge extracted from volumes pulled from the shelves above me that held the dignified red and blue volumes of our circa 1948 encyclopedia.
Inside the large doors of the built in cabinets that were below the encyclopedias and vases and the collection of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books was a treasure trove of shoe boxes filled with black and white photos framed by ragged white borders, as well as an old, drab green wool sock filled with foreign coins. In addition to these items, I was especially captivated by the soft fabric of a carefully folded Japanese flag.
On a rainy afternoon the exotic contents of the cabinet were a ticket to a far away land–an exotic place and a mysterious time when my daddy had lived a stranger’s life as a soldier in the U.S. Air Force.
The flag was large– and to my child eyes had a large red ball in the middle. On it were the runes and markings of Japanese writing. Even now, when I think of a Japanese flag, my mind’s eye sees a fevered red sun surrounded by an inky storm of characters. I often wondered who would write on a flag, and why?
The answer would come when Yuri, a Japanese foreign exchange student accompanied her Selma, Alabama host family for a visit to our home.
The flag was pulled out and unfolded , and young Yuri Adachi told us what the flag told her.
Like all great stories, it led to an even better story, the one I will continue tomorrow night.