After my grandfather quit a chair of a local chrysanthemum association, the number of his chrysanthemum pots had gotten less and less in the front yard of our house. Visitors to see his chrysanthemums had also tapered off to almost none. He stopped exhibited them at a public display. Yet, he had still grown a few pots and brought his best pot to a ward office by his bike, as a gift. No one in the ward office asked for it, but my grandfather was sure that everyone appreciated.
He delivered every year and once he did it on a very windy day. He put a pot on a back carrier of his bike and set off. When he arrived at the ward office, the flower had been snapped off by the wind somewhere on the way and only the stalk was left on the pot. He turned back home right away and carried his second best pot. When he arrived, the flower was again gone in the wind. He successfully delivered his chrysanthemum on his third trial. To my father, that was the funniest incident in his entire life.
Soon my grandfather stopped delivering his chrysanthemums anywhere because he became too weak to ride his bike. Even so, he continued to look after chrysanthemums in the yard until he passed away.
Spending years besieged by my grandfather’s chrysanthemums, I had fostered hostility to them. He monopolized the yard so autocratically that they symbolized his egotism. Eventually, I detested them. I even have the impression that my childhood is ruined and eaten up by chrysanthemums.
Now, I live in the town far away from my hometown and when I see them on display such as at the train station in autumn, I remember my grandfather. And I realized I actually think they are beautiful, and I like them…
The junior high school I attended had the high school on the same premises. Both students shared most facilities and some extracurricular activities. The school held a welcoming assembly for the first-year students in junior high and freshmen in high school. It was for school’s extracurricular activities to recruit a new member and all activities were introduced on the stage.
The main show was a play by the drama club, which was a huge hit. The cast members were the high school students, who performed a dramatic love story so well in glittering dresses. I had never seen a play at a theater before and I was struck by the power of the stage. It was beautiful, glamorous and dreamy. I couldn’t believe this somber Catholic school had a brilliant drama club like that. It was like Hollywood suddenly appeared in my school.
Since it was a girls’ school, the male parts were played by female students in male attire. They were so handsome and students of the female part were so beautiful. The whole first-year students were fascinated by the play and had kept talking about it in rapture for days after the assembly. The drama club was a joint extracurricular activity of junior high and high school. As I had been searching for the way to be cool at school, I thought I now really found the answer: join the drama club.
The club accepted interim members before they joined formally. I took part in an activity as an interim member after class. Almost 100 first-year students were there as the interim members. The senior high school students taught us voice exercises and tongue twisters. Among them I spotted the cast members of the play. Although they had been stars at school, they looked ordinary girls in the school uniform without the costume and makeup. We had practiced voice exercises and tongue twisters for the whole week and almost 100 new comers got down to six. They were just attracted by the glamor of the stage and couldn’t stand steady, inconspicuous everyday training. I was one of the surviving six because I knew there would be long training days before getting on the stage, and also because I believed the drama club was the only hope to become cool. I decided to join it formally…
Besides growing chrysanthemums in the front yard of our house as a hobby, my grandfather had been a chair of a local chrysanthemum association for a long time. He organized exhibitions and displays, and gave lectures. He enjoyed his post immensely, as he was quite an egotist.
One day, two officials of the association came up to our house. They looked grave and were apparently bringing some bad news. They asked my grandfather to step down as the chair. The reasons were his old age and his too long tenure. That infuriated my grandfather. He yelled at them and refused strongly. Two officials begged on their knees bowing so deeply that their foreheads touched the floor, which showed how much they wanted him to resign.
It was the time when the National Athletic Meet was being held in my hometown soon and that was going to be the biggest display of chrysanthemums for the association. The crown prince was to come and it would be the greatest honor to my grandfather to have the prince look at his organized decorations. It was out of the question to him to step down with the event he had longed for coming. After a long argument, he reluctantly consented on condition he stepped down after the meet. They also reluctantly accepted his condition and left.
He repeatedly said, “They had some nerve!” because he couldn’t believe someone dared ask for his resignation. He took charge of chrysanthemum decorations at the meet as his last work as a chair. Until he died, a framed photograph of the crown prince at the meet had hung on the wall of his room…
My grandfather liked a party so much. He threw it almost every week at home when I lived with him in my hometown. As he had held the chair of a local senior citizen society and a local chrysanthemum association after he retired, those parties weren’t so small with about 20 old people gathering each time. They weren’t official parties but his home parties solely for his own fun.
He made my grandmother order catering and serve sake and beer, all with our family’s money. It was a big nuisance to other members of our family, but no one complained to him who was a dictator in the family. I used to feel disgusted when I came home from school and saw revelries in my home. One good thing about it was there was an occasional absentee or two if I was lucky. In that case, my grandmother would let me have a surplus dish and I got an unexpected feast. Sometimes though, an absentee turned out to be just a latecomer and my feast had to be aborted after only one bite.
At one party, a man who was quite old drank too much and became unconscious in a chair. My grandfather called an ambulance and the man died at the hospital. Although my grandparents insisted he didn’t die in our house but died a natural death at the hospital, a big stain of his urine on the chair didn’t come off. The chair had been my grandmother’s favorite chair that she used when she did some sewing, but she never sat in it again.
Also, my grandfather’s home party days were over. He never had a party for his clubs at home again. We retrieved quiet days to our house in a weird way. But I missed the delicious excess dish once in a while…
When I was in junior high school, there was a tournament of the Japanese classic card game. One hundred cards were laid out before competitors and each card had an ancient Japanese poem written on it. A teacher read a hundred poems one by one and competitors picked the corresponding card. The one who got the most cards would be a winner. The game isn’t as simple as it sounds. While a poem reader reads the whole poem, only the latter half of the poem is written on a card. To pick a card fast before it’s taken by your rivals, you memorize the whole poem. The instant the top of a poem is read, you recall the poem’s latter half, find the card it’s written among the laid 100 cards, and pick it.
Because my family had the game at home and played it occasionally, the poems were quite familiar to me. I was able to memorize all 100 poems easily before the tournament, that let me beat a competitor one after another, as by the time the teacher read through a first verse, the card of the poem’s yet-unread latter half was already in my hand. At the finals, I even beat the smartest girl at school and won the tournament.
I came home with great joy and told my mother I had won. Her response was, “Where’s a certificate?” According to her, without a certificate or a diploma, there’s no way to show people the result, thus winning is pointless. She urged me to have a teacher issue the certificate and I asked the teacher. A few days later, I received a makeshift paper for the certificate. The pitiful paper was decorated proudly in a frame by my mother…
Where I grew up wasn’t a good neighborhood. To my mother, seeing her child go to a public junior high school was out of the question. To get in a privileged private junior high, she made me go to a supplementary private school after the classes of elementary school. But even to get in the supplementary school, there was an entrance examination because it was for selective kids.
As the public elementary school I attended was low at the educational level, my score of the exam was bad although I was the smartest at school. But the exam included an IQ test, which I had never taken before. In a three-way interview between the examiner, my mother and me after the exam, the examiner told us that he had never seen this high IQ. I was supposed to fail the exam due to the low marks, but they let me pass as an exception considering my high IQ.
Since then, I’ve relied on my IQ for my life. My IQ is the only source of my confidence in my pathetic life but it’s the reason of my suffering as well. I’ve been unable to accept each and every failure of mine because I don’t understand why my high IQ couldn’t avoid it. Why do I fail in so many things? Why am I unsuccessful? Will I end my life without making use of my IQ?
My partner compares me to a Formula One car. Although it runs faster than any other cars on a circuit, it’s completely useless on a regular street. I’m looking for a circuit for me but unfortunately, roads in the real world are all rugged with various obstacles…
My great-grandmother was a geisha. She grew up in a remote village surrounded by the mountains and left home for a big city to become a geisha. She had a daughter by a patron and died right after she gave birth. The daughter was my grandmother on my mother’s side. She didn’t remember her mother at all and didn’t know her father, either. No one still knows who her father is, except that he was a rich and powerful name.
She was taken in and raised by her mother’s parents at their home in the mountains, but for various reasons, she was soon handed over to one relative to another. She lived in countless different homes of her relatives and changed her school for innumerable times in her childhood. At every school she attended, she was the smartest honor student and had never dropped to second.
One of her relative’s homes where she lived for a while was my grandfather’s. Years after she left, he told his parents that he wanted to marry her. She got married with him at the age of sixteen and moved in his house again as his wife. She settled down and got her family at long last. But only five years later, my grandfather was drafted for World War II and she was left with her two daughters, one of which is my mother, and her in-laws.
A former prodigy with no home and no parents found herself working hard as a farmer everyday in the fields with her in-laws…
When I was a ninth-grader and a leader of the ninth-grade play team for the homecoming at school, I devoted myself to dramatization and direction in the run-up to the homecoming. The teacher in charge of our team praised my first dramatization. He said it was a good script and I had a talent. While I was motivated, other members of the team didn’t have a whit of interest or enthusiasm. They tried to make me decide everything. I took care of the set, the props and the costumes while teaching the lighting and acting. Above all, their acting was terrible. They were just reading their lines in a monotone. No matter how strenuously I explained, they simply couldn’t act. I acted every role for them and asked them to mimic me. As I needed to tell every member what to do and how to do, I felt like I was working with a bunch of robots in the team. At last, they started suggesting that I would be better off if I did everything in the play alone by myself, instead of giving them each and every single instruction. Maybe it was true, but there was one exception among the cast members. The girl whom I cast as a leading roll tackled her acting earnestly and seriously. She followed every instruction and advice from me. Other members were still sardonic for my casting of a non-pretty, unpopular girl as a leading role, but her acting got better and better. It seemed she felt an obligation to me for the casting. She even brought a present for me on my birthday although we had never been close and had hardly talked with each other at school until the play team got going. With her and my effort, our team successfully put on the play at the homecoming and it was much better than I had expected. This curriculum play was part of a school competition. The faculty would vote to decide the best play among the seventh, eighth, and ninth-grade team’s plays. It was a school’s tradition that a ninth-grade team won every year. As a ninth-grade team leader, I was sitting at the auditorium, preparing myself for receiving the prize out on the stage when the winner was announced. “The eighth-grade team!” the announcement filled the air.