The pianist’s house where I took piano lessons was about a 10-minute drive from my home. My parents took me there and sometimes I took the bus alone when they were busy working. I wasn’t allowed to come home by bus though, because I was still too little to get on the bus alone in the evening. So, my parents would pick me up on their way home from work when my lesson finished. The problem was they were usually late. I had to wait for them at the pianist’s house long after my lesson was over. He let me wait in the lesson room while watching other students’ lessons. But, my parents often didn’t show even after the last student’s lesson finished. In that case, the pianist felt pity and let me wait in the living room. That put me in the utmost awkward situation. As it was evening, his family was gathering for dinner. A good smell was wafting from the kitchen. They couldn’t start eating because I was still there. Everyone in the house had to wait for my parents. And I had experienced this torment not once, but several times. Once, I felt uncomfortable up to my limit and it became impossible to wait like that any longer. I called my grandparents at home and my grandfather came to pick me up with his motorbike. That night, my mother bawled me out for asking my grandfather to get me. She always acted like a perfect parent before my grandparents, but she said my phone call damaged her effort. While she was furious at me, I couldn’t understand why I was to blame not she, who left me waiting for hours in the choking discomfort…
I had a dream about my grandparents last night and couldn’t go back to sleep because I missed them so badly. Both of them have passed away, but they raised me when I was a child in place of my parents who were too busy working out in the field as farmers. When I lived with my grandparents, I didn’t appreciate being with them, as they were strict, quiet and boring, and I constantly missed my parents. But after I grew up and left my hometown, I realized how my grandparents regarded me and felt about me. Until they passed away, I had returned home once or twice a year. My grandfather would wait for me with an envelope that had some money for me inside, and my grandmother with my favorite food that she would have prepared and cooked from morning. She would wear particularly for the day something I had given to her before, to show me her gratitude. Those things were what I could never expect from my parents. My parents would be seldom at home when I returned although my homecoming was only yearly and informed well beforehand. That was not because they were working. They would be out for shopping or, at one time, they were even gone on a trip to Hawaii. They seemed to lack the sense of pining for and anticipating someone. Or, they may have simply avoided me. Parental affection doesn’t necessarily come from parents. In my case, it was my grandparents who gave it to me…
I checked out the hotel on the last day of my trip to the western region of Japan, flew from Kansai Airport and took an airport bus to the station where I would catch a bullet train heading home. When I finished a late lunch near the station, I noticed there had been voice mail from my mother on my cell phone. My parents had declined to meet me the day before when I was going to visit them who live in the western Japan. I thought the voice mail was about lame excuses to hide the fact that they didn’t want to see me, and called her back although my phone’s battery was extremely low.
I started sarcastically, “It was a pity that we couldn’t meet yesterday although it was a once-a-year opportunity, wasn’t it?” to hear her made-up excuse. Then, she replied, “Huh? Yesterday?” sounding like she had already forgotten about it. And she continued on as if it wasn’t important at all. What she wanted to tell me was why my parents had run away from their condo where my sister had begun to live with them, which I had learned also the day before as a surprise.
According to my mother, my parents had prepared an envelope that contained ten thousand dollars for me for a tax avoidance reason. They were going to hand it to me if I visited them because they didn’t know my bank account number to wire it. They had put the envelope on the Buddhist alter of their home. When my sister found it, she got into frenzy and began to hit my father, shouting, “Get out of this condo!” As her violence didn’t stop, they ran away with almost nothing but the clothes they wore. They had stayed at a hotel for a few days and moved in a short-term rental apartment that my sister later traced. As they wouldn’t let her in, she scratched my father’s car, broke his bicycle, torn window screens and put garbage at the door. They had been moving from one place to another for three weeks because she found them each time and repeated her harassment. They were still looking for another apartment to escape from my sister. As if to sum up, my mother said to me, “We couldn’t get back to our home where the envelope that had money we were going to give you sit. Your sister stole your money.”
I had heard about some abuse my parents have been inflicted from my sister when my mother called me a month ago and told me that she was in hell. But I hadn’t known things have gotten even worse like this. Although I just learned all her miseries, only one thing seized my mind – ten thousand dollars. It triggered something in me and my eyes turned dollar signs like a cartoon. I swiftly responded her that it happened because they had prepared it in cash and that I would give her my bank account number not to repeat this in the future. I was desperately trying to retrieve the ten thousand dollars. I thought they might wire it again once they got my bank account number. By then, my cell phone’s electrical voice had uttered ‘Low Battery’ and ‘Charge Now’ for several times over my mother’s lamenting. I told her to get a piece of paper and a pen immediately and started the names of my bank and its branch. She was getting them so awfully slowly that I suspected she did it intentionally. After a painful wait, I started the number. But right before the first digit came out of my mouth, my phone went dead.
I felt quite chilly because the timing was so precise that it didn’t seem coincident. I also felt ten thousand dollars were slipping through my fingers. I looked around for pay phones to finish the number, but couldn’t find one. I came home by bullet train, recharged my cell phone, and called back my parents. Both of them didn’t answer. I called them again the next day. My father answered this time with the same vacant voice as I heard on the phone during the trip. He told me that he couldn’t talk with me now as he was in the real estate agent’s office for another apartment hunting to hide from my sister. He sounded completely absent-minded and made me feel uncertain. My mother came up to the phone and told me their effort would be in vain anyway since my sister would eventually find out their new place somehow. I offered that I would find an apartment for them around where I live if they didn’t bother it would be 500 miles away from where they are now. It was when my mother burst into tears again. “Will YOU help me? Really?”, she bawled, as if she couldn’t believe my words.
After I hung up the phone without telling her my bank account number, I finally came to my senses. My dollar signs tumbled down from my eyes and my reason returned. My mother is, has always been, a liar. She tells any kind of lies from big to small to anyone. She also has set her mind to make me unhappy in every possible way. She has wielded countless tactics for that purpose. The marked example was when the music label my partner and I started finally got on track after strenuous years. When she noticed our beginning of success, she offered financial support to back me up. I foolishly trusted her because she was my mother. My partner and I moved to a bigger office and hired more staffs. Shortly after that, she tried to take over our business by threatening to stop financial aid unless we handed over the profit. I realized that she had offered money in the first place to crush our business, but it was too late. Our label suffered heavy losses and damage with her sudden finance withdrawal. Thinking back my bitter experiences of many years, it has been proven that she never does anything good for me and she never hopes my well-being. It’s totally a blue dahlia that she would give me any money. I almost took in her ‘ten thousand dollars’ this time and was stupid enough to be about to tell her my bank account number.
I wonder why I keep being fooled by my mother after all those years from childhood. My mother has never been forgiven for what she did and things have increasingly gotten worse around her year after year. I may wish somewhere in my mind that she is finally brought back to her sense and cleans up her act. Then she becomes a better person and someday she accepts me and loves me. Probably those vain hopes are my weakness on which my mother plays with her lies. Or more simply, like mother like daughter, I’m as greedy as my mother, that’s why I easily fall for her…
Here, I make an embarrassing confession. I hadn’t been able to ride a bicycle without training wheels until the fifth grade. I always believe that riding a bicycle successfully for the first time should be like the one in the movie ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ where a father played by Dustin Hoffman jumps for joy and takes a picture of his son’s first ride. Sadly, parents in real life are too defective. My parents used to be farmers who worked out on the field from dawn to night. They hardly took a day off and when they did, it was a rainy day. During winter when their work was a little less hectic, they would bring crops from the field to a communal wash place by the small park near our home. They spent the rest of the day washing the crops by hand with their long booted feet soaked in freezing water. My father used a short interval between the field and the wash place to teach me to ride a bicycle. He couldn’t spare more time and I wasn’t a fast learner. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I became the only one among the kids of around the same age in the neighborhood who couldn’t ride a bike.
One day, my mother took me to the park with my sister on her way to work. Because she told us to bring our bicycles, I thought she would teach me this time. But she spotted a couple of older kids in the park, asked them to teach me and rushed into the wash place. With the kids’ help, my younger sister by four years got to ride a bike without training wheels, while I couldn’t. The kids laughed at me. When my mother poked her head around the door of the wash place and asked them how it went, they said, “She’s no good! Her sister rode it first!”
Much later, I was already close to my then-best friend Junko and took courage to ask her to teach me. She helped me in the park earnestly until it went dark. As it was time to go home, I tried one last time under the dim light of a mercury lamp. And I finally made it. Behind me, I heard Junko shouting for joy, “She’s riding! She made it! Hooray!” When I stopped and looked back, I saw her face flush with happiness. I miss her. More than I miss my parents…
It was my birthday and my parents sent me presents. The gifts from my mother were exactly the same necklace as the one she had sent me a couple of years ago, a vinyl bag which she apparently had got as a freebie, and some towels she didn’t use anymore. She also enclosed a bag of rice crackers. My hometown is in Kyoto that is a Japanese historic city with a lot of old temples and shrines. Many stores there take advantage of the location and use the historic sites and events as their signature design for wrapping. The store my mother bought rice crackers used a Japanese classic card game. It’s played with 100 cards on each of which an ancient poem is written. For some reason, I was very good at the game when I was a teenager. I haven’t played it for a long time. Some of the 100 poems were printed on the wrapping of the rice crackers and I remembered how good I was. The best present from my mother this year was a wrapper of a snack…
On the second day of a trip to the western region of Japan, time was running short for the train I was going to take while I was preparing to go out at the hotel room. I walked to the closest train station hurriedly and called my parents.
One of the purposes of this trip was visiting my parents. When I do, I never tell them about my visit beforehand. My life experience taught me that they will plan some ways to attack me if I give them time. I let them know right before my actual visit in order not to give them a chance to think of any plots.
The one who answered my call was my younger sister to whom I hadn’t talked for more than a decade. Before the trip, I had received a phone call from my mother who was crying and confessed that her life had been hell since my sister began to live with them about a year ago. My parents had kept it secret from me for a year because my sister didn’t want me to know that she had returned to Japan from abroad and had lived with them. Although I had known that from my mother’s phone call, I pretended not to know when my sister answered my call as I also had known her intention. I said, “You’re back in Japan,” and she admitted in a very faint voice. And an unexpected new fact followed when I asked her to put either of my parents on the phone. She told me that my parents had no longer lived there because they ran away from home.
My mother had mentioned some kind of abuse by my sister on the distraught phone call less than a month ago, but I never thought it was serious enough to run away. My sister explained in a feeble voice that they had felt excessively stressful to live with her. And she didn’t know their whereabouts.
After I hung up the phone, I called my father’s cell phone. He answered sounding absent-minded. I told him I had come to see him and asked him if we could meet. He answered it was inconvenient for him because he had somewhere to go with my mother and there was no time to spare for me all day long. He apparently avoided me and sounded he didn’t want to see me. When I asked him where they were living now, he said in a vacant voice, “In an apartment near the condo where I lived.” I had a previous engagement to meet with my high school teacher before I was going to see my parents and the train to catch was coming. Although I had tons of questions left, I ran out of time and hung up the phone.
To meet my teacher, I needed to transfer the train at Osaka terminal station. As there was 15-minute space to the next train, I used the bathroom in the station. I was headed for the platform where the next train would depart, walking through the enormous station that has eleven platforms and seven different train lines. The passages were entwined and crawling with passengers. It looked like as much as O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I was waiting for the train on the platform I had made sure on the information board. When the train came in though, I noticed a wrong destination was displayed on the side of the train. I had checked the platform number by the departure time. Unfortunately, Osaka Station is a gigantic station that has numerous trains depart at the exactly same time. I had been waiting for a train diligently at the wrong platform. I saw the right train coming in a few platforms away. I panicked, rushed down the long flight of stairs, ran down the long main passage, ran up the stairs and tried to zap into the train. But on the platform I ended up, the right train didn’t arrive. Instead, an unfamiliar, new special gorgeous train had been parked and the full-dress station attendants were standing in line in front of the train, giving it a salute. There were some camera crews around them. It seemed some sort of ceremony was being held there, and I appeared in the midst of it dashing out of the stairs. I couldn’t grasp what was happening for a moment and was just looking around frantically for my train. A young lady attendant approached me with a kind smile, saying to me, “Why don’t you take one if you like.” and handed me a small plastic flag on which an illustration of this special train was printed. Then I realized I got on the wrong platform again because I didn’t come here to see off this train with the flag. I ran down the stairs yet again, and dashed up the stairs to the right platform this time.
The platform was empty with no train and no passengers. My train seemed to have long gone. I was standing alone in a daze, panting for breath on the oddly quiet platform with a small flag holding in my hand.
I was late for the arranged time and made my teacher wait, but was able to see her again who is one of only few people that have understood me and supported me for all the years after I graduated from high school. A good time passes quickly. I was immensely encouraged by her even in this short meeting and got on the train to go back to the hotel instead of going to my parents’ home.
Because the plan to meet my parents was cancelled in an unexpected way, I happened to have time to go to the outlet mall that I had given up the other day because of rain. I enjoyed hanging around there with my partner and had dinner at the Hawaiian restaurant with a turkey sandwich and popcorn shrimps that are rare items in Japanese restaurants and give me yearning for the days when I lived in the U.S. In the end of a weird day filled with totally unexpected twists, a wonderful time waited for me. My precise plan for this trip turned to be completely different two days in a row…
When I was in the hospital with nephritis, I shared the room with five
other girl patients. Except for a very small or very sick child, parents
weren’t permitted to stay overnight with the patients. They came during
the visiting hours. I was nine years old and had never stayed outside
home such a long time before. I suffered from homesickness rather than
from nephritis. My parents were too busy working seven days a week as
farmers and only my mother visited me everyday. But she only made it
less than one hour before the visiting hour ended although I was waiting
for her all day long. No matter how desperately I begged her to come
earlier, she prioritized her work and I got to see her merely forty
minutes or so a day. Sometimes my father also came to see me, taking my
younger sister with him. In that case, when the visiting hour was over, I
would see my parents and my sister off. They went into the elevator
together and the door shut before me, excluding me alone. That was the
thickest door I’d ever felt it was. I went back to my bed and lay down
hiding tears from other girls and nurses. Maybe it hinted my future
relationship with my family. The three of them still live together in
our old house that I left after I struggled and couldn’t quite fit in…