At the age of fourteen I came across a book about a young girl searching for her real father, who was Japanese-American, only to discover he had been imprisoned in an American internment camp during WWII. I had never heard of these camps up to that point in my life. So in the year of 1988, I went to the library to begin my journey. In 2000, my husband and I drove to Bainbridge Island to pursue my quest.
My first interview was with a dentist, Frank, who is second generation, although in the Japanese tradition he is considered third generation, a Sansei. Frank, much to my surprise, was tremendously open about his experiences, from what he could remember since he was only two when he and his family were evacuated. He remembered the “ping-ping-ping” sounds of the train transporting them to a place where there were rumors of large mosquitoes awaiting them there to suck them dry! Of course, that was false, but the fear was very real. After the interview, Frank supplied me with a long list of others who had told their stories before, but only three out of the list were willing to speak with me. I took no offence given that I was a stranger. So, the three who had agreed were family and a good friend of Frank’s; all of whom were incredibly gracious and humble that words fail to provide justice for their sincerity.
This trip established an important experience. Not only did I visit one of the most breathtaking countryside on the West Coast, but it was even more vital meeting those who had endured the imprisonment. To collect the photos, the interviews, the documents and then to link these images with the physical surroundings greatly enhanced my relationship between the past and present. Because the past is full of links, it makes recognizing its patterns easier to identify with.
For instance: I met a South African woman whom she and her husband had designed the landscape for Nelson Mandela’s home.
I befriended an English woman whose Polish grandparents knew and exchanged business with Oscar Schindler.
I worked with a receptionist of a local newspaper who once opened her home to a foreign exchange student from Brazil whose grandfather authorized Adolph Hitler’s German citizenship. (Remember Hitler was Austrian, not German.)
And then there’s my father who, in the summer of 1955, was on both the Ed Sullivan and Bob Hope shows!
The “pattern” I’m referring to is somewhat like a Mosaic window where the past and present are welded in a colorful design. The concept of time does seem to extend beyond the traditional viewpoint because it does hold a connection, this humanistic “link.” All we have to do is recognize it, appreciate its value, and understand this connection to each other. This I believe!
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