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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007


Half . . . or Hana's Story

Special to The Japan Times

Hana York: Though much time has gone by, I can still picture a red down jacket hanging off the severed branch of a tree. It is a cherry blossom tree, and it is in full bloom, but the petals are colorless. The only true color in this picture comes from the jacket, a stroke of red ink hastily brushed on a matted gray and brown canvas.

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The jacket belonged to me, and the person standing in the cherry blossom tree's shade is my father, Nicholas York. He is absolutely still, a statue of his own invention.

You see, my daddy is a spulc-tor. I can't pronounce that word very well even now, but I know what it is because I have often seen him making his little statues of people out of clay. I think there will be many spulc-tors in the world because all the little children at my kindergarten also made statues out of clay like daddy's.

There is another person not far away. She is my mummy, Setsuko York, and she is at the very edge of the picture. Daddy doesn't know she's there just yet. But first let me tell you how they happened to be there.

The cherry blossom tree stands in front of my kindergarten. Mrs. Katayama has been running it for so long that three generations of people in the neighborhood had gone there.

The person who takes me to kindergarten and picks me up every day is daddy. That's because mummy works at the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku in the middle of Tokyo and doesn't get home in time. In fact, most of the time she doesn't get home at all until very late at night, and daddy is the one who shops and cooks dinner for me. It's all right, because the only other thing he does is make his statues out of clay, and that doesn't really seem to take up so much time.

Daddy definitely worries too much. He worries that I won't finish my toast and jam and that I won't wear my red jacket when there is a chill in the air. I tell him I'm not cold, but it doesn't do much good.

He says that it's still early spring and that means it's cold. You see, my daddy is Irish. I guess it's cold in spring in Ireland, because he can't seem to get used to being here.

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So, even though I won't wear the jacket myself, I let him carry it for me. Then he takes it home on the train and brings it back to the kindergarten in the afternoon. Every time I think about daddy now, I see him clutching onto my red down jacket in front of the kindergarten. He is surrounded by Japanese mummies and he bows to them, which looks really funny because he is at least a head taller than all of them.

Nicholas York: Hana is constantly criticizing me. Imagine being criticized by a 5-year-old. She never seems to be satisfied with anything.

"My bath ready, daddy?" is the first thing she says after walking through the door and throwing her cap on the floor. I got her into the habit of taking an early bath. When she's finished, she walks through the kitchen with wet feet, a large towel around her body and a smaller one propping up her hair.

"The bath is filthy, daddy," she says. "You will have to clean it before mummy comes home."

By 9 o'clock, when she is in bed, I can sit myself down at my table and get to work. Setsuko usually comes home by 10. I wait for her to eat dinner, or, if I am lost in my statues, I do not eat at all.

Hana: When my mummy returns home from work she comes into my bedroom without putting her handbag down and stares at me in my bed. Sometimes I sit up and see both my parents staring at me as if I were a strange animal in a zoo. They are not talking to each other. In fact, they rarely talk to each other.

One night I asked them, "Why are you staring at me like that?"

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"Because I heard you scream," said my mummy.

"Scream? I didn't scream."

I look at my daddy's hands. There is a big lump of clay sticking off the top of his index finger like a nose on a clown. It really makes me laugh.

My parents look at each other. They can't understand why I am laughing.

Without saying anything, mummy leaves my room. I can hear her making herself a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Daddy kisses my forehead, tucks me in and smiles at me.

Daddy won a prize a few years ago, before I was born, for his spulc-ture. But now no one wants to buy it. I know that he is not happy, but he says he is happy because of me. It's not enough to be happy because of me.


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