An Excerpt from The Red Kimono: Leaving Home

There’s no denying that the emotional detail for many of my scenes comes from my own experience. When I left  my home in Tulsa to move to Fayetteville–the home I lived in for 25 years, the home where I raised my children–it was like leaving a part of me behind. For awhile, it left a hole in my heart. Today, when I drive by the house, I imagine my kids running in the yard, my car parked in the driveway, the way it smelled when I walked through the front door. Today, the sadness is gone and the memories make me smile.

Following is an excerpt from The Red Kimono. In this scene, Sachi and her family prepare to leave their home for the internment camp, taking with them only what they could carry. I began the scene with a haiku I wrote when I left my home in Tulsa:

This is how I imagined Sachi’s home.

My house is empty
But memories will remain
Echoes in my heart.

It was almost time to go. Sachi listened to Mama’s heels tapping on the floor as she rushed around the house for a final check before they’d leave for good.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. Silence.
What did Mama think about as she walked into the kitchen? The living room? The bedrooms?
Tap, tap, tap, tap. Silence.
Sachi did her own wandering, drifting from empty room to empty room, trying to gather memories to hold. Each footstep echoed on the hardwood floor, and she too stopped walking to remember: Getting mad at Taro because he kept winning at jacks. Watching Papa build a fire in the fireplace. Even practicing her dreaded dance lessons in front of the mirror was a good memory now.
The government might be able to limit the number of suitcases they could carry, but they couldn’t make her leave her memories behind.
The hollow echoes swallowed her. She paced around her bedroom, running her hands along the pink walls. Step, step, step, step – like the heartbeat of her home. When they left, the heartbeat would stop.
Mama called from the hallway. “It is time to go.”
Time to go? Time to go? Her heart ached. She didn’t want to leave her room. Her house.
Mama called again. “Did you hear me? It is time to go.”
Nobu peeked into her bedroom. “Come on, Sach. It’ll be okay,” he said, leading her out.
When Mama closed the front door behind them, Sachi squeezed her eyes and thought of all the times she’d heard that door shut before. The fall mornings when she left for school. The evenings when Papa arrived home from work. The afternoons she returned from playing and Mama told her not to slam the door.
Mama wouldn’t have to worry anymore. She’d never slam it again.
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11 Responses to An Excerpt from The Red Kimono: Leaving Home

  1. Pat Hollingsworth says:

    I am so excited for you. I will buy as soon as it comes out. I just finished Buddha in the attic which is excellent. Again love and congratulations.

    • janmorrill says:

      Thank you so much, Pat. I’m in the process of reading Buddha in the Attic, and I’m loving it, too. So good to hear from you. I enjoy following you on Facebook. 🙂

  2. Helene Furst says:

    I look forward so much to reading your book

  3. Randy says:

    The Red Kimono. Congratulations Jan!!! Your description of Sachi leaving reminds me of standing on the front porch on Vallejo Way with key in hand, hearing the deadbolt close for the very last time after the house I grew up in had been sold. Interior walls were painted an uniform cream color, and hardwood floors refinished. I had mixed feelings, the most profound being deeply grateful to God that the house had served it’s purpose. Again, congratulations on blending your experiences and those of Sachi’s with an almost unbelievable event in relatively recent, Japanese American history!

    • janmorrill says:

      Randy, thank you for sharing your moving memory of leaving the house of Vallejo Way. I, too, have some wonderful memories of sharing time with you and my other cousins while there. I can only imagine what it was like to leave it for the last time, and I admire the gratitude you felt. You’re right. That house served a wonderful purpose, and was always filled with love.

  4. Randy says:

    Jan, I’ve heard kids like Sachi asked their parents how long they would be gone. “When are we coming back?” Parents had no answer.

    • janmorrill says:

      Randy, I read of many instances where that happened. It was a helpless feeling for the parents, not to be able to answer their children’s questions.

  5. Jan, As always, I enjoyed your “voice” — you applied it in a wonderful, believeable way in the excerpt that you’ve shared. I’m “bucking at the traces” to get my hands on the book. Just recently, my childhood home in Wichita,. KS. was destroyed by fire. Although I hadn’t lived there in years, I still felt the loss–so many memories. I loved the observation that Sachi made “the governnment might be able to limit the number of suitcases… but they couldn’t make her leave her memories behing.” Very poignant! Congratulations! What a wonderful story that needs telling–and what a talented and moving presentation you’ve given it.

    • janmorrill says:

      Thank you for sharing your memory, Virginia. Even though you hadn’t lived in that house, like my house in Tulsa, it remains a part of you. I appreciate your comments!

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