Sometimes we take our blessings for granted. Then, they’re gone.
Here is an excerpt from The Red Kimono about Sachi’s Thanksgiving at Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas.
Thanksgiving Day, 1942
Elusive as butterflies
Each one a treasure
Sachi stared at the ceiling, feeling her body wake with a good, sleepy stretch and yawn. She listened to the patter of light rain outside and imagined Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing on the roof top, like they did in the movies. The pitter-patter took her back to California, where she woke to the irregular cadence of drops falling from the elm tree in her backyard to the roof above her bed. Drip. Drip-drip.
But in camp, other noises accompanied the sound of the rain; Nobu’s snores rumbling like thunder from behind his curtain, and the sound of plop, plop, plop from the bucket Mama placed by the door to catch water from the leaky roof. Nobu had tried to patch the holes with tin can lids, but somehow water always found a way to drip, drip, drip.
Mama lay still and quiet next to her, but Sachi knew she wasn’t asleep. Every once in a while, she heard her sniffle, cluck her tongue. What was Mama thinking about? The rain? Papa? Thanksgiving Day?
Sachi remained still and pretended she was asleep, too, listening to the sounds of the world waking; wind howling between the rows of barracks, rain whooshing against her window.
How would the residents of Rohwer celebrate Thanksgiving? Most of them were Buddhist. But Papa always said Buddhist or not, there was always plenty to be thankful for. So they had celebrated with the American customs; turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
She remembered her last Thanksgiving morning—the sounds and smells that drifted into her bedroom from the kitchen. Utensils clanked against pans, drawers and cabinets slammed, as Papa and Mama worked together to prepare the turkey. She had giggled about the way they whispered to each other so they wouldn’t wake their children. But all that clanking and banging could wake the neighbors next door!
And oh, the scents of that morning. Hot turkey broth mixed with stuffing. Pumpkin pies baking in the oven. Wood burning in the fireplace. But that morning at Rohwer, the holiday aromas were only imaginary. She breathed in, yet no matter how deeply she inhaled, there was nothing of Thanksgiving in the air, only the smell of wet dirt, wood and tarpaper.
She closed her eyes and tears began to burn. The first Thanksgiving without Papa.