Lucy Takeda was fourteen years old on December 7th of 1941. She was aware that something was brewing in her neighborhood, but in the manner of teenagers everywhere - especially those who live in relative comfort, protected by their parents from the harsher realities of the world - she was occupied with her friends, school, and boys and gave little thought to the possibility of war.
On that Sunday morning over seventy years ago - which would have been warm and pleasant in Los Angeles - Lucy's father felt ill, so her mother allowed her to go to church with a neighbor family. Bored by the sermon, Lucy's mind wanders ; then the doors to the church are abruptly flung open and the world will never be the same for any of the Japanese Americans in the congregation.
A bit of that scene is included below. Meanwhile, here are a few images that I find arresting; the black and white photography gives a surreal, almost quaintly cinematic quality to the pictures.
* * * * * from GARDEN OF STONES* * * * *
On Saturday Renjiro wasn’t feeling well. The next morning, he stayed in his dressing gown to read the paper, and Miyako told Lucy that if she liked, she could go to church with the Koga family from down the street.
Lucy welcomed the chance to sit in one of the pews up front between the young Koga children, her hands folded on her lap as she stole glances around the congregation, knowing she was being admired. Rarely did a week go by without someone stopping her family outside the church to tell her parents how beautiful and well-mannered Lucy was, how much she resembled Miyako. And Lucy knew that she would receive even more compliments than usual after she spent the service seated between the squirming Koga boys, helping their mother keep them quiet.
She wore her navy coat with frog closures and her patent shoes and combed her hair until it shone. Lucy knew she was a beautiful girl, but for some reason this impressed adults even more than the other children in her class. Maybe it was because she had grown up with many of them, seeing each other every day. Now that she was fourteen, Lucy thought she could see signs of maturity in her face when she looked in her mother’s vanity mirror—a narrowing of her cheeks, an arch in her brow that more closely echoed her mother’s. Lucy wasn’t particularly vain, but she had observed her mother carefully enough to know that beauty was a tool that could be used to get all sorts of nice things. The best fish in the case at the market, say; or a seat on the trolley on days when it was crowded.
As the reverend came to the end of one of his long and boring sermons and the congregation stood to sing the hymn, Lucy kept her eyes downcast as though she were praying. In reality, she was staring at Mrs. Koga’s brown pump, noting smugly how dowdy the plain, unadorned shoe was compared to the dressy high-heeled pairs in her mother’s closet. Lucy’s feet were still smaller than her mother’s, but soon they would be able to share—if she could convince Miyako that she was old enough for heels. By the age of fifteen, surely? These were the thoughts she was entertaining when the doors at the back of the church creaked open and two anxious figures burst inside, interrupting the listless singing of “Faith of our Fathers.”
Later she would remember the unfamiliar words repeated over and over by the adults all around her, Pearl Harbor and torpedo and casualties—but in the confusion inside the church all Lucy could think about was that some unknown disaster had taken place and she was here, daydreaming, thinking selfish thoughts while her parents were over a mile away by themselves, her father ill and her mother barely able to take care of either of them. It was the first time Lucy understood that it would fall to her to help them if something bad had happened, the first time she realized that in some ways, her childhood was already far behind her.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Littlefield
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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