The Christmas season always brings back memories of Christmases past. The following diary tells how my late mother celebrated it long ago in another country.
In 1948 my father, then in the Army, was posted to Tokyo to serve as editor of the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. My mother, Anne, took my sister Mary and me by ship to join him in Japan.
This period was known as the occupation of Japan. It happened that during our first Christmas season in Tokyo, Anne learned of three little Japanese girls whose father was ill with tuberculosis. Their mother, fully occupied in caring for him, was too busy as well as too impoverished to celebrate Christmas with her children.
Anne immediately conceived a plan to invite the three little girls—10-year-old Fumiko and four-year-old twins Yuko and Yoko—to stay with us during the holiday.
Her plan was greeted with scorn by the other Army wives.
“You’ll expose your own children to disease,” warned one. “You can’t even afford a new coat for yourself and yet you’re going to spend money on children you don’t even know?” said another.
Nevertheless, Anne proceeded with her plans. She baked pies and cakes, bought a turkey. “And rice?” inquired our Japanese maids anxiously. “Must have rice.” All the Japanese maids in our apartment block were so excited by the idea of the visit that they rushed out to buy small gifts for the girls.
The girls arrived on Christmas Eve. My younger sister and I thought it great fun to have visitors! We giggled ourselves to sleep, even though none of us could speak the other’s language.
In the morning what a sight greeted the children’s eyes! Anne had stayed up all night sewing dresses for the three little girls—American-style dresses like the ones my sister and I wore, with puffed sleeves, ruffles, and sashes. Not only that, she’d bought three dolls and made identical dresses for them.
The day was filled with fun and feasting. A few days later a thank-you arrived from Fumiko in the form of a drawing depicting Christmas morning—the Christmas tree, the children rushing to and fro, the little dresses hanging up in the front room.
Twelve years later—in 1960—a photograph and accompanying letter arrived at our house in the States. The photograph showed 16-year-old Yoko in her school uniform, clutching a beribboned trophy cup almost as big as she was. She’d won her school Speech Day prize with her speech about that long-ago Christmas at our house.