A Draft Letter to the Queen
My old mother is desperate to write a thank you letter to the Queen, but she doesn’t know how to do it. She wants to thank the Queen for letting her son (me) live in the Queen’s country. She knows the protocol for many things, because when she was a Japanese child she was disciplined to do so. And now, as a master of the protocol of writing, she believes that it would be nice to send a thank you letter to express gratitude for things she has been given. She has been doing so for more than sixty years. She sent a thank you letter to my friend’s parents when they made curry for dinner and let me join them one weekday after school. She sent thank you letters to my former school teachers to thank them for treating me well when I graduated from school. She loves writing letters. The volume of letters she has written in her lifetime is almost equal to the pages of War and Peace. Now she knows the protocols for each letter very well; except for writing a thank you letter to the Queen of the country my mother has never visited, where her son lives. She then asked me to write the draft for her.
- Phone Interview
ME: I’m your son, but you haven’t ever really talked about yourself
ME: You were born in 1941, weren’t you?
HER: Correct, you locate the past very well
ME: That’s four years before the end of the war
ME: You lived in the west of Tokyo surrounded by mountains back then, didn’t you?
HER: Yes, bombed by the US Air Force. We went through the war and Japan lost
ME: Tell me more about it
HER: First, I was blind because my father covered me with his body in our air-raid shelter
ME: I’ve seen the shelter near your house
HER: Second, I was deaf because my younger sister covered me with her crying
ME: What were you like as a child?
HER: I was modest because they said women should be
HER: I was atychiphobic and still am so
ME: What is the phobia about?
HER: For me the phobia prevents me from everything. It is like obstacles in a blood vessel
ME: I didn’t know you were
HER: No, you didn’t
HER: It prevents me from doing everything except writing a letter, making tea, I am comfortable doing them. I learnt them as a child because they said a woman has to be so
HER: I didn’t go to a college or university because they said an educated woman wouldn’t get a job or find a husband to marry
HER: They also said a grown up woman would be seen as a loser if she is unmarried
ME: I don’t know how you met my father
HER: Matchmaking, a sort of formal marriage interview set by my parents and his parents at age twenty-nine, because they said a grown-up woman would be seen as a loser if she hadn’t got married in her twenties
ME: You had a job and are retired now
HER: I worked for a local government until sixty and I chose this job because women could only work for a local government or a school
HER: I like writing letters and making tea
Her Majesty, April is the time of the year when you can see a beautiful hazy moon in the night sky. I hope you can see the same moon over there. I am writing to you because I would like to thank you for letting my son be in your country. I would also like to celebrate your birthday, which is coming later this month. Happy birthday to you. I am sending the portrait of you I drew for you. In fact, we were born on the same day: my birthday is coming, too. Happy birthday to us. I also drew a portrait of myself for me, but I will keep this for myself. The season of cherry blossom has ended here in Tokyo, and the warmer weather is coming, followed by the rainy summer. August is not dry in my country. Summer reminds me of the war time. We shared the war experience; while I was in a little village in Tokyo as a member of a Japanese family, you were in the castle as a member of the royal family. When you were at your most beautiful, so many people died around you. The cities around the world were falling apart. You could see the blue sky from a hell of a lot of places. The men only knew how to raise their hands. They all walked away, leaving only clean glances. Your heart was stubborn. You were so unhappy, you were so pompous, you were so lonely. And, you decided to live long, and said to yourself, ‘one day
from the swing
launch your mules out’
Note: ‘3. Scribing’ borrows and alters the phrases from Noriko Ibaraki’s ‘Watashi ga ichiban kirei datta toki (When my beauty shone).