Sukoshi was perhaps four years old at the time. His mother spoke to him in Japanese and his father in English. I had traveled quite a lot in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s, so I understood a “ sukoshi ” of what was going on but he seemed to not be very interested in any of it.
Mom and Dad were sitting on a single blanket, no more than two tatamis in size[i]a bit less than 3 X 6 ft and comes from the area required for one person to sleep, and Sukoshi was bouncing around on it, and on them like an over-inflated beach ball. He was constantly talking and poking Mom who was desperately trying to read her fashion magazine. When he tugged at the bottom of her shirt, she gave him a gentle pat on the head and told him something in Japanese that probably resembled, “stop bothering me; I am trying to read”.
Prior to the pat on the head, he had been wearing a full smile and giggling to himself as he tumbled around. But now he looked a little sad, and his round little face took on a subtly defiant look that seemed unfitting for his tiny body. He poked her again. “Sit down”, she said, shaking her finger. This time the words in English sounded more stern than her earlier pleas in Japanese. His finger was so tiny it seemed laughable, but he pulled it out and shock it deliberately at Mom exactly the way she had shock hers at him. His finger was trying to say, “now you listen here, Mommy”, but his eyes gave him away. They focused on her with a questioning stare, hoping for a response. Nothing was said and Mom quickly went back to her magazine. A few minutes passed and Sukoshi sat very still. Then his head slowly turned downward and his eyes stared at his tiny hands, now folded loosely in his lap.
Mom laid the magazine down and pushed it aside with her elbow. Her head came to rest on Dad’s leg and her eyes quickly went shut. Sukoshi stared at her. This time he touched her arm; then whispered in her ear – no response. Dad, who had been watching the entire episode, said in his gruff Dad voice, “sit down, Mommy sleep”. Sukoshi didn’t respond right away but then sat down next to Mom; and promptly picked up her grass-stained white sneakers, which were resting at the foot of the blanket, and placed them quite prominently across her thighs on her freshly pressed white slacks.
At last, he had gotten some attention; not the kind that he was hoping for, but attention, nonetheless. What followed was a very stern scolding from Mom as she tried to brush off her not-so-clean white pants and something from Dad – this time in Japanese – sounding like a threat of banishment to the car or worse. Sukoshi’s mood shifted again as he took his shoes and a tiny toy truck and sat on the edge of the blanket, facing away from Dad but still able to see Mom out of the corner of his eye. Sadly he made an effort to play with his shoestrings and drove his toy wrecker up and down his leg, every few seconds glancing over to see what Mom was doing.
All of a sudden, without notice and for no apparent reason Mom folded up her magazine and grabbed Sukoshi in her arms. She gave him a giant hug and instantly his face glowed. She talked to him softly and he just sat there, limp and motionless in her arms. Thirty seconds later he again was bouncing around like the same over-inflated beach ball and Mom and Dad looked at one another as if to say, “here we go again”.
I met Sukoshi at a jazz concert on the lawn at Villa Montalvo, circa 1998.
Published: August 2021
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|↑i||a bit less than 3 X 6 ft and comes from the area required for one person to sleep|