CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: When Does a Treasure Become a Trove?


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Sept. 7, 2011.)


I would venture an educated guess no one can ever get used to moving. Whether career service personnel, diplomat or journeyman athlete, a disrupted life style comes with the territory. For the average couple, what are we looking at? Maybe three, four, five different abodes as a family is formed and settled?  But once permanently ensconced, the kids off on their own, the abode becomes a home; a haven of comfort and contentment.

If a spouse is lost, memories become your mate. About the last thought that enters your mind is the need to move one more time.

Well folks, surprise! Chances are you will be confronted with the challenge of determining where your waning years will be spent, under what circumstances and how; storybook endings are few and far between. Nisei, Sansei and Yonsei alike, only the conditions and circumstances differing. I have no special insight but a bit of advice is offered: CR2S is not in the insurance business nor known for acumen of any sort, but long-term protection offers a blanket of security and eases fears of becoming an unwelcome liability.

Whoa there, Dr. YouthInAsia, let’s take roll call! We’re in danger of going off the deep end when swimming isn’t exactly an attribute. Time for an audible. And a confession.

It’s bad enough packing a bag for a weekend sojourn, what to pack when a permanent change of address is made? Belatedly.

In my case, the decision was made early on to dump (almost) everything. If sorted out, it was a cinch there would be three separate piles: A must keep; B toss out; C worthy of review; with the C stack growing with every halfhearted decision.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about inventory collected over more than half a century, three boys and a zillion memories. As in any respectable Japanese family, there is the treasured display of tea set, chawans, decorative plates, porcelain ware, knickknacks. Kimonoed dolls from Kyoto. Samurai sword and warrior helmet. A library of books, annuals, publications, albums, print mementos. Records, CDs, LPs. Japanese whatchamacallits everywhere. Clothes and gadgets from every decade since WWII. A dozen almost new Members Only jackets, alpaca sweaters, suspenders (!), belts, Windsor ties, trench and top coats, wide lapel suits, tuxedos, outdated sport coats.

And there was still a closet full of The Wife’s clothes, bureaus, chests and credenza to check, not forgetting linen closet, downstairs unit, furniture, accessories, utensils, kitchen and garage. (Remember, the move is into a two-room apartment.)

In the end, the only debatable decision was what to do with the surprise discovery of a collection of letters dating back to 1951: Correspondence from a disconsolate and spurned 23-year-old suitor seeking the attention of a disinterested UCLA coed. Margaret F. Murakami had saved the first letters I had written in my campaign to win her heart and hand.

At brother Edwin’s wedding, I had first met her as the maid of honor and I the best man (a euphemism).  After the reception, I boldly and confidently asked if I could see her again. She graciously and politely answered, “No!”

Rather than be deterred (or whatever it was called 60 years ago), the rejection launched a letter-writing campaign. On occasion, unwilling to use the postal system, I would drive to Compton in the dead of night to hand-deliver a lengthy treatise into the family mailbox, turn around and return home to Riverside.

The campaign “to see her” eventually succeeded. It wasn’t easy nor soon.

Was it a surprise to discover such an unexpected trove existed?  Indubitably.

Now, you want to know how I felt after reviewing the collection. I won’t tell you because I can’t. You see, I chose not to read them. Not even a peek.

(To be truthful and straightforward, I sit here and wonder why not.)

But I do wonder — which one might have been the key? Which words  were most effective? What thought  turned the tide? I certainly have no regrets. Did she?

Let’s forget about Pepys, J.D. Salinger, Eros and the other dudes.  Words and thoughts are worth saving, to be sure. But a letter is a message, one person to another, personal and private. For eyes only. Which excludes even the original author, as well, methinks.

To be sure the thought lingers: What would it feel like to reread something written so many years ago? How dumb. How embarrassing. How interesting. How emotional.

So you see, the only way to solve the dilemma was to forsake the urge and disregard, dispose. And now I am left with the lingering question:  Why did she save them?


W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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