Looking back more than a half century since college, everything that comes back feels precious and intimate, from soft gentle spring rain to which I seldom paid attention or an utter lost feeling in most classes when I transferred from a Southern women's college to a co-ed college in the Midwest.
In this new setting, my hands trembled in the co-ed dining arrangement, which was painfully embarrassing. To be dinning with co-ed strangers without a chaperon in my homeland was unthinkably uncommon then, but it was still downright disgraceful to have lost a steady hand. On the brighter side, my chapel roll taker invited me to his fraternity dance. I loved the sweet music to which we danced. My father and a missionary teacher had taught us dance steps many years before. My hands forgot to tremble, loving every moment. His name appeared now and then in alumni news, but last appeared on a list of the deceased some years back.
My favorite subject was philosophy. The professor's parting words were less than complementary though he meant it to be one. He said he loved having me in his class, sitting in the front row always with a bright smile. It made him feel better, as he was prone to depression and my smiles brightened his day. If only he knew, my smiles were as perfunctory as an obligation and a required behavior on my part as a show of respect but inside, I was feeling the same way as he was. This, too, is a part of warm memory today.
But then, it has occurred to me much later that he hadn't said all of what made his day. I remembered my favorite professor asking me to stay after the class one day, to which I gladly complied. I thought he liked my paper or some exciting positive input in my interest in philosophy. To my dismay, it was none of the above. He asked me with some hesitation and even awkwardness, that someone from his church asked him to ask me, if I would come to his church and speak to them about my experience during the war. My usual smiling face must have turned to one of hesitation or at least I must have looked a bit lost. He asked, now with a bit of uncertainty, "you are from Hiroshima, right?"
Oh, yes, I understood, now. "Yes, sir, I am." Arrangements were made somewhat hastily and I went to his church and spoke to the good people of his congregation and fulfilled my obligation. But for the life of me I have no memory of what I told them. All the love I lost? No, I'm sure not. How I waited for my mother to come home, a void I never knew would last to eternity? No, surely not.
But my gentleman professor must have compared his troubles to the gravity of a young student's past life events and her smiling face offering an option for him as well.
What would I have told the good people of that church today, I ask myself? I would have offered, I think I know your pain as well, beyond which we must walk together, renewing our hope in rebirth. Every day, seeding and planting a tree of life along the way. I would also have said today that our future depends on our success.
Hideko Tamura-Snider is the author of "When a Peace Tree Blooms." She was a child in Hiroshima when the city was destroyed by an atom bomb at the end of WWII. She survived with injuries and was ill for some time. Her mother did not survive. Her quest for the true meaning of life and humanity is chronicled in her book, "One Sunny Day," published in 1996. In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the College of Wooster. For more information www.osdinitiatives.com.
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