When I was about 6 months old, my mom, sister and I got on a big ship docked at Pier 17 in San Francisco and began the journey to Japan. We were going to join my dad who was stationed there with the Air Force.
It was a memorable voyage for all onboard. According to my mom and sister, virtually every small child on the ship broke out in chicken pox. The best thing any adult could think of was that at least there were few quarantine issues :-)
Like all small children, I began to babble and oooo and coo. But true to my nature, I babbled, ooed and cooed differently. Michiko, our maid, had had a serious influence in my life. As far as I was concerned, I was Japanese, not American and I chose to do my babbling in Japanese. Michiko had a degree in English from the University of Tokyo but in post-war Japan she could make more working as a maid. As my babbling turned to words, phrases and sentences, I continued to speak better Japanese than English. I saw more of Michiko and I figured if I wanted a hot do I was going to have to ask for it in the "correct" language - Japanese.
It was just my predilection to speaking Japanese rather than English that made me the toddling terror of Tachikawa. There were the times I would sneak just outside the base gate. When I was ready to go home, I smiled at the MPs and chattered at them in Japanese telling them they were supposed to take me home. With my Japanese bowl haircut, chatter and manners, I was just sure they thought I was belonged to one of the Japanese working on base :-) Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my towhead and blue eyes instantly gave me away. Stubborn as I was, though, I refused to speak English to the MPs and their only recourse was to put me in their truck and drive around the housing area until someone claimed me.
Sneaking off base wasn't my only trick. There were fire pools instead of hydrants. The pools were similar to what we would call a wading pool and were circled with chain link fence. I figured that it was hot during the summer and my dolls needed to go swimming. Of course, if they went swimming, I had to join them. So, I'd climb the fence and join them.
For those and other antics, my family used to call me the Toddling Terror of Tachikawa :-)
© 2003 Maggie Rice