by Joy Kogawa
Christmas! The mother of all birthday parties. But this year the whole silent night holy night world is locked down.
Throughout childhood Christmases were magic. After WWII, our family ended up in Coaldale, Alberta. The kindergarten building from Bayfarm in Slocan came to us in sections by train and became our church. I still have the letter from Sam Matsumoto detailing the structure. Someone designed the altar to be shut away behind doors when the church was used for parties. Mr. Mototsune, put it together. What a humorous guy he was. Before dinner he would walk by with a plank of wood, saying, “Itadaki mas,” meaning “I carry wood” or “I receive food.”
Every year Mama and I filled brown paper bags with goodies — easy to peel Japanese oranges, delicious apples, curly Christmas candies, toys.
From Vauxhall, Raymond, McGrath, Taber, Picture Bute, Iron Springs, Barnwell people brought chow mein, sweet and sour chicken, pickled herring and futomaki sushis, mochi manju, kakimochi. Tons of Christmas cards. Tree with egg-carton bells and tinsel grown dull-grey. Poverty. But happiness. Dad showed the same films every year on a white bed sheet. Abbot and Costello. Puss ‘n Boots. The Night Before Christmas.
All gone now. Poof. Ghosts of Christmas past. We swim today in an ocean of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. What sustains us in our glorious aloneness?
Our values. My parents gave my brother Tim and me no things. But from Mama came the love of truth, from Daddy, the gift of forgiveness. For the forgiver the gift is a light heart, peace. Pity the heavy hearted who do not forgive.
Tim, Timoshenko, I’ve been playing from Masterpieces of Piano Music inscribed in your fancy printing. “To my sister Joy From her brother Timothy. M. Nakayama Christmas, 1953.”
Greetings to my beloved ghosts over there, beyond the veil, right beside me. Also to family, my ex, our kids, their mates, grandkids, nephews, nieces, cousins and friends wherever you are.
Love, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year