Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kristen's story

The main story I remember about the war was how my grandmother’s sister had been forced to kneel and crawl over broken glass by Japanese soldiers. There were many other hardships under the Japanese occupation. They tried not to eat meat unless they slaughtered it themselves. The rumor was that the meat sold at the market was actually human flesh since the Japanese took all the livestock. There were other stories—Japanese fighter planes shooting down family villages, best friends being shot down and killed in plain sight. But the story about Po-Po’s sister crawling on broken glass—that one haunted me. How could anyone do something so cruel to another person? Every time I see broken glass on the sidewalk, I think about how it would feel to have shards of glass pierce and tear into the flesh of my knees and palms.

It was that broken glass story that made me as a child understand why Po-Po hated Japanese people for so long. Funny thing is, I actually remembered the facts of that story wrong. It turns out it wasn’t the Japanese who made Po-Po’s sister crawl on glass. It was actually the Chinese communists during the Cultural Revolution.

Actually, I didn’t hear the story directly from Po-Po. It was my mother who told me. I had asked her why Po-Po didn’t like the Japanese. It’s funny, in school the kids assumed that being Chinese and Japanese were the same thing. There was one Japanese boy in my class, and the other kids assumed the two of us—me being the only Chinese girl—would get married.

Now my grandfather, he was in the U.S. at the time of the war. He would have been sent to Normandy as a soldier, but he got out of it. He spoke both Chinese and English, but when he got drafted, he pretended he didn’t know any English. That way he wouldn’t be sent into battle. You might think he’d want to get in there, to fight the Japanese, but he pulled one over on the army instead. It was more important to him to stay alive. He ended up stationed in Arizona and worked as an army cook.

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