I learn something new
about my father
Shortly after I started learning English at a middle school in Tokyo, I was enrolled at a tutoring school to take extra English lessons. It was my
father’s idea. He said to my mother, “She likes to talk. She is not good at math, but may be good at languages. This school can prepare
her to major in a foreign language in college.” Until then, my mother had been the sole decision maker on education for my sister and me.
Father just paid bills.
Sunday English classes were taught in Sendagaya, fifteen minutes by train from our home. Neither of my parents drove, but it was no problem for me
to commute. Since fourth grade, I had been taking a train by myself to my grandparents’ house near the sea every summer. I was a
After a couple of months, father started meeting me at the end of class. ”Let’s have lunch at a ball park. It’s just a few blocks
away.” Outfield seats were free for college games. Then, I found that whenever he came to pick me up, there was a game of his alma mater. I
was an excuse for him to attend a game and cheer for his college team.
I have no knowledge about the relationship between Dave Baldwin and his father. I don’t even know if his father is still alive. But, reading
this haiku, I feel the warmth of the family and its intimacy at the dinner table. I picture his mother talking about her husband. Father sips his
wine with a warm smile on his face. Does she talk about their younger days? Does the poet learn of a dream his father had?
I like a haiku that allows me to write a novel based on it. For me, an excellent haiku resembles a door slightly ajar. I imagine a life behind it.
“The Dave Baldwin Story” (as I imagine it) starts with an obligatory fishing trip for a father and son. For a boy who has not reached
his adolescence yet, his father is a towering figure. Without his mother, perhaps their conversation in the car did not flow. The son gave
one-syllable answers to most of the questions. Standing next to each other with fishing rods, a day seems to be unbearably long. The first trip
became their last. In the final chapter, a son, now in his late forties with his own children, finds an old-fashioned diary in his now-deceased
father’s room. His father listed “the questions I should have asked during a fishing trip.” He regretted that he failed to be
“a friend my son can trust.”
Some people may feel a haiku sketching an ordinary life is rather boring. But an everyday meal cooked at home, or a simple drawing, can give delight.
Like a soft light through a paper screen, it warms the reader from inside.