29. April 2013 · Comments Off on Refugees · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

Our mom takes us to visit Granny.  She became a refugee along with all our cousins from Hong Kong.  She lives at the Bella Vista Hotel with Auntie Sarah and my cousins who all became refugees.

We go to visit our mom’s friends at the Macau Club.  They are helping with the refugees.  The whole ballroom has beds, and some have curtains between them made with sheets hanging on clothes lines.  They don’t know how many more people will come.  But they say it will only be for a while.  After the war, they will all go home.

Then our cousins can come to the club when we have parties again.


 Costume party at Macau Club ballroom in happier times.  I went as a cotton ball to represent the Cotton family.

28. April 2013 · Comments Off on Two Snookered Chefs · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

Uncle Pedro has two Filipino chefs who are staying in the back with the amahs.  The amahs do not like it.   They have to put up with it because Uncle Pedro likes his own kind of food.

Suddenly, the amahs are running from the kitchen and screaming for my mom.  I follow them to the kitchen where one of the chefs is shaking a hot pan with a piece of meat jumping on it.

It is human!

They shoo me out of the kitchen.

The next day, the chefs are gone.

Ah Seem tells me that the chefs are gone because they can’t cook for us anymore if they can’t tell the difference between animal and human meat.  Is there human meat in the market?  Of course not, Ah Seem says.

My sister says that the war is making some people desperate, and they are secretly selling human meat as beef and pork.   How can they tell the difference?

Nerves, she said.  That’s why it was jumping in the pan.

27. April 2013 · Comments Off on Awesome Mothers · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

My sister tells me that the nuns, whom we must call “Mother Socorro,” or “Mother Monique,” are married to God, who is our father in heaven.   Those are not their real names, which are secret. 

Seven is the age of reason.  Until you reach that moment, you’re cut a lot of slack.  I am five when I go with my sister to her school across the park.  She is well into the age of reason.  In fact, she is First of the Class, which makes all the mothers happy.   I get to bask  in her glow.

I am in kindergarten, where they give us stuff to play with all day, indoors and out, and I think it‘s heaven enough.  There is a carousel swing in the back that our whole class can get on at the same time.  It squeaks and clanks as we scramble into the swinging seats.  We all have to push in the same direction with our feet, and when we let go there is a mighty screech as the carousel starts to turn on its own.  This is when we all start howling like banshees.

The sisters come running from the kitchen.  The sisters are novices.  It means they didn’t get to marry God yet.  They never try to stop us.  I think they just like to run out when we howl because they are always laughing.

The next year, we leave the low tables and mobiles for a no fun room with rows of desks.   But I get my own desk.  The top opens and I can put things inside.  There’s a slot for my new pen and an inkwell for dipping.

My sister’s book has an owl that sings “tweet twoo” at night and comes to the window. We climb on it and fly to cool faraway places.  I want to do it again and again, and finally my sister says do it yourself, PEST!  She doesn’t even mind that she has to show me how.  I don’t tell Mother I know what she is teaching.  My sister has already told me that nobody likes a showoff.  I don’t want to sit outside in the hallway with a pointy paper cap on my head with big letters that spell DUNCE.

That happened to Lucy.  Mother noticed that she was daydreaming again.  Out of the blue Mother whipped out the dunce cap and put it on Lucy.  At recess, the whole school came to see Lucy.  But Lucy was no dunce.  She liked the attention.  She smiled and put the hat on this way and that.  In a flash, she became a celebrity! 

Mother knew Lucy was not stupid stupid.   She was using In God’s Eyes reasoning which the Mothers used.  It’s like, daydreaming in class when you are so bright is throwing away God’s gift which is STUPID.  The dunce cap couldn’t say there are many kinds of stupid.  It totally disappeared.



 St. Rose of Lima School

morning glories

The whole left wall was covered with morning glories

spirit mother

Heaven Mother

26. April 2013 · Comments Off on Friends Everywhere · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

DoreenAngelFloating Angels

I sit high on a float, dressed as an angel holding a harp, surrounded by little girl angels.   Our Lady has a crown and clouds at her feet.  We are in the clouds.  Walking alongside us are men with open books, singing like daddy.  But daddy isn’t here, or mommy, or Ah Seem.

Ahead of us, priests in long purple robes and tall hats hold up crosses.

Then there are altar boys in red robes and white lace tunics.  They swing smoking incense lamps.  It smells like inside the church on Sunday.  Behind us there are choir boys and girls from school and nuns with candles.  Everyone is singing.  It is getting dark.  I see the lights of candles way in the back.  On both sides of the street, crowds of people watch us.  I see a woman lighting candles at her window.  I see many windows with candles.

It is a long ride.  We circle up a hill.  I see the moving lights of boats on the sea.  Church bells are ringing.   We are at the top.  The bishop comes out of the church.   He also sings and holds up a big golden cross.   People kneel and bow their heads.  They make the sign of the cross.  Suddenly they are going here and there.  Someone lifts me down from the float.  I still don’t see my mommy or my nanny or anyone.  I try to find them.  I walk and walk.  Then there are not so many people or candles anymore.   It is getting too dark to see.  Someone behind me says, “Look, there is Doreen,” and she scoops me up.  It is my mommy’s friend and her husband.  They take me home.   Everybody is home, including Ah Seem.   They couldn’t find me when I wandered off in the crowd.  They knew someone would find me and bring me home.  No one was afraid that I would really get lost.  I wasn’t afraid either.  It would be like that my whole life.

Penha nightBishop’s Chapel on Penha Hill



25. April 2013 · Comments Off on In a Blink of God’s Eye · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

Eye of God


The Heaven Mothers know the power of visual aids.  Suddenly we couldn’t miss this huge painting of one eye staring down at us outside the assembly hall.  This is the Eye of God, the Mother says.   He is watching you all the time and he sees everything even when you think he is not looking!

We are not allowed to run anywhere indoors.  But there is plenty of space outside for us to race around and goof off during recess.  There is a row of tall doors on each side of the assembly hall, which has a stage at one end and now the Eye of God behind the large door at the other end.  There are two marble steps down going into the hall, and two steps up coming out the other side.

Even though the doors are open, we know that the assembly hall is indoors and forbidden ground.  But then, as we are racing around like wildebeest it is so much fun to run down the steps into the hall across forbidden ground and up the other steps to safety, that nothing could stop us.

Until the pile-up.  Someone cuts me off as I’m sprinting up the steps. I miss and my chin lands on the marble edge. The step wins.  My chin splits open, and blood splatters all over the front of my white summer uniform.

There is a circle of concerned Mothers hovering over me as they take me to the hospital.   They bring my sister to the pity party.  I don’t want to make her look any better and I don’t cry. 

The truth is I am too stunned to feel pain.   But at the hospital, when they disinfect and stitch me up, I yell bloody murder.  The doctor doesn’t care.

On Prize-Giving Day, I have to go up the stage to get an award nobody ever heard of.  It is “Most Improved.”  It is something the Mothers made up.  It is measured praise.   God punished me for my transgression, but I took it bravely (okay, on the chin), and now I am their poster child.   The award does not say how bad I was or how improved I am either.  It’s not like my sister’s award, which goes strictly by the numbers.  You get a 99 average in all your tests, and the next girl gets 98, you’re the First of the Class. 

Fortunately, no one pays any attention to my award, not my friends, and not the goody two-shoes girls who still wouldn’t dream of asking me to join their club, thank my nanny’s many gods!

24. April 2013 · Comments Off on Gone Away · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

I see two suitcases in the hallway.  Ah Seem says that they are my dad’s.  Where is he?  I run inside his room, but it is empty.   He has gone.  Where?

Ah Seem does not know, but she is sure that soon she will take me to see him.  My mom does not talk about it.

Ah Seem is getting married.   We children go to her wedding.  She is carried in a green sedan chair instead of a red one because she is the second wife.  My sister says that the first wife could not have a son and Ah Seem maybe can.

Our mom put my brother and me in a rickshaw to visit our dad.  He does not expect us.  He runs to stop the rickshaw man from leaving.   He comes back right away, but I see his room with nothing in it except a bed with no sheets.  He looks so upset that I just do what he wants and get back into the rickshaw with my brother.

I cry all the way home, but I pretend that I am brave as my brother who stares at the street people and doesn’t say a word or make a sound.

23. April 2013 · Comments Off on House on a Slope · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

We are in a house again, but only the downstairs.  The house belongs to a family who let us live downstairs because the war is going on too long.  There are more and more refugees and not enough houses.

The military barracks are at the lower part of the slope.  We have to walk down to our school through the gardens in the back.

There are five houses on our slope.  We are in the second house.  Japanese officers live next door, and our doctor’s family lives in the last house.  The aerodrome is down below.

There is a girl upstairs who is my age.   Her name is Nuyin.  She teaches me to toss into the air tiny cloth sacks filled with sand or rice.   When they are in the air, there are many ways to catch them and even more things you can do before they fall.  We play for hours on the landing.

Nuyin says her grandmother has bound feet.  I have seen women with tiny shoes, but I have never actually seen bound feet.

Nuyin says her grandmother maybe will show me her bound foot.  I am curious but also not sure.  Nuyin insists her grandmother loves to show her amazing ceremonial gowns and fans because she likes to remember her youth.  If she likes you, she will show you one foot.  Just don’t ask any questions.

Nuyin’s grandmother lifts jeweled ceremonial gowns, one more dazzling than another, from a trunk fragrant with camphor.  When those are put back, she asks her amah to bring tea.  It is almost as though we were playing tea party, but Nuyin and I are real guests eating almond cookies.

I had forgotten about her feet when Nuyin and her grandmother exchange glances.  She helps her grandmother untie the bindings.   Her foot is pale and small.  I think of a wounded bird.  I remember not to ask questions.  Nuyin helps tie back the bindings.

Her grandmother is so sweet and dignified that I want to kiss her.  I don’t do it because I know it would be presumptuous.  They are not like my relatives who kiss everyone coming and going.

Instead, I bow slightly and thank her for the visit.   She smiles and says come back again.



barracks2-8-2013 3-49-41 PM


Military barracks and slope leading up to our house

Garden s. Francisco2-8-2013 3-53-55 PM

S. Francisco garden

Toy sacks

Toy sacks – small enough to grab all five in one child’s hand.

22. April 2013 · Comments Off on War Games · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

My dad is coming.  My mom tells me to go upstairs because she needs to be alone with him.  She will call for me when they’re done.

When the amahs say that he is in the house, Nuyin and I press our ears to the floorboards.  We hear nothing.

Finally, I’m called downstairs.  Where is daddy?  My mom says that he left.  Why?

He asked to come back to us and she said no.  Then she says that my sister was her witness.   Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.  It is one of the commandments.  Why does my mom need a witness?

I see my sister standing in the doorway.  She was in the room with them the whole time.   Little old woman, that’s what the amahs call her behind her back.  Only twelve years old, and she is running the household, telling the amahs what to do and checking the supplies.  Now she is a witness why our dad can’t come back.  I don’t care why.

I run outside even though it is night.

21. April 2013 · Comments Off on War Games II · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

My brother is suddenly not doing well in school.  Our mom tells him he has to memorize the time table.  She will test him when she comes back.  He knows the time table.   We go through it, and he gets it right every time.

When our mom asks him, suddenly he forgets and fumbles.  She scolds him.   He had plenty of time to study, what was he doing?  She asks another question.   He fumbles again.  She slaps him.  I can’t believe she did that!  I have never seen her or our dad hit anyone.

She asks another question.  He is holding back tears and can’t answer.   She screams at him but still she hears me prompt him.  She glares at me and tells me to stay out of it.

Now she takes a bamboo switch I didn’t even know she had and hits him in the hands.  He starts to cry.  She hits him hard in the legs.  He howls and crawls under the dining table.

She drags him out by one leg and keeps hitting him with the switch.

I run out into the garden.  What happened to my mom?  There is no one anywhere to answer me.

My brother has been sent away to a school for problem boys to be disciplined by Salesian priests.

20. April 2013 · Comments Off on War Games III · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

My dad sent me a doll on my birthday.  He didn’t send my sister anything on hers.  Even though it was not her birthday anymore, Uncle Pedro got her a beautiful Shirley Temple doll.  It has eyes that close when it sleeps, hair she can comb, and clothes that she can take off for baths.   My sister calls her doll Irene.

My new doll has a pinched mouth, black hair that is painted, eyes that are fixed, and clothes that are sewn on.   I saw many just like it lined up on a shelf in a Chinese store.  The dolls are all the same except for the color of their clothes.  My doll has no name.

My brother comes home for a visit.  We play beauty salon.  We shampoo Irene and give her a crew cut.

Then we go outside and cross the street to look down at the aerodrome.   My brother learned a new word at school and it means shit in Portuguese.  We yell MERDE! MERDE! MERDE! into the wind.

The wind must have blown it back to our Portuguese neighbors’ ears, because our mom heard about it that night.

My brother went back to the Salesian priests, and my mother made me apologize to my sister.  She knew it was my idea.  Uncle Pedro got my sister a new Irene.

19. April 2013 · Comments Off on War Games IV · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags: ,

Uncle Pedro can get special foods that other people can’t get because of the war.    My sister tells me there is something called the black market.    You have to know people and have lots of money.   Besides brandy and wine, he gets European cheese and crackers, goose pate and Belgian chocolates, all of which he keeps in his room.

My sister is eating cheese and crackers that he gave her, but she says he doesn’t want her to give me any.  He doesn’t like me.

She says he goes to six o’clock mass every morning at our school chapel and prays that God will keep his family safe in his country.   He gets things for the nuns too.  They love him.

One day, my fish are missing.   Even the fish tank is gone.  My fish were not the little goldfish or special fish that I saw before the war.  They were just smallish, ordinary fish that had names because they were mine.  The amah said they died.

At dinner, we have fish.  I can’t eat.  My mom says don’t be silly, this is not your fish.   I look over at Uncle Pedro who has a smug smile he is not hiding.

18. April 2013 · Comments Off on War Games V · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags: ,

My sister went to the hospital to have her appendix taken out.  My mom is with her.

Uncle Pedro asks me to go with him to his room where he has something for me.  I say no thank you I don’t want anything.  I don’t like cheese and crackers and chocolates are too sweet.  I don’t even play with dolls anymore.

Then I run outside.

At dinner time, as I pass by his chair, he reaches out under the tablecloth and grabs my thigh hard.   It hurts and tickles at the same time.  I jump.  My mother glares at me.   Uncle Pedro is not even looking in our direction.

I am seething at the table.   I wish I were somewhere else.  My mom hits my knuckles with her spoon.   What?  She has never hit me.   She says my elbows are on the table.   It’s not good manners to hit someone on the knuckles either.   But I say nothing.  I don’t know who my mom is anymore.  I am among strangers.

When I come home from school, I look to see where Uncle Pedro is.  I don’t see him.  Maybe he is in his room.  I see a box of photos scattered on the floor.  My dad’s picture is on the top.  It is a large picture.  My handsome daddy.  He wrote my dearest darling Lita on it, for my mom.   I am yours forever.

Suddenly, Uncle Pedro is looking at me, smirking.   I didn’t hear him come out of his room.  He is wearing slippers.  Before he can say anything, I dash past him and run outside towards the servants’ house.  I turn and see that he did not follow me.  I don’t want to talk to the amahs either, and I keep running to the very back of the garden.  I feel hidden among the date trees.

Why did everything turn so bad?  I wish I weren’t here.  I wish I weren’t anywhere.  What if there is nothing?  Why should there be anything?   What was before anything?  I have a strange feeling.  Good strange.  I hold on to that, feeling what is before, before, before anything.  Suddenly, I am filled with the most wonderful calm.  Nothing matters but this sweet calm.

Gradually, the feeling goes away.  But I am not upset anymore.  I know that there is a place I can go, inside myself, when I need to go away.

17. April 2013 · Comments Off on A Son for the Asking · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, O.Naming · Tags: ,

My sister tells me that Ah Seem came when we were at school.  Why didn’t she wait for us?

She didn’t come to see us.  She came crying to our mom.  She is heart-broken.  She asked her therapist if she would have a boy.  He said yes.   He also said that when the baby was born she must give him a name that the therapist chose.

She was very happy when the baby boy was born.  She asked her husband to give him the name the therapist chose.  He did.

A short time later, the baby got sick and died.

Our mom said why are you coming to me for advice now?  We are Christians.  We think that your therapist speaks for the devil.   You named your son for him, and he took him.

I don’t think it’s fair what our mom said, but I don’t know why.  I just wish she hadn’t said it.  Poor Ah Seem.  Why did things get so bad?

16. April 2013 · Comments Off on Spitfires · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags: ,

There are loud noises in the air.   The nuns herd us into the little kids’ room to hide under the tables.  But we cannot because the tables are too low.  They rush us to the refectory.  There are not enough tables for all the people there.

Now the halls are filled with people, all talking.  The older girls say that the noises outside are spitfires fighting.

The nuns are taking us to the tunnel that we are never allowed to enter.  It is where the nuns go to their convent.  The older girls giggle as we crowd in there.  There is nothing to see.

The planes stop fighting, and we come out and go back to our classrooms.

At home, our mom says that the planes were bombing the hangar near our house and then fighting right over her.  She stood in the hallway, praying that nothing will hit the house or our school.

We are not even supposed to be in the war.

The Japanese officers who live next door never look at us.  We only see them getting in and out of their cars.  We are not allowed to go near their house or try to look into their windows.  The amahs say they have long samurai swords to cut off our heads.

spitfire Action



I see Chico turn the corner to our house.  He is a young man who rides his bicycle from the farms to bring us eggs and milk and vegetables.  I wish I could ride a bike.

We have only one bicycle, my mom’s.  I can’t even reach the pedals.  There is no chance of getting a child’s bicycle until the war is over.

I try getting on my mom’s bike.  I can stand on the pedals and ride without sitting on the seat.   But I haven’t learned to balance myself on a bike.  I look down the long slope, which is paved with cobblestones.  If I stand on the pedals and go down the slope, I can turn on the road at the bottom and the bike will just keep going.   I will be riding the bike!

It is working.   The bike speeds up, but the cobblestones slow it enough that I don’t have to use the brakes.  It is exhilarating!  As I get to the bottom, I hear a chorus of cheers and whistles from the high wall of the barracks.  I turn to the left, and just as I hoped, the bike keeps going.  I pedal it around and circle back.

I see who was cheering.  The soldiers applaud and wave.  If I were surer of my hold on the handlebars  I would wave back at them.  I hope they can see me smiling as widely as I can.



 Taking the bull by the horns

barracks2-8-2013 3-49-41 PM

Military barracks.  Our house was up the long slope to the right.

14. April 2013 · Comments Off on War is Over · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

It is like carnival in the streets.  Fireworks, dancing dragons, people singing It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go…but my heart’s right there.  The song says Tipperary , but the singers mean going home, which for most of the refugees is Hong Kong.  My dad used to sing that song.  My sister says she knows he went to Hong Kong as soon as he could get on a boat.

The best thing is that Uncle Pedro left to be with his family in their own country.

We are going to live on a farm.  My mom gets Indian snake-charmers to get rid of the snakes.  She lets my brother and me watch as long as we stand way back.  We can still see.

The snake-charmers have lots of little baskets.  They sit on the ground and play flutes that someone says are called pungi.  After a while, a few snakes come out, then more and more, one after another.   They slither up to the snake-charmers.  They don’t kill them or catch them.   They let them wind themselves on their arms and lead them into little baskets.  The whole time, they are playing music.  When no more snakes come out, the snake-charmers close the lids.

Now we can move to the farm.  We don’t have to be afraid of snakes anymore.


snake charmers5-5-2013 2-54-35 PM

 “Snakecharmers” a chromolithograph by Alfred Brehm ca. 1883

13. April 2013 · Comments Off on Confirmation · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years · Tags:

I am seven.  The nuns say it is the age of reason and time for my confirmation in the faith.  I like my catechism book because it is all questions and answers.   The questions are like those jostling around in my head that other kids think are weird except when talking with nuns.   Questions like the very first one: why are we in this world?  The answer in the catechism book is: we are in this world to know, love and serve God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  It sounds okay.

Outside of catechism class, no one wants to talk about this stuff.

I keep it inside my head.  There are questions in my head that are not in the book, particularly the questions that ask themselves.  Like the one that kept pushing me when I was hiding from Uncle Pedro among the date trees.

Why is there something?  And what was there before there was anything?  I know that the answer is not: nothing.  But the answer is not in words I can say.  It is just a feeling that is so wonderful I try to make it last.

They give us a word for things we can’t explain in words: mystery.  What I feel could be a mystery.  It is a better word than nothing.

My mom cannot come to my confirmation.  She has to go on a trip.  I will go alone to sleep at my grandmother’s house, and the next morning my aunt Titi will go with me to the Cathedral.

In the suitcase that my mom packed I find a gift box full of little soaps and perfumes, bath salts, bath powder and some pretty trinkets. They make me feel pampered and grown up.  There is a smaller box.  It is a rosary made of crystal beads.

The next day, Titi gives me a long white organdy dress to wear.  All the other girls at the cathedral are dressed in white like me.  The boys are in white suits.  I guess we have to look pure and dazzling today, even though we have original sin that can’t be forgiven at confession.  When we first heard that, we thought it was grossly unfair to be saddled with sin before we even did anything bad.

Before our first confession, which we must do to prepare us for our first communion, the nuns teach us how to examine our conscience to find sins.  There are mortal sins and venial sins.   Mortal sins are killing someone or bearing false witness that sends someone to die, or starting a war.  You can’t miss those.  If you die before you confess and repent a mortal sin, you will go to hell forever.

Venial sins are all the little sins, even the ones you think about doing but don’t do.   When you don’t do something you should, like returning something you stole, you are just adding the sin of omission to the sin of commission.   When they said not doing your best is also a sin, there was no question that we are all sinners even when we look like angels.

The Bishop confirms and gives each of us communion.  All the church bells ring.

We have a small party at my grandmother’s house, but I have so many cousins that even small parties turn out to be not really small.

My grandmother’s home is the place that I can always go to, and they will always know me there.  I wish I could just stay there all the time.

Our new home is small, but it has a big garden.  We have a few rows of green beans, and several kinds of leafy greens with secrets.  When the gardener digs, there are carrots, turnips or potatoes growing underneath inside the earth.  I always imagined that peanuts swung from trees like lanterns and fell like acorns.  But they too, hug the earth and you have to wash off the mud.

brown ducks

We have a large family of brown ducks.  They swim and dive for fish in the pond.   We can watch them all we want, but we are not allowed to go in the water.  We have the same rules about germs here.   We drink only boiled water and eat only cooked vegetables.  But we can eat all the fruits we want from the trees because rain won’t give you cholera.  We still have to line up for cholera injections at school.

banana tree

Banana leaves are like big fans that keep the bananas cool.   When we jump on guava tree limbs they bounce and never break.  They have the coconut trees in a corner so that the coconuts that are harder than our skulls won’t fall and knock us out.  The trees are so tall that if we can climb to the top we would see over the wall and maybe all the way to our new school.

coconut tree


We still have no mulberry leaves for my silkworms.  I have to go to my mother’s friend’s house to get mulberry leaves to feed them.

There are farmers nearby, and they come and take care of our garden as well as their own farms.  Next to us there are military barracks.   Behind our house the hillside is thick with trees and bushes.  Nobody goes up there except the soldiers.  There is muddy water surrounding most of the hill, but our wall and gate, and the barracks entrance are all on the road.  We don’t have to enter the barracks there.  If we follow the path in our garden it leads straight to the barracks.

I think that once this was an island because they still call it Green Island.

We are so far from our old school that we go to another school.  It is called Sacred Heart.  The nuns are from a different order.  Our uniforms are different.  My sister is still at the top of her class.

They put me in a musical where we wear daffodil costumes.  We sing Daffodil has come to town in her little yellow gown.

My new best friend is Annabelle.daffodils

11. April 2013 · Comments Off on Herself Once Again · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years

My mom is like her old self before the war.  She takes me to the movies with Lieutenant Anjo.  I sit between them.  The movie is in technicolor.   I have never seen a movie in color.  The movie is called Can’t Help Singing, and that is what they do.  It is glorious.  I can’t get enough of the colors and the songs.  I wish it would just go on and on.  My mom says why don’t you sing for us.  Sing for your supper, she teases.

When I tell my sister she says that I exaggerate everything.  She says that I do that, and when people go and see for themselves what I am talking about it’s never as good as I say.

I feel just the opposite.   I can never describe well enough what I see to make people feel the way I do.  I always think they’d know if they could just be there.

But soon there are things that I don’t tell her.  She is never there.

I don’t tell her that my mom takes me to Lieutenant’s Anjo’s apartment at the barracks.  That there was a cocktail party there and many beautiful people came in party clothes.

I would never tell that Alfredo, the Lieutenant’s man servant, let me hang out in the back where they mix the drinks and tell jokes.  Maybe he was told to send me home but got too busy to remember.  But I think he knew I wanted to stay.

Alfredo taught me and Charlie how to carve a flute from a reed.   He told us when to go and sit on the guava tree at night.   We saw soldiers playing flutes, beating drums and dancing in skirts that rattled and jingled with the rhythm.  Charlie had to whisper no, don’t jump down.   He held back my hands before I could clap and dragged me back to the house.

guava tree

I would never tell my sister how much fun it is to ride on his horse with the Lieutenant, or how happy our mom is with his friends at the military club.  Even Charlie likes him.

We always call him Lieutenant, never Uncle.   I know that my sister does not like him.    His name is Lieutenant Anjo, and she thinks it’s clever to call him Lieutenant Diabo when only I am listening.

I wish my sister and the Lieutenant would like each other.  Why do we have to take sides?

horsestatue copyRiding on the dashing Lieutenant’s horse, I thought of this statue near our old house on the slope. (Joao Ferreira Amaral, Governor of Macau in 19th century)

10. April 2013 · Comments Off on Casting Doubt · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, The Beast

My mom is talking about our going to the United States.  I don’t have to ask why.  I heard her say to the lieutenant that he must go home and marry the poor girl in Portugal that he forgot about.  She says it in a tone that even I know she doesn’t mean a word of it.

When she notices that I have entered the room, she glares at me.  It is not a good sign.

Why is she saying this now?  She always knew that as long as my dad is alive she is married to him.   My cousin’s dad got divorced, but actually his wife divorced him in Hong Kong, but in Macau he is still married.

I don’t know what my dad thinks.  He doesn’t write and he doesn’t visit.  He forgot my birthday for years.  We never talk about him.

09. April 2013 · Comments Off on The Hunted · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, The Beast

The whole compound is in an uproar.   We are told to stay indoors.  Soldiers patrolling the back of the island found paw prints in the mud.  They are of a tiger or maybe a leopard.

The paw prints point in one direction only, towards us.  There are no prints leading back towards the mainland.  All day long, groups of soldiers search every inch of the hill behind our house.  They find nothing.

We hope to see the tiger.  Maybe he will come out of hiding at night.  They leave all the lights on outside the barracks.  Our lights are on too.   We watch searchlights on the hill moving with the soldiers among the trees.  But nobody sees the tiger.

The next day, after school we are allowed to go and see the paw prints in the mud.   All day long we hear about the different ways the tiger could have sneaked away.

Bronze blue tiger copy