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After the Flash: One Woman's Journey from Japan to GI Town

This historical narrative reveals the life of Linda, a young woman struggling to come to grips with her rudderless existence, of her stumbling back to her hometown after a failed marriage, and having to face the judgments of a stoic Japanese mother. Chieko's life is in stark contrast, having survived the most horrific last days of World War II, and having come of age in occupied Japan where she made a living working in a hostess club serving drinks and dancing with servicemen. Linda wants to write her mother's story, and Chieko always says no.

But then something happens between Chieko and Linda as they begin to bond through Linda's apprenticeship in Chieko's flower garden. On those gardening days, after the work is done, they sit at the kitchen table where Chieko quite openly weaves for her daughter the threads of her life, including her determination to survive. Linda at times feels traumatized by her mother Chieko's descriptions of the war, and most of the time Linda ends her kitchen table talks and heads to the local bar to get drunk.

One spring day in the fourth year of their kitchen table talks, Chieko says to Linda as they sip scotch, "If you really must tell my story, tell it like the playwright, Eugene O'Neill, because he knew sadness." Even though Linda hears it in her mother voice each time she speaks about her life, the sorrow in her tone routinely breaks Linda down. But Chieko is funny, too, with stories of coming of age at a time in Japan when most believed romance and life in paradise was a promise made in American films brought in by the occupation. Chieko's hopes and dreams of life in the States with a handsome hero are penned on a photograph of herself that she gives to her American lover as he heads back to the States. It is a simple note that reads, "I promise my eternal love." Of all the lovely traits mothers and daughters can have in common, one of theirs isn't so lovely: They both don't keep promises.

--Linda Rosenbery

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