Friday, November 16, 2007

"I Don't Wanna Be Die"

That's what onechan told me a little over a week ago. She's been figuring out what death is and what it means over the past couple of months. It's hard to recall how it started. She knows that she is named after the tsuma's grandmother and has gone with us to visit her grave site every time we visit Baba and Gigi in Chiba. She likes to listen to the wind-up music on the photograph we have of her great-grandmother, especially on the anniversary of her death. But lately she's been putting two and two together and asking all sorts of questions. She knows both sets of my grandparents are dead and she knows you visit the graves of those you love, so now she wants to visit my dad's parents in Syracuse this Thanksgiving. She's aware that animals die, too. She was fascinated by the dead skunk that nobody would remove for weeks from the edge of the factory parking lot we drive by almost every day on the way to her hoikuen. When I was reading her a story about Thanksgiving last night, she got very upset that the Wampanoags and Pilgrims hunted wild turkey; when she saw the bows and arrows and processed my explanation of them, she exclaimed, "But the turkeys may get hurt!"

She's still trying to get her head around the notion that everybody dies and you never know when it might happen. For a while, she insisted that she didn't want to turn 10, because she thought she would die soon after. It's not that she doesn't know bigger numbers--we've gone up to 100 in English and over 10,000 in Japanese (thanks to our efforts to teach her about takai [expensive] and a dollar still being worth over a hundred yen)--but it took me a long time to convince her that 100 is old, not 10.

Here's what she knows about death as of right now (she's next to me and I'm translating her answers into complete sentences: if you hurt yourself bad, you can die; after you've been dead awhile, you lose your skin; when you die, you rest in cemetery (which she keeps calling a temple or a church). Gotta go--she wants to type ("on a big big page, ok?")....

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