“Mom, you know what? I got in the pool.”
Beside this sentence, there is a crayon-drawn illustration of a girl in water wearing a swimsuit.
It was an assignment at the Japanese language class when I was in first grade at elementary school. The theme was heartwarming one; tell your family about your school life. Without any hesitation, I started “Mom, you know what?” My mother keeps some of my works with great care in folders. Even now, I feel nostalgic and somewhat warm to see them.
There are, however, no “Dad, you know what?” Perhaps, it could have been one like this. “Dad, you know what? Your shop got praise from my teacher.”
Mr. N was my classroom teacher when I was a first grader. He was tall and slender, and worn glasses with thin frames. Looking back, he must have been wearing thick glasses; his eyes behind the spectacles had an impression that they could see through everything. When I was stared by him, I got nervous. He spoke clearly and slowly in a loud voice- it was probably because he was in charge of first grade. He was emotionally expressive and laughed with his mouth wide open. I guess he was thirtyish at that time though, I am not sure about his real age. A person with frank personality; a person like wind. I remember him in such impressions.
When I was in the early elementary grades, I was a quiet and taciturn girl to the extent that my mother was worried. Standing out was out of the question, I didn’t even like to receive attention from people.
One day, at the end-of-day meeting. Mr. N said loudly in front of everybody, “Yesterday I went to the shop of Sayuri’s father. I was excited to see very beautiful aquarium and fish. I highly recommend you to go.” Everybody immediately looked at me. I lowered my eyes with a blush.
It was before the ADA head office was established. At that time, my father set up a little shop in the neighborhood with a few employees and it was the base of ADA. On the external wall of the shop, there was the illustration of a big fish. In a middle of countryside, it was an unusual shop. I didn’t want to stand out, but in contrast, my father could not help but doing showiness.
I had heard from my parents that Mr. N occasionally came to my father’s shop. He visited my father’s shop as one young person who liked Nature Aquarium. It was one side of Mr. N that other students didn’t know but I did. I think that I felt a little sense of superiority over other kids for my circumstance.
One day on my way home from school, something like this happened. I was walking home with a few girls who lived near my house. We saw a boy and a girl, also in first grade, who seemed to be close, were walking together. “Girl and boy are walking home together. That’s weird! You guys should get married!” My friends started making fun of them. I don’t need to repeat it though, I was a very quiet girl; I could never say such things. I, however, was with the girls who kept teasing those two kids until they started crying and running away.
A few days later -I still can recall that it was a gloomy and rainy day, during the P.E. class, four of us were quietly summoned by Mr. N. And then we were scolded by him in the classroom where desks were silently lined up. “The other day, I saw… ,” he started talking. I guessed he didn’t actually see it but the two kids must have told him. It, however, didn’t matter to me at all. This time, I was really felt ashamed. At the same time, I felt sad because I was afraid my father’s aquarium, which excited Mr. N, might disappear. “You must never do what you don’t want other people to do to you,” he told us looking straight at us with his mysterious eyes. At that moment, I truly regretted, and, even though I was still small, I experienced what he told us. Both the other girls and I were crying. Other students who came back from the gymnasium were looking strangely at us. Mr. N gently told us, “make sure to apologize those two, ok?”.
And then, my heart was filled with feelings of remorse for my father. What if Mr. N got disappointed with me and stopped coming to the shop? What if my father heard from Mr. N that his quiet daughter, in fact, did such kind of things at school?
However, it was just a pointless concern. My father probably didn’t know that incident until now. Furthermore, Mr. N kept coming to visit the shop as usual. He said, “I can’t wait to see the big aquarium at your house,” every time he saw me. Like now, in those days, we had a big aquarium in the drawing room at the house, and he knew about it. Needless to say, Mr. N actually came to our home with my father to see the aquarium.
On top of this, thanks to Mr. N’s wish, it was decided to put an aquarium at the entrance of the school, which my father donated it. My father’s Nature Aquarium came to my school. Of course, it was Mr. N who maintained the aquarium. He was in charge of my class only for one year though, I often saw him being devoted to taking care of the aquarium. I was proud whenever I saw other students looking at the aquarium.
I heard through the grapevine that Mr. N left elementary school teaching, and went to South America to be engaged in activities of Overseas Cooperation Volunteers.
“You must never do what you don’t want other people to do to you.”
The teacher, who taught me the important lesson in life, who loved nature aquarium, who made me proud of my father.
“Dad, you know what? I met a very nice teacher.”
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano