Me, Mike and Manny circa 1966

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Our Visit to Minidoka Camp

in honor of Teruko Nakauchi

Mindoka National Historic Site
On our way to the Minidoka National Historic Site, we drove through flat green fields with irrigation systems. Five in the afternoon and the sun was high and golden. We were out in the middle of nowhere. Alone.
     I plugged the iPhone into the car.  That Deva Premal song flashed on the dashboard while on the iPhone the words “Corrine Baily Rae" appeared, but what we heard was 1940's big band. We exchanged a look.
     “What is that?” you asked me.
     “I have no idea,” I said.  
     But we knew from Louis Armstrong's horn and Ella Fitzgerald's song, we were going back in time. We were starting with this stretch of earth and then the music.
      We drove onto Hunt Road and parked next to the gates where "guests" would have entered and we could see what was left of the guardhouse.  Nothing but a ruin of red bricks and the remains of a hearth.  I have no idea what they must have felt, being bussed in like that, looking over the open fields. Remember when the towers fell on 9/11? How we didn't know what next? But you and I were free, living half the country a part, unaware of one another.   Still, we shared that uncertainty back then.  The towers had been hit and there was that traumatic unknowing. Imagine you and me on a bus to Minidoka, arriving here, seeing this barren stretch of dessert. Imagine not knowing.
     We listened to the whistle of quiet wind.  We marveled at the open spaces where barracks once stood.  Then you stepped off the path and sat by the barbed-wire fence, looking out onto the canal.  I watched you from the place where barracks once stood. You know how you and I get when either one of us is in a mood? When we are feeling the burden of our days? That heavy tension that sits between us, that fire that's ready to spark a stupid fight? How you like to go off in a huff to think it through? What if you were sitting by the barbed-wire fence all that time ago, a Japanese American who loved baseball and newspapers and falling in love and fighting with your girl and suddenly you were there, looking through the fence, at each little wire and how it was keeping you and me from being what we wanted to be?

     We walked around the camp, holding hands, from post to post, reading the stories of swimming holes, and root cellars, and hospitals and recreation halls, and in my head that big band music playing. What if we were here then, would we still love each other or would we fight and fall apart, the pressure being too much?
      Last night, I closed my eyes, so tired from the day and what I saw was the land. What I saw were trees and the sun low to the earth.  I am glad we took a moment to sit quietly and pray, to think about David's mother. 

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