|Bonsai Trailer Court:
Kaiko Fatima's First Story
My name is Kaiko Fatima Kamakura and I am 4 and
one half years old, almost 5 and I am going to go to kindergarten soon. My
Momma's Jamila. She is an artist. She used to be part of "the Nation" but now
ain't about that stuff now she says. She says they tripped about her and Daddy
being together so now we just ARE instead of being something. My Daddy's name is
Hiroshi and he makes films and does voices of just about everyone. He is
American but his Momma is from Japan. He say he don't like saying he is a
Japanese-American because he ain't Japanese in his attitude and Momma say he got
a lot of attitude to spare. I think that Bachan, Daddy's Momma, agrees with
Momma on that.
Momma, live across the Bay, in a big old house, said she been there forever and
will only leave out feet first. But I seen her walk out fine bunch a times, so
what's that about? All the Grandpa's gone. Nobody say much about them so I don't
ask much. MoMo says that Daddy is a hoot and laughs until tears roll off of her
big round cheeks and my head be bouncing on her belly as she holds me tight
while I stand next to her chair. "Chile, I am glad you married this crazy Asian." She would tell Momma and Momma smiles.
Bachan says that Daddy
only cares about Ninjo and I say "Who's Ninjo?" and Bachan says ask Daddy. Daddy
says that Ninjo is the happier partner in a comedy team of Giri and Ninjo, but
they don't play around here. Momma say, "Don't be telling stories now." I like
it when Daddy tells me stories.
Bachan and MoMo are very different Grandmas. One small quiet and sort of
hard in her way, the other big, loud and got a soft heart. Bachan never cries,
least ways not that I've seen. She gets this pinched look like them old apple
dolls that Old Man Fenniman has, and wrings hankies something awful. Then I know
she's not happy. MoMo cries, no problem, at movies, at funerals, at reunions
with folks she hadn't seen in just too long. MoMo laughs a lot too. Bachan
spends quiet time with me teaching me things she say I need to know 'cuz I'm a
girl child. Momma says Bachan should teach me to be strong instead. I'm glad I
got different Grandmas. I can be different with both of them and that's all
Momma and Daddy and me live at the Bonsai Trailer Court. But we
ain't got no trailer. We got a school bus and Momma and Daddy fixed it up real
pretty like inside. We like it here because Daddy says nobody trips about
anything. But I saw Old man Fenniman trip over his rat catching snake that got
no name, and he almost broke his neck even though he fell on his behind.
Sheebah, his dog was barking and barking. Sheebah like to bark at just about
anything and this was a big something to bark about. Tiger Lily, the midwife,
she helps ladies birth their babies, came by and said she will have to charge
extra for touching Old Man Fenniman's behind, since she only touches women's
behinds for a living. Old Man Fenniman laughed about that one even though he was
still hurting. I didn't get the joke but I laughed with everyone anyway.
Momma said that Tiger Lily isn't going to charge Old Man Fenniman
anything on account he's indigent. I got confused. "He told me that he was
Irish!" I said and Daddy coughed in his coffee and didn't get mad that it
spilled. Momma was laughing when she was wiping the coffee off of Daddy and
said, "Indigent isn't a nationality or a race, Cupcake, it just means that he is
poor." "Oh," I said, eating my cereal, "Like us, huh?" Momma and Daddy got quiet
for a spell and I thought I had said something bad and was in trouble. Momma
come to me and give me a hug and kissed my cheek and said, "But we are rich in
spirit and that is what really counts." I guess so, but it is easier to count
money than to count spirits. Hard to count what you can't see. But I didn't say
that because I was just glad I wasn't in trouble. Daddy started making jokes
about "American Indigents" and "The American Indigent Nation" and started hoop
hooping like on TV Cowboy shows. " I like you, you like me, let me take you home
in my one eyed ford…hey ya ya ya, hey ya ya" Momma tried not laugh by puckering
her lips and giving him looks. But it didn't work.
Momma say Old Man
Fenniman got to get rid of that dang snake. " It is nearly 5 feet long. Can't
feel comfortable with a snake that big around the court." I said we should name
him Jake. Jake the snake. I liked that.
Daddy showed me a picture of
this man and his two sons wrestling with a big old snake. They didn't look happy
about it at all. The picture was spelled the LaCoon. Daddy and Momma are
teaching me to sound out words, but it don't sound like a French raccoon or
nothing, Daddy said, it sounds like "LayOkuwon". Learning how to read ain't
going to be easy I can tell. Anyway, I saw a wrestler on TV called Jake the
Snake and thought it was a good name since this snake wrestles rats and all.
Daddy told me Jake is the only snake he knows that don't sleep in the winter.
I like to stay in bed sometimes in the winter when it is cold, but I
couldn't see sleeping through Thanksgiving and Kwanzaa. I would miss the black
eyed peas on New Years with MoMo. Bachan makes Ozone soup on New Years and the
mochi at the bottom of the bowl reminds me of the full moon. Bachan says there
is a rabbit in the full moon making mochi instead of the western man's face. She
calls it a Labbit, but we know what she means. If we "are not 'standing" her she
gets all flusterlated and gets that apple doll look. You can see the rabbit in
the full moon if you lean your head sideways but it makes my neck hurt.
I am going to be a country western singer, like LeAnne Rimes, that's why
I wear my pretty square dancing dress to the Diner. Daddy says he will find me
some cowgirl boots and laughs and laughs and Momma tells him to hush up. I like
it when Daddy laughs I never want him to hush up. He sings with me, "I fall to
pieces…." And then he falls off of his chair. Daddy is funny. Momma says falling
on the floor lacks dignity. Daddy does his Japanese Old Man voice and said, "Ah
dignity, heavy burden to bear. Must be strong to hold up dignity. Not like
trousers. But even strongest man can't hold up heavy heart. Even weak man must
hold up his side of deal." Momma just looks at him sometimes like she's "not
'standing him" and then shakes her head and goes back to painting. Daddy looks
at me and goes cross eyed and we giggle with our hands over our mouths.
Last night at the Diner Daddy made a funny and everyone was laughing
laughing. My God Mother, Manx, was working the counter, but I didn't see her
working much of anything when we was there. She likes to talk with us and kiss
my cheeks. Manx is a funny God Mother. She says she don't believe in God and she
ain't never going to be a mother, not like the ones Tiger Lily helps, because
she is a lesbean. I asked Daddy what a lesbean was and he said, "Hmmm Lesbean,
ain't that in Portugal? You'd best ask Momma, I think this is woman's stuff."
and then pretended to hide behind the newspaper, peeking out at Momma.
Momma said "Thanks the big one, Hiroshi." She only calls him Hiroshi and
cut her eyes at him when she is annoyed. So I asked Momma what a lesbean was and
Momma sighed, and wiped the paint off her hands, and said that it was when women
only like women. I said Manx likes Daddy. Momma said Manx don't like Daddy like
Momma likes Daddy. Then Daddy came up and kissed Momma on the neck and said in
his W.C. Fields voice, "And of that I am eternally grateful, my nibbleable
nubian nymph." Momma smiled and fussed with her braids looking so pretty,
telling him to stop in a way that really mean don't stop.
with JJ. JJ works on cars and has a motorcycle and is a woman too but you can't
tell from across the court. She looks like a skinny man. She don't kiss my
cheeks but she musses my hair on the top of my head and calls me "Cookie". I
asked what kind of cookie am I and she said an Oreo with Banana Filling and
Momma and Daddy both laughed and said "Ain't that the truth". I asked her if she
would take me on a ride on her Motorcycle. She raised one eyebrow and looked at
Momma and Daddy who stopped laughing. I figured that was "no" so I shrugged and
went to play with Kim Park like I didn't care no how. I was having a hard time
holding my dignity up just then.
At the Diner last night Daddy ordered
the USUAL: hamburger, fries and a coke. Momma ordered the vegetarian sushi
special. I like sushi because it fits my hand better than a hamburger. Daddy
says it is because of my auntsisters, which makes Momma tell him to hush up
again and makes him laugh. "If it were a matter of ancestors," Momma said, "She
would be craving pumpkin soup and grits." Daddy said, "Soysause and grits,
yummmy." I said my friend Kim Park likes kimchee and grits and Daddy said in his
Grocho voice "Now that's two bad ideas on one bowl.", pointing a french fry at
Momma and tapping it like it was a cigar, wiggling his eyebrows up and down.
Even Manx laughed at that one and she don't laugh easy.
Kim Park says
kimchee is good, but I agree with Daddy. It is too peppery for me. Momma says
she likes kimchee but Daddy won't kiss her if she eats it. Daddy kisses Momma a
lot. When Momma is annoyed at Daddy she says, "Hiroshi, if you keep that up I'm
gonna go out and eat me a mess o kimchee." And then they kiss and make up.
I hope that I get cowgirl boots at Kwanzaa. I was good and I worked for
family unity, Umoja. I got friends who go to Umoja Center, it is a Pan African
School, but I didn't see no African Pans there only a wok and a big soup pot
that Daddy said was big enough to cook a horse. Sister Kadija was there and said
they don't cook no horses and didn't even smile. Sister Kadija is very serious
all the time. Daddy puckered his lips behind her back and looked cross eyed at
me. I had to try hard not to laugh. Daddy and I turned and pretended to be
interested in this turtle that might have been asleep or might have been dead
for all it was not doing. "Kore wa omoshiroi...NOT" Daddy whispered. He was
right it wasn't interesting. I don't know if I want to go to Umoja Center when I
go to kindergarten. Momma wants to send me there but we don't have a lot of
money and Daddy gets quiet when they talk about my going to school. I listened
from my bedroom when they was talking about it the other yesterday.
she goes there she will have an Afro American perspective. What are we to do
about her Japanese heritage?" Daddy said.
"If the Japanese were more
accepting of black children, or black/japanese mixed children then we could have
considered sending her to J-Town Catholic School." Momma said, she was doing the
dishes. I could hear her putting stuff away. "But I don't like the idea of her
getting only a Christian perspective. It would be a struggle to teach her the
bits about Islam that I think are worth keeping."
"Nihon-machi is too far anyway. We live in a School Bus and I like it because it
isn't mobile. I don't like the idea of her being bussed so far away. Maybe a
local public school is the only option because everyone there is mixed and we
could provide her with cultural references here at home."
quiet for a spell and then said, "Hiroshi, you know that the public schools suck
around here. She might fall in with a bad crowd or get picked on. I just don't
"So what are we to do? Home school? Neither one of us has an
educational degree. Art and Film majors aren't qualified to teach their kids at
home." Daddy said and I could hear him fussing with his camera equipment.
I fell asleep after that. I dreamed a dream that I stayed at The Bonsai
Trailer Court and didn't go to school at all. I hung out with Sheeba and Jake,
played with Kim and the other kids. Manx taught me to cook and JJ took me for
rides on her motorcycle and fed me Oreos with banana filling. Tiger Lily let me
watch a birthing and I didn't get scared. I got a karaoke machine for Kuumba,
Creative Day in Kwanzaa, and sang all the time. Bachan brought over the rabbit
from the moon to make mochi and MoMo fed it black eyed peas. Momma and Daddy
were happy all the time. The turtle even got up and moved.
The next day
it was cold and rainy in the morning and I pretended to be Jake the snake and
stayed in bed for a long long time, telling my dream to my dolly.