Transcribed below is one piece from a column on motherhood that I had in the Hokubei Mainichi, an iconic ghetto paper that still exists in San Francisco:
The House That Isaku Built
“Here’s a diamond necklace for you.” Often he holds up nothing in his delicately poised little fingers. He may have a rubber band or a rock _ both parts of his extensive collection of street finds. His voice is usually timid if I have just scolded him.
“For me? Oh, THANK you, Isaku.” I hug him.
“Happy now?” he asks, not just to ask, but really wanting to know.
I don’t have to yell for him to know. Sometimes it is the way I close a door or put my books or a plate down.
I make tut-tut noises with my tongue against my front upper teeth, when I discover still another pair of Daddy’s dirty socks or a toothpaste cap left on the sink.
“Is Daddy stupid sometimes?” he offers as though reading my mind. Or he cries out vehemently, “Daddy is too NOI-SY with his shakere!”
The shakere is an African Yoruba percussion instrument, which has been my husband’s recent passion. He spends hours pondering over what he believes is a “hip” design, then stringing colored wooden beads around a gourd rubbed with palm oil.
He spends more hours shaking the shakere in our one-bedroom apartment, driving me crazy with the rattling rhythms, the volume of which, unlike radios or amplifiers, can never be turned down. The only thing louder I can recall is traps drums, which can literally shake the walls of an entire house.
Anyway, people have comforted me by pointing out, better music as your man’s mistress than a real woman.
There are men who gamble at the race tracks; there are men who play golf all weekend long. The pursuit of Afro-Cuban rhythms seems rather dignified in comparison, I admit.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel, bullshit, what’s all this music, like it’s a gift from God or something when Isaku and I are living human beings who happen to be a wife and a kid with needs, too?
I swear, the man worships Coltrane. What about me? I could use some husbandly reverence.
“If Daddy’s insulted,” Isaku tells me, “you can marry me, OK?”
I don’t know if he knows what “insulted” means, but he probably heard his father remark how insulted he was by something I had said.
In the past, every time Isaku wanted to marry me, I told him I was sorry but I was already married to Daddy. Maybe he figures that, if Dad and I break up, then he’s got a chance.
It’s wonderful. Isaku adores me. Right now, I am the Woman in his life.
“Isaku-chan Mama no koto, daaaaai suki!” he tells me, climbing on to my lap and kissing my nose.
The way he fits, his solid smallness against my chest, his arms around my neck, he can fill an emptiness with an incredible certainty, with total negation of any loneliness ever experienced.
“You look cute, sitting there.” The 3-year-old already knows the way to a woman’s heart.
“When I’m older, I’m going to build a house,” Isaku promises. “It’s going to be painted white and pink. And we’re all going to live in it _ with my two cats and two dogs and five penguins.”
He has this all planned out.
“For you, mama, the house is going to have books and clothes. Lots of clothes.” I start to laugh. “And flowers,” he adds with conviction.
“What are you going to have for Daddy?” I ask.
“A radio,” he replies immediately. “And earphones.”
He can be so smart.