Flags–A compelling story about humanity

Flags is a book written by Maxine Trottier and Paul Morin. The book tells the tale of a little girl named Mary and her Grandmother who had a next door neighbour Mr. Hiroshi who was Japanese. I read the book with my daughter recently and wanted to share the story of the book as well as for you to reflect upon the message. Please feel free to borrow the book from your local library if it is available and share the story with your own children or even with your friends and family. Also you can visit the writer here: http://www.maxinetrottier.com/bio.htm You can visit my other Blog Booster Shots For Living here: http://boostershotsforliving.blogspot.com for other interesting articles.
The book started out with Mary describing the time spent with her Grandmother during the summer and how beautiful everything felt. “The Ocean sang and filled our day with the scent of salt. A nearby river ran deep and cool. It was a world of green and dragonflies and fog-dampened air.”

Mary’s Grandmother home was next door to Mr.Hiroshi’s. She would always go outside to admire the Cherry Plum trees and love their smell at springtime. This next part is what touched my heart deeply. Mary would go on to depict Mr.Hiroshi’s garden as unusual. “I had never seen anything like it. There were no flower beds or ivy. No lilies or ferns nodded their heads in the pale sunshine. Instead, it was all sand and soft, green moss. Gravelled paths and stepping stones wandered between the clipped evergreens.” Mary went on to say, “In the center lay a pond that was ringed with small, blue Irises her grandmother called Flags.” Koi swam in lazy circles beneath the water’s surface. When I clapped my hands, the fish drifted to the top and their greedy mouths poked into the air.

To me Mr. Hiroshi’s garden was designed without a sense of permanence. One could tell that he was no doubt a very sad man with a kind spirit but hardened by some pain he felt inside. The fish in the pond reminded him I believe that there is hope and possible some beauty left in the world.

It’s amazing how our lives can change in a heart beat. Mary’s Grandmother was concerned about Mr. Hiroshi. She had read in the newspaper that Japanese people were being taken away to camps far from their homes. “It is because of the war, Mary,” she told me. “But surely they will leave Mr. Hiroshi alone.” One morning two soldiers came with a letter to the house next door. Mr. Hiroshi would be going too.

Tears came to my eyes because just like Mr. Hiroshi, I once had to leave my home many years ago to go live somewhere else. I had to leave my brother behind, my mother and Father and it was hardest thing a small child had to do, but I had no choice.

“The night before he left said Mary, we sat in his garden on a low, stone bench. The setting sun lit our faces with the red and Mr. Hiroshi looked out across the ocean. I knew that Japan lay there, a world away. Behind us in the pond, the koi made tiny popping sounds as they begged for food.” It is strange, said Mr. Hiroshi. I was born in this country. I have lived in this house all my life. How sad that I may not be able to finish this garden.”

In the morning a bus came. Many Japanese people sat inside it, their faces stiff with sadness. Grandmother and I went to say goodbye. “I will take good care of your garden, Mr. Hiroshi,” I offered. He smiled. “That would give me great comfort, Mary, he said.”

Later, Mr. Hiroshi’s home was sold and new family moved in. The new family dug up Mr. Hiroshi’s garden and planted grass. They filled in the pond and edged the yard with rose bushes and daisies. They seemed very pleased with their work.

The Author Maxine Trottier wrote a “Authors Note” where she tell the story of many Japanese
settling on the West Coast. There was a great deal of descrimination against them and life was not easy. Still, they thought they had the same rights as other citizens. Then, in 1939, world War II came. In 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. In Canada and the United States, the homes and businesses owned by the Nikkei were seized. Families were relocated to isolated camps or split up and sent to different places. When the war ended, people of Japanese ancestry were not allowed to return to their homes. Many were eventually deported to Japan, a place many had never seen or been before.
I would like to apologize on behalf of all of us who do not descriminate and feel the need to hurt another human being due to ethnicity or race that we are sadden by these stories but with great writers like Ms. Trottier. We will all grow to become better human beings. I implore everyone today to leave a mark on the world by spreading kindness and respect to one another in our daily lives.
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