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.