The one thing I thank my parents the most for is teaching me to read and write when I was three. Most people don't have a written record of their thoughts when they were that young. I do. It's mostly incomprehensible to other people, and to me as well, a fair amount of the time, and often suggestive that bizarre and unexpected events, furniture, objects, teachers, and family friends played a gigantic part in my life. Rollerskates come up a lot. Two couches come up even more, always on opposite sides of the room. Black cats, mountains, and Christmas trees are next, followed by birds carrying letters in their beaks, angry female babysitters with long braids, and large pianos.
Three is so young it's like reading something written by a complete stranger, one with no linear thought processes. Often, once upon a time there was a little girl who lived inside her house and there was a lion outside her house ends with an ice cream truck encounter and, for good measure, a Christmas tree. (I guess not so much has changed; I still can't write stories that stay on focus beginning to end, but at least I don't... thrust ice cream everywhere, although, as I will soon prove, I do thrust sushi everywhere.)
The first nonfictional somewhat linear journal-like thing I wrote down was around my 5th birthday. Every year for my birthday we'd go get sushi at the same sushi plane we'd been getting sushi from since I was 2. I'll let my 5-year-old self tell it:
Today we went to Kuny's for sushi for my birthday. Kuny is Japanese. He always cuts my sushy into little pieces. When I grow up I want to marry Kuny, and eat sushy every night!
(And there is a drawing of Kuni and me and sushi at the bottom. We both have arms coming out of our heads and legs coming out of our arms. The sushi, however, is drawn very carefully.)
The other day my dad and I went to Kuni's. We arrived as they were just opening. Kuni was standing at the bar without his chef robes or hat on yet. He looked as naked in his T-shirt, to me, as any newborn baby, as he bowed to us and we bowed awkwardly, as always, back at him. My dad always shoots streams of friendly English at Kuni about how awesome his food is, to which he responds in streams of friendly-sounding Japanese and free noodle rolls and extra fatty tuna. He must understand English, as he's been here for at least 20 years, but he never speaks it.
There are two ways I know that he remembers me. One: if I try to order something that's not, technically, on the menu, but that I have been eating since I was a toddler, and the waitress says they don't have it, Kuni shakes his head wildly and waves his arms at her until she writes down my order as I originally said it. Two: he still cuts my sushi into tiny little toddler-sized pieces and serves it to me with a straight face. No matter where I'm sitting at the bar, even if I'm in front of another chef, Kuni prepares my sushi.
Whenever I see the gray hair poking out of Kuni's chef's hat or notice the age spots on his hands, I feel sad in a way that has no explanation, really, and no parallel. I feel the completely irrational feeling that when Kuni dies, I will be significantly more alone in the world. To feel that way about someone you've never spoken a word to is an odd thing. I hate to see him age. He has always looked about 30 to me. He's probably 60. I hope he lives to be 160. I wouldn't want to raise my children in a Chicago where they couldn't get their first taste of solid food in the form of raw yellowtail cut into a baby-sized bite. Would you?