I have been immersed in information about Japan as I prepare for my trip in October. Since I am not going on a tour I have to make all of my own arrangements. It’s a lot of work. In order to maintain the mood I decided to reread The Tale of Genji instead of the mystery potboilers I usually read at bedtime. The book has been on my shelves forever. What I did not expect was that it would open a Pandora’s box of memories and questions, or should I say forgetories.
I thought I first read the book when I lived in California from 1957 to 1959, where, largely due to the influence of a friend, Jean Rosenstein, I first became interested in Japanese and Hawaiian culture. I had been interested in China since 1947 when I had a pen pal from Shanghai but it was impossible to think about China in 1959; Japan was making a great PR effort to reach out to us and seemed so accessible.
I clearly recollect discussing the book with Jean, but last night I saw that the copyright was 1960. So this discussion had to have been by letter, or perhaps on one of the visits we made to each other. We returned to Chicago in 1959 and a few years later Max and Jean returned to Adrian, Michigan, her home town. So now I want to know when we discussed the book and what happened to Max and Jean and their 5 kids who were mostly older than Robin.
I don’t usually look back. I have enough going on in the present to keep me occupied. And one of the sad things about getting older is that friends who were even older may well be only memories and questions remain unanswered.
I love that book…
It isn’t that I mind looking back; I just don’t usually do it. What makes me sad are the things I don’t remember.
Looking back doesn’t have to be a negative thing I think. In fact, it can help us to see things a little more clearly through the separation of time and space. By forgiving my family for not being able, mentally (because they were entrenched in their own habit of thinking or being) or economically giving me the boost to become the best I could be, I’ve been able to move on unencumbered and happy to be the me that I was meant to be. Would I do things differently knowing what I know now, but couldn’t know when I was younger? Absolutely. But at the same time I wouldn’t change a thing. All my experiences, mistakes, everything I would or would not do today, became part of what and who I am today. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here to mean that I think you should look back if it makes you uncomfortable or unhappy, but I just felt compelled to say that remembering isn’t always a bad thing.