Adult Group Excellent Work (Japan)
The Braille Story of My Family
Itabashi-ku, Tokyo Megumi Suzuki [Age 49, theater actor,female]
On one uneventful day before the holidays at the end of April, I returned to my mother’s home in Iwaki city, Fukushima, partly to visit my late father’s grave. My mother and I were having an uneventful conversation fit for an uneventful day. Then out of the blue, my mother said something which astounded me.
“By the way, I found a lot of braille sheets when I was cleaning out the storeroom after the quake. Remember, those sheets of paper your homeroom teacher suggested that you store up on during the oil crisis.”
All I came up with was this half-witted reply.
After all, that was 4 decades ago. It’s no wonder I was surprised.
The braille sheets handed to me were crisp and neatly bundled. I pulled out one sheet and noticed its peculiar thickness.
Then it all came back to me! These braille sheets custom-made by the local paper store were even thicker than the typical double weight braille paper, and being a schoolgirl I had a difficult time embossing it. Imagine, a fourth-grader experiencing a “stiff neck.”
This brought back many memories of the braille-related episodes in my family.
My parents would take the children’s books at home and transcribe them little by little into braille for their first grade daughter who was thrilled with joy for having encountered braille for the first time.
My mother had transcribed “Little Women” into a braille book. I was able to tell colors apart, so to delight me, she pasted leftover pieces of cloth from sewing my clothes onto the cover and created a beautiful book of pink and green. It was the exact image of “Little Women.”
On the other hand, there is a funny memoir of my father.
One day in my second year of school, he showed me one of the Aesop’s Fables that he transcribed, the title of which read, “Tsuro to Kitsune (Crane and Fox). ”
“Daddy, didn’t you mean Tsuru (crane)? It says Tsuro! Tsuro!”
Becoming completely cross as I carelessly burst out laughing, he said,
“That does it, I quit!” and he really quit. It still remains as one of the funniest stories in the family.
There is another episode about my father. It was when he purchased all 32 volumes of the braille version of Sanseido’s Japanese Dictionary for me. He built a bookshelf for the dictionary. The front upper edge of the shelf was lined with small round-headed nails, each of which was driven in to form a braille to indicate the title of the volume beneath it when the books are installed. In this day and age, I would simply do away by sticking a braille seal on the spine of each book, but my kindhearted father took care not to damage the books, and yet made them easy for me to use.
My baby brother is another story.
I had recently started living on my own, when one day I unexpectedly received a letter from my brother who was in high school then, written in braille. He had found a braille textbook in our mother’s bookshelf and took 3 days to write the letter himself.
Enclosed with his short letter were... Heart Sutra, along with an extract of the timetable of Joban Line leaving Ueno Station. Although there was no mention of this in the letter, it was as if he were saying, “Keep calm. And if that doesn’t work, then come on back home” which made me cry and smile at the same time.
When I asked him of his intentions on a later date, he said “Oh that? Just aiming for a chuckle,” and gave me a shy smile.
One month after my visit to hometown, I was in the PC room at the welfare center transcribing a brochure for a book-reading session of my theatrical company.
The touch of the bundle of extra-thick braille sheets showed no signs of the 40 years that have gone by, yet without doubt brought back fond memories of my family. In the face of the thick paper, the non-stiff-neck-inducing braille printer diligently continued to process braille.