I wrote a new poem not that long ago after I took Maya to see the hina dolls at the Boston Childrens’ Museum for Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day). Maya has a small set of display dolls, not the traditional display, but ones of little girls my mother has bought for her over the past few years and a few others she’s collected on the way. Maya had seen pictures of the traditional display but had never seen one “in true life” before.
Many years ago, my mother did have a set like this. We have a picture of it. Mom in a high chair, about 1-year-old, next to an impressive display of an imperial court. It’s the only picture because the next Girls’ Day, we were at war and, according to the story, my grandfather buried the dolls, hiding our Japanese-ness. When the war was over and he retrieved them, they had been destroyed by bugs underground.
The poem was written considering the hole that loss had left, and how that loss can continue to echo generations later. This was a very minor casualty of war, but from here we can extrapolate the bigger ones, see how the echoes of our decisions today shake the realities of tomorrow. It isn’t just the people who die in war, it’s those who survive and those who descend from them that continue to pay the price. This isn’t to say that war is always unnecessary. The war that took those dolls away was absolutely necessary. But the price for even a just war comes due, and then we all have to pay for it.