Monday, March 13, 2017

Tsunami

When I was ten years old, my father was stationed at Schofield Barracks, on the island of Oahu. Lucky me spent three years there, soaking up the sun, going through middle school stuff, and exploring the island on which we lived and the others that surrounded it.

One of the "middle school stuff" I went through was my first job: babysitting. I usually babysat for the Kingseed family, who had a toddler boy and a baby girl. They lived three blocks away, so I'd walk to their house, and then Colonel Kingseed would walk me home in the evening when he and his wife returned from their date.

One of the "exploring the other islands" things we did was to go to the Big Island of Hawaii. This trip was an all girls affair--my mom took my sister and her two friends, all freshmen in high school, and my best friend and me. The six of us spent two days and one night checking out a different island, eating pancakes with coconut syrup, pointing out German tourists with black socks and sandals, and laughing like crazy.

One of the more serious things we did--maybe the only serious thing we did--was check out a memorial for those lost in a tsunami. Colonel Kingseed's aunt actually died in it. Though he and his family were not Hawaiian, his aunt was young and adventurous and after graduating from a teacher's college, she took a fun posting in a place far from the Mid-West where she grew up: Hawaii. As a kid, I remember clearly going to a clearing that overlooked a rocky peninsula that jutted out into the blue, blue ocean and having my mom tell me that a tsunami came and swept away the school--and that most of the students and teachers were pulled out into the ocean and never seen again.

I've told this story to my children a handful of times. They listen as rapt as I did--all children have a fascination for the tragic and morbid. I told them the story again a few weeks before we flew to Hawaii--to Maui, not the Big Island--though I tried to leave out some of the core bits of the story as we'd be staying right near the ocean. And we'd be swimming right in the ocean. And tsunamis give me nightmares...

While we were in Maui, my youngest son Kiefer and I went to a bookstore together. He looked at the toys while I looked at the "local" section within the children's books. I pulled out a half dozen or so, but nothing caught my eye. And then I pulled a good-looking hardback book out.

The title was The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather's Story by Anthony D. Fredericks. I was instantly intrigued. And I flipped the page open to this illustration:
(Look at the name, second from the bottom!)

My mom helped me track down Colonel Kingseed's address, and I will send the book to him, maybe with a copy of this slice explaining an odd coincidence bringing together a remarkable event involving his young aunt.

2 comments:

  1. This is amazing! Born and raised here in Hawaiʻi, on Oʻahu, I know exactly where you're talking about. The most destructive tsunami hit in 1946 and affected the Hilo region of the Big Island and I think may be the one referenced in the story you mentioned. I find the connection between the Kingseeds that you babysat for and finding his aunt's name in the story amazing! Next time I'm there, I'll take a closer look at the memorial. Who knew that parts of your life from different times would intersect later! Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. That is the tsunami that I was talking about, Johanna! The book is probably in your local library if you want to check it out. Thanks for reading my slice--a day late!

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