Day 22 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “V”:
V is for Valentine’s Day
One of my favorite scenes in The Red Kimono happens on Valentine’s Day, when, at the Rohwer internment camp, Sachi is perturbed that she’s “too young” to go to the Valentine’s Day Dance. So she and Jubie decide to have a dance of their own. Sachi teaches Jubie a Japanese dance, and Jubie teaches Sachi the jitterbug.
Even better, Jubie asks her momma if Sachi can borrow her puffy red skirt. Not to be outdone, Sachi decides to “borrow” her mother’s red kimono, without asking, of course, becaue Sachi is not supposed to be playing with Jubie.
In the following excerpt, Sachi and Jubie are dancing for Jubie’s Momma and Auntie Bess. In the end, they decide Mrs. Kimura’s red kimono must have had some kind of magic.
Jubie took her starting pose and folded her hands in front of her. She looked down and closed her eyes. Jubie’s skin was about as far away from white porcelain as the number one was from a thousand. Still, she reminded Sachi of the geisha dolls she left in California.
Sachi began to hum “Sakura”—the cherry blossom song. Her voice quivered with nerves. At least Mrs. Franklin and Auntie Bess didn’t know what the song was supposed to sound like, and wouldn’t know if she mispronounced some of the words. She took a deep breath. “Sakura, sakura . . .”
Jubie raised her arms, exposing the kimono’s long, flowing sleeves. She tilted her head up, as if gazing at cherry blossoms on a tree. Mama’s kimono must have cast a magic spell on Jubie’s skinny, awkward frame, because she was prettier than Sachi had ever seen her.
Jubie swayed her arms back and forth, dipped and rose, then turned around. Trying hard to make her tune match the beauty of Jubie’s dance, Sachi continued to sing. “Yayoi no sorawa.”
Mrs. Franklin and Auntie Bess watched from the sofa. Their eyes glistened with tears.
Jubie turned slowly, holding one arm up, and sweeping the other behind her. She looked at Sachi with a twinkle in her eyes. When the song ended, she returned to her starting position and again, closed her eyes.
For a moment, the room was silent. Then, Auntie Bess cheered and clapped her hands. Mrs. Franklin wiped a tear from her cheek. “Oh, baby. That was so pretty. So pretty.”
Sachi clapped too. “You looked just like a geisha.” She covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. “Well, almost.”
Jubie ran her hands over the long, silk sleeves. “It musta been your mama’s kimono. Dancing just felt right today, like magic. Your turn!”