Alligator Purse

I’m sure my parents didn’t know about my “secret place”, or at least not by that name. It was the hall closet where they stored old clothes, books, and bedding.

One summer my Mom had invited an “old friend” from the internment camp. They had met in Poston, Arizona. Both their families had been moved away from the coastline for national security reasons. I saw old pictures of my Mom and her friend, so young, so surprisingly happy under the circumstances. Mom seemed happy but guarded when introducing her friend and his wife to Dad. Dad talked and laughed a little too loud. Mom cooked foods we had not had since our last big family New Year’s celebration…steak, fried shrimp, and sushi. Dad even drank beer and whiskey which I had never seen him do before. I went to bed with a full stomach, the smell of stale whiskey, and an anxious feeling.

After a few days, Mom’s friend and his wife left. There was a dense quiet that draped over us. Mom seemed “empty”, tired beyond what a nap could solve. Dad retired to his chair in the corner with the paper hiding his face. So when my brother and I started running around fighting over a toy, his loud voice boomed like thunder, stopping us in our tracks. Mom stepped in between us and Dad…then all hell broke loose.

My brother ran and hid in his room. I ran to my “secret place”. I tried to buffer the yelling by sandwiching my body between the old coats. Yelling was bad enough, but yelling in Japanese terrified me. The yelling seemed to get louder and louder. I started to cry silently. I climbed higher on top of a cardboard box. My foot fell through. I dare not make a sound even though it was doubtful Dad could hear over the yelling. My foot was hooked on my Mom’s old alligator purse, which fell on the floor when I finally got my foot free. I opened her purse and found; a small mirror, a lace monogrammed handkerchief, and an old picture of Mom and her “friend”. This picture was different somehow…something in the way they looked at each other. I was too young to really know what it all meant, but I started to cry, but not so silently.

This is a story I submitted to a beautiful site I found: pursestories.com/