Chun Cha was born into a world over which the Japanese exercised
absolute hegemony, and this for decades: Imperial Japan gained control
of Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands following an 1874 dispute with China.
The Sino-Japanese War followed, ending in mid-April, 1895. Japan won. In
1898, America arrived in the Western Pacific, took control of the
Philippines, and rapidly made her presence known—a result of the
Spanish-American War. The Japanese viewed America’s arrival with
distrust because their national interests were diametrically opposed.
She made plans accordingly. Then an Anglo-Japanese alliance was signed
by which England recognized Japan’s special relationship with Korea,
forcing the Russians to remove troops previously stationed in Manchuria,
grudgingly giving up their earlier declared “sphere of influence.”
The year was 1902. Regional tensions continued apace until the
assassination of Japanese prince Hirobumi Ito in Manchuria by a Korean
national. This led to Japan’s formal annexation of Korea in August of
1910—Korea having been a Japanese protectorate since 1905. World War I
soon followed. Germany’s loss was Japan’s gain. The Kaiser’s
former Far Eastern colonies were given to Japan (whetting her appetite
for more). Then, in 1931 Japan seized Manchuria and subsequently annexed
China’s northern Jehol province, halting just short of Peking,
incorporating it into their puppet state of Manchukuo, and so on and so
forth until their 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the savage,
Pacific-wide fighting that continued until Japan’s ultimate defeat at
the end of World War II.
Because of war and its attendant upheaval, Chun Cha, when pressed, found
it difficult to recount her early life in any meaningful detail. Her
past is murky at best, unknown beyond the fragmentary items I gleaned
from our decades together and those fortuitously snippet-annotated
photographs previously noted, along with some other, limited
Her father had died of stomach cancer when she was fourteen years old.
As a result, she was consigned to live outside her immediate family; her
mother simply couldn’t afford to raise her further. People born and
reared in America can hardly conceive of this, but her reality was
simple: girls weren’t worth much in terms of familial security. They
couldn’t be counted on to make money. She did have a younger sister,
but more importantly, she had a much younger brother. Boys were money
and represented future security for all; they were well worth the
emotional and capital investment necessary to prepare them to the
age-old purpose of providing security. Under ordinary circumstances this
would not be a concern, but when a family’s primary breadwinner dies,
when Chun Cha’s father died, it became pivotal.
Remembering that time she often remarked, and wistfully, that as a
little girl her father had often, and lovingly, held her on his knee as
he drank rice wine at home, visiting friends and neighbors at day’s
end, dandling her gently and pinching her cheeks with parental delight,
singing lullabies, encouraging her to nap in his arms while he gently
There were other memories, too, painful memories. She recalls, during
her early teen years, her father’s increasingly slow, labored walks
close to home, how he leaned on a cane, enjoying the warmth of a late
autumn sun as his sickness slowly but surely consumed him. He was
increasingly fatigued and muttered of irremediable chills that wracked
his entire being on what she remembers as a very warm afternoon. In
response, her mother would prepare hot tea, wrap a blanket about him,
and sit comfortingly close, unable otherwise to help. Time moved slowly
by, but then one morning, mid-winter, she remembers strangers showing up
at her house unannounced. It was very early—sunrise. She was soon told
that her father had died during the night. Sadness overwhelmed her as
she listened to the terrible news, trying with difficulty to grasp it.
It was her first direct encounter with death, but she understood the
finality of it all, though not yet the consequences. The strangers who
had come were an older couple, older than her parents. They needed
company and domestic help, longed for it, and knew her mother could
stand a little relief. They would provide it, room and board in trade
for domestic help and company, relieving her mother of an unnecessary
financial burden while furnishing a pleasant home for a very nice girl.
Chun Cha remembers them as kindly. Time passed. They grew close. They
were no longer strangers. She learned how to sew, cook, and keep house,
developing a strong bond with her new home. She was happy. Months passed
into years. One day, her mother, longing to catch a glimpse of her, came
by to do so from a distance, stealthily, so as not to disturb her
daughter, but Chun Cha caught sight of her in spite of that precaution.
Discovered, her mother turned abruptly away and disappeared from view.
Seeing this and not fully understanding, Chun Cha wept. Powerful
memories were rekindled, and her great sense of loss returned. But as
the years passed those memories, too, grew dim.
Excerpted from "The Girl in the White Hat" by Mr Peter M Solstad. Copyright © 2016 by Mr Peter M Solstad. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Mr Peter M Solstad
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Mr. Solstad served as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Army Signal Corps, and as an Information Technology Executive with the U. S. Air Force, this for a period exceeding forty years at various assignments and locations: the Pentagon, where he managed the Air Force's 2.5 billion dollar Long Haul Communications Program; Fort Knox, KY; Fort Riley, KS; Fort Gordon, GA; Fort Snelling, MN; Fort Richardson, AK; Fort McCoy, WI; Camp Ripley, MN, and overseas in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Germany. After service, he formed DS Information Systems Corporation (DSIS) with a friend and business partner in Aiea, Hawaii employing 120 Information Technology Engineers and Technicians for a period in excess of 10 years prior to selling the business. He is now retired and resides in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, where he writes and provides consultant services to industry and government.
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