Becky Steinmann, 16 years old, attends Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ontario. Her cultural background is Mennonite, and her Anabaptist ancestors came from Alsace-Lorraine regions in Europe. Although she was not brought up conservatively, and her “outward appearance is the same as any other denomination’s in society”, she is a pacifist and believes in adult baptism. Becky visited Japan for 2 weeks when she was 10 years old, and her friendship with Mijuuki, her pen pal gave her the idea for this story.
Jenny sighed as she sat in her wooden swing, scraping her feet along the sandy dirt. The warm sun beat down, but the full branches on the maple tree above her covered her with shade.
Summer holidays began a month ago, and Jenny embraced the idea of freedom. Grade I had been fun, but the thought of swimming, flying kites and licking cold ice cream in the summer definitely took preference over the classroom.
Well that was the past, and the excitement of holidays had dwindled. Her best friend had gone to Florida, and none of the neighbourhood kids paid any attention to her.
As she wallowed in her self-pity and boredom, Jenny noticed a large yellow moving truck parked in the driveway of the house next door. The back doors were open, and two burly men were carrying wooden trunks and crates out of the truck onto the front lawn. Boxes and crates were scattered all over the lawn. Finding the scene interesting, she leapt off the swing, and curiously scampered over to the sight.
As she approached, she noticed a family bustling around, taking things inside the house and giving directions to the moving men. Jenny could tell they were a family, because they didn’t look anything like the neighbourhood people Jenny had seen before. Their skin was darkly tanned brown, and their hair was straight, black and shiny like the Black Stallion’s coat. It was totally different from Jenny’s bouncy blonde curls, and her sky blue eyes.
Among the chaos, there was a little girl, who caught Jenny’s eye, sitting on a large wooden crate. Her legs were dangling and swinging back and forth as she surveyed the situation. As her eyes followed the busy people, she suddenly noticed Jenny. Instantly a welcoming smile spread across the little girl’s face, and she waved at Jenny, and motioned her over. Jenny smiled back shyly, but was slightly apprehensive to go over. Her mother had told her never to talk to strangers, and she had been pretty serious about it. However, Jenny went to meet her.
As Jenny neared her, she could see a sparkle in the little girl’s slanted brown eyes. Feeling a bit more sure of herself, Jenny said a cheerful “hi!” Instead of the expected “hi,” back, strange words came from the girls delicate lips.
Astonished that the girl didn’t speak English, Jenny finally realized that she was from a different country, and spoke a different language.
Jenny motioned to herself and said with clear pronounciation, “Jenny”. The little girl followed the lead and said “Miyuki”.
Both girls bubbled up with laughter at Jenny’s attempt to pronounce the name, and they instantly became friends.
Jenny pointed at her backyard, and asked with gestures whether Miyuki would come over and play. Miyuki nodded eagerly, and leapt off the crate.
Together they zig-zagged their way through the maze of boxes, and played follow the leader as they went. Jenny was pleased that Miyuki knew this simple game, and realized that even though Miyuki looked different on the outside, she was just like any other little girl Jenny had known.
The girls hopped, skipped, galloped and crawled their way into Jenny’s yard, each taking turns to lead the other with interesting movements. Some of the funny movements made the girls giggle with delight, and they soon learned that smiling and laughing were a universal language.
The girls were having so much fun that they didn’t notice it was almost suppertime. They were soon reminded, however, when both their mothers came towards them with worried looks on their faces.
When Jenny’s mother reached the girls, she took Jenny by the arm and took her aside to talk to her. Miyuki’s mother did likewise.
Each of the girls was lectured by their concerned, yet loving mothers, and told never to wander off alone, or talk to strangers ever again.
Jenny and Miyuki could tell that their mothers didn’t like them playing with someone that was from a different country. “A Japanese” is what Jenny’s mom called Miyuki. Miyuki’s mom said Jenny was an “American”, and Americans and Japanese didn’t like or play with each other, it was as simple as that. In other words, they couldn’t be friends.
Both Jenny and Miyuki sulked through dinner, and hardly ate anything. Their mothers were concerned at their bad spirits, and finally decided to take their daughters, and go straighten this thing out with the other mother.
As they made their way to the other’s house, not watching where they were going, accidently bumped into each other on the way. At first they were stunned, and then, before they could stop themselves, the mothers burst out in laughter.
The laughter seemed to break the ice, and the two girls and their mothers relaxed, and let their hair down.
Now that the girls had their worries off their minds, they were hungry. Deciding to go out for a special treat, they compromised on both of their favourites, ice cream with raw fish on top!