The following piece of creative nonfiction is part of a series I started on my personal blog a few years ago called “Alphabet: A History,” which is a collection of short, autobiographical vignettes, focusing mainly on relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, and self). I will be publishing the series on Fridays.
I’m six and we’ve just moved to Tokyo from Chinhae, Korea. We’ve left our dogs behind and the only thing that gets me over it is the anticipation of a new baby. Allison is born on a cold day in the middle of winter five months after the move. My first grade class is at a special Air Force band concert on base. They’re in the middle of my favorite song, “Eye of the Tiger,” when I hear the familiar jangle of keys coming down the aisle closer to my seat. My father is the assistant principal at my school and whenever I hear, outside my classroom, the jangle of those keys he wears on his belt, I sit up straight, put my brush away, and fold my hands over my lap. Today when I hear the jangle at the band concert, I swerve in my seat and see my father and even in the dark I can make out his smile.
I spend the night at my friend Kristy’s house and her mother braids my hair and I feel like a whole new person. At the hospital the next morning, my mother doesn’t mention my braids and I wonder what it will be like sharing her now. My father asks if I want to see my new baby sister and I take a deep breath and nod. He walks me to the nursery and I peer through the window. All the babies look the same to me. “Which one?” I ask. He points to Allison and says, “That’s her.” I stare and wait, I’m sure something’s supposed to happen now. “She has red hair just like you,” my father says after a few minutes. “She looks like a bulldog,” I reply. A month later I teach her to touch her toes.