"I like it," I said, "and I like our new house. So does Jill."
"I'm glad." She bent and kissed me. "Try to go back to sleep now."
So I went back to sleep, and I wore my purple jumper to school the next day, and we never discussed my father again until a number of years had gone by.
My mother loved me, but she couldn't help me. I had to sort out the past and present and future, I had to sort out my relationship with my father, in my own time, in my own way.
I seldom dream about the war anymore; but when I was a child I used to dream about it at least once or twice a year. The dreams varied at first, then became distilled into one recurring nightmare, in which I was standing with my mother on the deck of a ship, a railed and rocking platform that seemed higher than smokestacks, higher than planes or birds, yet still on a level with the flat and blue and endless ocean. I was dressed in a yellow pinafore with white forget-me-nots embroidered on the hem of the skirt, and I was crying. Far below the deck, at the bottom of some steps that slanted downward and outward from where I was standing, a man was smiling up at me, and I knew he was my fatherthe way you do in dreamsalthough I couldn't see his face. My mother was waving and calling, and Aunt Liz and all the rest of the women were waving and calling, too, crowded together in a thicket at the rail, where the other children and I were as dwarfed among them as lantana under the mango trees, existing hardy but hidden below their branchlike arms, unable to see either over or out. Yet I saw my father and I saw the steps. I kept pulling and pulling at my mother's dress, trying and trying to tell her about the steps, but she wouldn't listen. She just stood there, smaller and prettier than most of the women but equally tired-looking, with her copper hair falling straight to her shoulders and shining in the sunlight, while she called and called and waved and waved and didn't notice what I said at all. She didn't notice the steps moving away.
Then the dream changed, and I found myself running, running, running, toward a blue emptiness that might have been ocean and might have been sky. As I ran, the deck swayed under me, and I stopped and reached for the handrail. But, when I tried to steady myself, the rail turned into a strand of barbed wire, and I clamped my lips together so I wouldn't scream. Because I knew where I was. Even before I looked, I knew where I was. I was outside the little locked house where the lion lived.
"No, no!" I cried in the dream. "No-no-no-no-no!" And often I was still crying the word aloud when I woke up sobbing.
It's hard to know what you remember from early childhood and what you only think you remember. I suppose if you stay in the same place doing the same things day after day and year after year, the world and its happenings are apt to run together into one fading unaccented panorama with maybe a day when a picnic was called off because of rain or a moment when you were sitting under a tree in a striped sweater watching a spotted dog run by remaining forever in your mind for no accountable reason. But even if you don't stay in the same place doing the same things day after day and year after year, the details tend to shift around and get blurred. I was five years old the morning the Japanese planes roared improbably out of nowhere into the safe everyday skies over our rooftop in Hawaii, with the goggled, helmeted men sitting in the cockpits and the round red suns painted on the backs of the planes. And as the months and decades passed, I heard that morning (and the mornings and afternoons and nights that followed) described so often and variously that it was easy to confuse the legend with the reality and my own memories with the memories of others. And, of course, there were some things I remembered for a long time that never happened, that never were true. Like the lion living in the lei shop.
Excerpted from The Lion in the Lei Shop by Kaye Starbird. Copyright © 2013 by Kaye Starbird. Excerpted by permission of Amazon Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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