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Virtual Asian-American Art Museum Project

Alexei Taylor, Author

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Shimomura’s Relationship with his Grandmother, Toku Shimomura

One gathers that you and your grandmother had a very special connection. You were the last baby she delivered, for example, and during the final decade and a half or so of her life you contributed to her diaristic activities by giving her a diary every year at Christmas.

There was a very strong attachment that I’ve always thought came out of being the first grandchild. That’s why I was so surprised when I brought those diaries back and began to have them translated that the entry on my birthday, when she delivered me, was so abrupt. It said, “Today Roger was born.” What a disappointment! I really expected her to wax poetic about her life up to that point. But, you know, my mother told me, “She must have been really tired.”

That’s not surprising!

Yes, and my mother also said she was the one who was really tired, because apparently in Japan it’s believed that it’s better to be born at the beginning of a day than the end of a day. And so, at the home delivery, my uncle—one of the three artist brothers—was waiting outside the bedroom as his sister—my mom—was waiting to deliver me. Grandma kept telling mom to wait, wait, hold on, wait, wait. My mom was just screaming bloody murder, trying to keep me in. I actually used that in part of a performance, where images of these babies are flashing on the screen. You hear this ticktock, ticktock. And you hear this voice moaning, and you hear my grandmother’s soothing voice saying, “Wait, wait, wait.” Then, finally, at 12:01 she says, “Okay, now.”3

So were you born at the very, very beginning of the day through her efforts?

One minute after midnight.
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