We all have done things in our lives that looking back we are not especially proud of. This was one incident in my young life that was a lesson in understanding and forgiveness.

If I were being judged by current standards, my 10-year-old self would have been canceled because I used to harass a young girl who helped her dad deliver unfinished laundry. These were shirts that were washed and dried but need to be ironed and folded by my dad.

The young girl was a little older than me. She never said anything to me and usually gave me a stare that said, “Don’t mess with me.” Unfortunately, I did not heed her non-verbal warning.

My “understanding” dad at the 1939 San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island.

They usually came about the same time each day to drop off their load. I would call her names and tease her about her weight. She was not overweight but I sensed that it was a way I could annoy her.

On this occasion my mom and dad needed to do something, so I was left in charge to close up the laundry and wait on any customers who might come in before we closed at 7 p.m.

To set the scene of this life lesson, we had a door that had a long glass window. As the father and daughter left the store I must have said something to her that hit a nerve and she came running at me. I tried to slam the door before she could get at me.

Well she hit the door so hard that she shattered the glass window on our door right in front of me. She had the hit glass on the door just right! There were chunks and bits of glass everywhere.

The miracle was the neither one of us had a scratch on us. She looked at me and I looked at her and I believed that we both uttered, “Oh s##t!” We just stopped! By the truck, her dad was in shock. He ran to our door to see if we were okay!

When the smoke had cleared they both left, but the hard part was yet to come. I had to call my dad and let him know what had happened. I called him at home, crying my eyes out. Here he had given this 10-year-old kid the responsibility of manning the store and I had really screwed up.

I don’t think he understood what had happened. I thought he was going to kill me or at least give me a good spanking.

He came back to the laundry! He looked at the window, then looked at me. I was still in tears, apologizing for what had happened. I told him that it was my fault because I was calling the girl names.

What was amazing was that he was not angry! He didn’t even show that he was disappointed or mad with me, after he had given me the responsibility of taking care of the store.

He listened patiently and he told me to watch the store and he left for the hardware store to buy a piece of plywood to cover what had been our window.

When he returned from the hardware store with the board, he had me hammer in the nails to secure the board.

We went home. It was a quiet ride. He didn’t say much, except reassuring me that accidents do happen. He was happy that no one was hurt. There was no hint that I was going to get a traditional Chinese painful lesson with a duster. After that he never mentioned that incident again.

A few days later the glass man came and installed a new window. When the young girl and her dad came next, not a word was uttered. She didn’t even look at me and to be truthful I was avoiding any contact, verbal or visual.

I had learned my lesson. As a parent now, I know kids can learn from their mistakes. Every once in a while I wonder if that young girl remembers the incident.


Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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