Essay by
  • Emma Pallarino
in response to
Essay by Elaine Glendon Laws, Dec. 11, 1999

In reading "I Remember Seabrook" essays by former child residents of Seabrook, a common theme is "innocence." Retelling a positive childhood memory from the perspective of an adult shows the tension between memory and reality. As a fifth grader, Elaine Glendon Laws remembers her experience at Seabrook as bubbly, fun, and free. She "traipsed" through fields and was adorably "unruly." The children ran in and out of neighbors' homes to play. They graduated from each class together. Everyone knew everyone. This pleasant, invariable life was challenged when Japanese American children joined the class. Elaine compared her "blond pigtails and freckled face" to their "black shiny hair and whitest of teeth." As a child, she perceived their wariness as aloofness and "sophistication." She naively envied their "social lives" and community center where they did "wonderful things," as well as the fact that they lived so close to each other.

Now, as a woman in her sixties, she understands that their lives were not so "idyllic." Truthfully, the Japanese Americans lived in tiny houses on top of each other and worked in Seabrook's factories and fields, often for menial pay. Even their "social lives" were coerced and structured. The sports teams she envied were C.F. Seabrook's conspicuous method of ensuring the workers did not unionize, by offering them a recreational outlet that was nonetheless under his control. This unique ability to reflect on one's life and a moment in history that once seemed so picturesque, and to realize the sense of deception, reveals how memories are ever changing throughout an individual's lifetime.