When I was a little kid, the oldest sister of one of my friends would go to Mickey’s Cleaners at 3413 N. Clark Street, and we always felt so “adult” when she’d allow us to tag along. The world of children is one of self, more than anything. It isn’t until their little personalities develop over time that the more qualitative aspects blossom, so you can imagine my surprise as a teenager when I found out that my parents, especially my dad, knew Takeo and Martha Deguchi. Ever since I could remember, the cleaners was filled with plants. It was hard not to wonder if the plants were going to soon grow outwards onto Clark Street!
When I was in college, I’d often walk or take the bus to drop cleaning off, because of our connections. Martha would talk about her children as if I knew them. I knew of them, but after awhile I almost felt like I should have known them. She had this kind of pride when she spoke of them — not the arrogant, “besting you” egotistical pride, but the kind of pride a parent has when they know what they’ve been through in life, and they know that their children had turned out to be good people. It’s the kind of pride one takes because their children honor their name and their history by turning out to be honorable people themselves.
Many years have passed, and before I moved to Lincoln Square, I was able to take the long bus ride to drop things off at Mickey’s, but not so much after I moved to my current neighborhood. I did stop in a few times while I was in the beginning years of grad school, but being without a car and having health issues, it was harder and harder to make the trips for me. The last time I was there, I was surprised that Martha could still sew because of her deteriorating eyesight, but somehow she managed to do my alterations. When I lived in Lake View as an adult, Martha Deguchi was the only person I would trust my alterations with!
Perhaps because of events going on in my own life, I’ve been traveling down memory lane a lot, lately. Perhaps because I need to remember a time when my life was easier, when life was kinder and it seemed that all of my family and their friends would be here, forever. I am also doing some genealogy work, and somewhere between the two aspects, I found out that Tak passed away September 21, 2007. I experienced a bittersweet joy when I first found a way to contact them through the funeral home that took care of his details.
The home promptly emailed me back with the sad news that Martha had passed away on 7-17, and that the services were held last Saturday. I felt a wave of sadness, of seeing another person of my parent’s generation leave us, and that I’ll never hear her yell out to Tak, “Daddy….. she needs to use the bathroom.” So now Martha and Takeo are together again, with my parents, and many dear family friends and my own friends.
And now a Rastafarian man named Martin is hemming my dresses. I no longer hear, “Daddy” but “Yeah, mon.” And life goes on.