In 1986, my family was in the middle of moving between Maple Grove and Maple Plain, Minnesota, two nondescript suburbs of Minneapolis, although at the time, Maple Plain was further out into the woods. My parents were building a house, their dream house, on a hill with ten acres of land surrounding it. We spent weekends that summer going back and forth to the house, checking on the progress.
I remember all of this very vaguely. It was, however, the summer that I asked Jesus into my heart, a story that I told and told myself again and again. It was one conversion of hundreds for me though — every chance I had I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart, in case it didn't take before, that he hadn't actually come in. This was the first time I remember though. We were staying at a family friend's house and my sister and our friend, the older girl we were staying with, were playing in the backyard. I came out and asked them what they were playing, and they said Christians. I didn't understand: I said, 'What's a Christian?' and the older girl asked me if I had asked Jesus into my heart. I hadn't, I didn't think, so I did, running back into the house, Jesus, come into my heart.
On the trips between our old house in Maple Grove and the house being built in Maple Plain, we would come over some train tracks on the way out of town towards the building site. On one occasion, for some reason, I had money, my allowance, in my mouth. Some coins — I forget how much exactly. Coming over the train tracks, I swallowed one: a penny and had a moment of panic. What should I do, I had to tell someone, didn't I? Mom would be so angry, Dad would be so angry.
I don't remember telling them. I remember going with mom and a stick into the woods when I had to shit. I don't remember passing the penny. I don't remember much else. The woods, the ten acres, became my playground. It went on and on. We played baseball and war and made forts.
Sometime this last week, Mia may or may not have swallowed a white button. It's hard to tell as she and Mei piece together the story: was it a bit of paper or a button? These are important distinctions for adults, but for children, it's hard to tell. It was a button. Where did the button come from? I don't know. Was it paper? Yes. A paper button? No, a button, a white button. There are no white buttons missing from anything. Where did it come from? I don't know. Where was it? Where did she get it?
Mia sits on the potty and when she finishes, I or Yoko sift through looking looking for a white button. No button this time. Mia plays happily and is going to school now. After how many days do you go to the doctor? What will she remember of her angry father.
The prayer, to be sure, didn't take, but not for lack of trying. I prayed again and again. I was sorry for what I had done: how much more sorry can a child be. Jesus, I was sure I had felt him in my heart, speaking to me.