Celebratio Mathematica

Shōshichi Kobayashi

Remembrance of Shōshichi Kobayashi

by Mei Kobayashi (Shoshichi’s younger daughter)

My first memory of my fath­er was our an­nu­al fall event – get­ting dressed up with my sis­ter to go to the UC cam­pus to be pho­to­graphed for my par­ents’ up­com­ing Christ­mas card. Weeks be­fore the event, my moth­er spent hours sew­ing us match­ing dresses then find­ing lace bobby socks and pat­ent leath­er shoes. Sum­ire, be­ing the A+ stu­dent that she was, al­ways co­oper­ated. Me? Well, … My par­ents found it a chal­lenge to get me dressed and an even great­er chal­lenge to get me to sit still for 2 to 3 rolls of film (that is, 2 to 3 dozen pho­tos). An­cient cam­er­as of yes­teryear con­sumed 3 square inches of film per photo so only a dozen could fit on each tall roll.

My second memory of my fath­er is on my first day of nurs­ery school up in the Berke­ley Hills. As he dropped me off, I begged him not to leave. He was sched­uled to rush off to the Uni­versity to work, but he parked the car and stayed an hour or so un­til I met and star­ted play­ing with oth­er chil­dren. A few days later he bought me a beau­ti­ful square lunch box with a match­ing ther­mos bottle and cup. It was white and ad­orned with pink flowers in a lace pat­tern. I could now walk in every morn­ing as a fash­ion­able young lady!

Around ele­ment­ary school, we star­ted hav­ing din­ner guests on a reg­u­lar basis. To make sure I would learn table man­ners, I had to sit next to my fath­er for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. “Sit still. And don’t let you pig­tails dangle onto my din­ner plate,” he would say whenev­er I leaned over to whis­per a secret to Sum­ire. Sit­ting next to my fath­er ended up be­com­ing an edu­ca­tion­al ex­per­i­ence in a com­pletely un­re­lated mat­ter – math­em­at­ics. I am not sure how or when the prac­tice star­ted, but he taught my sis­ter and me math­em­at­ics at the break­fast table every sum­mer morn­ing. When we be­came too un­co­oper­at­ive, he in­sti­tuted a policy. We would re­ceive 5 cents per page each time we com­pleted a chapter and fin­ished all of the ex­er­cises at the end. When we got a little older and more re­bel­li­ous, he re­vised his policy to a whop­ping 10 cents per page, but we were re­quired to de­pos­it 50% of our earn­ings in the bank to save up for col­lege. We were quite naïve at the time, and were quite pleased with ourselves for hav­ing ne­go­ti­ated what we thought was a fant­ast­ic deal that doubled our earn­ings.

(We fast for­ward sev­er­al years, by­passing acne and oth­er ad­oles­cent per­ils.)

Be­fore we went off to col­lege, we were sur­prised when our fath­er told us that we were now adults and re­spons­ible for ourselves. The tempta­tion to keep cling­ing on as a par­ent would be too great if we stayed in Berke­ley. “Just as chil­dren must out­grow child­hood, par­ents must out­grow par­ent­hood”, he said. My last memory from my child­hood is at Oak­land Air­port. My fath­er is stand­ing with my moth­er by his side. Both are des­per­ately try­ing to look happy, con­fid­ent and re­as­sur­ing. They are smil­ing and wav­ing good-bye as I board a plane to Ne­wark to go off to study at Prin­ceton.