Our family lives in America, but in many ways, we attempt to maintain some aspects of a Japanese household. From the outside, our home is almost stereotypically American, particularly for California. A moderate sized, ranch-style home with a front and back yard, built in the 1950s, you can't really get a more generically American home. But on the inside, there are a number of little tweaks we have made and practices we hold to that have made our home, at least in some ways, distinctly Japanese.
Let's start with the most commonly know practice: not wearing shoes in the home. Growing up with shoes on at all times, at first I found this a bit odd but have come to love it. The one drawback is that the space before your front door is always crammed with endless rows of shoes and baskets and house slippers.
Toys and nicknacks are another instance where our house is a bit different. While the kids have plenty of American toys, there are a number outliers that help to identify our household as Japanese. In Mimi's room, a koinobori (carp flag) that she made hangs proudly, waiting to be taken out on Children's Day.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
And so it has come to pass. 2016 found me not only welcoming a third child to the world (our wonderful Marichan), but also reaching that much feared milestone: 40. Years. Old.
As you would expect, just about everyone I know asked me, "So, how does it feel hitting 40?"
"It's a lot like 39," was my standard reply, but the question got me thinking. If I'm expected to live to 80, I'm smack-dab in the middle of my life. As such, I decided I'd take a look at how life now stacks up to when I was 20, the mid point of my life so far and well before these munchkins came along.
I can't help but think I'm hardwired for certain things, or at least can't give up some of what fascinated me in my youth. So much has remained the same.
- 20: A four bedroom home in Northern California (Davis) with 5 roommates
- 40: A four bedroom home in Northern California (Marin) with 4 roommates
- 20: The Beatles
- 40: The Beatles
Arcade Games in the Home:
- 20: Gottlieb's "The Black Hole" pinball; "Return of the Jedi" arcade machine
- 40: Gottlieb's "Gladiators" pinball; MAME system with 200+ arcade games
- 20: none
- 40: none
Favorite Owned Mode of Transportation:
- 20: 1975 Porsche 914 (the poor man's Porsche of the 1990s)
- 40: 1982 Porsche 911SC (the poor man's air cooled Porsche 911 of the 2010s)
- 20: Agnostic
- 40: Better informed Agnostic
- 20: Star Wars, Anime, Tolkien, Stephen King
- 40: Star Wars, Anime, Tolkien, Haruki Murakami
Vision and Coordination:
- 20: Bad
- 40: Aggressively bad
While I can confidently say the past 20 years have been the best of my life so far, they haven't been free from the unfortunate realities of aging and some of the sadder aspects of simply living a life.
- 20: not particularly fashionable, but all there
- 40: 50% Missing in Action. Have resorted to growing hair on my face occasionally to compensate.
Number of Living Grandparents:
- 20: Four
- 40: One (My grandmother on my father's side, who the children love to visit)
Number of Living Genetic Parents
- 20: Two
- 40: One (While my father passed away too young, he at least made it to see both his children married, though he missed out on five grandchildren)
My childhood was a good one, but the second two decades of my life is when the world really began to open up. Moving two hours away to Davis for college was the largest leap I was prepared to undertake at 20, having grown up in a small town. I had no idea how far this little leap would eventually take me.
Number of States Visited:
- 20: 3-4 states and Washington D.C.
- 40: 30+ states (thank you business travel two cross country trips)
Number of Foreign Countries Visited:
- 20: 0
- 40: 5 (Yes, I know, there's still a lot of work to do here, but that's what 40-60 is for!)
Number of Trips to Japan:
- 20: 0
- 40: Too many to count
- 20: Don't know if it'll ever happen
- 40: Happily married for 12 years to the only woman I've ever asked for her number
- 20: None
- 40: I still can't believe it: three. They have been exhausting, exasperating, and expensive, but they're also the greatest blessing and greatest adventure I've ever undertaken.
- 20: The Boys (friends from high school and earlier) and a few others
- 40: The Boys and, thankfully, a few close friends from every changing stage in my life. In just one year in Japan, I made multiple friends that, even though I rarely seem them, will be friends for life. The same has been true of my work in New York.
Where I Feel at Home:
- 20: Paradise, CA
- 40: Manhattan, Tokyo, Marin County
- 20: HS Diploma
- 40: BA in Literature, MA in Literature, MA in Education (and a lot of debt)
- 20: Washing dishes in an Elks' Club; Working in a Music Library (though, to be fair, if I could be paid an adult salary, I'd stay in that job forever)
- 40: Ten years of working in education, traveling all over the country and to Japan; multiple years of freelance that have let me work from home to be available for the kids
Outlook for the Future:
- 20: Skeptical and jaded.
- 40: Skeptically hopeful. I haven't lost my sometimes aggressively skeptical mindset, but it's been tempered tremendously by the two best things that ever happened to me: my wife and kids.
After making these lists, I found something that made me quite happy. Most of the things that have stayed the same I still love. And looking at the positive vs. negative changes, the positive have far outweighed the negative (though some of those have been heartbreaking). Perhaps this is why, without having compiled these thoughts before, my outlook for the future is now somewhat positive despite all the challenges my wife and I, and particularly our children, will be facing in the years to come.
I honestly feel this country is on the verge of one of its greatest trials, though I have no real idea what form it will eventually take. If I were 20 now, I'd be furious, misanthropic, and spouting doom and gloom. While the realities we're facing are harsh, living this life, and particularly raising kids, has given me hope that we can work for the good. Indeed, as a father, I have to. Sharing a life with my wife and kids, one that has taken me from small town USA to Manhattan and Tokyo, has taught me that when you take the time to explore, and talk with the people you meet, you will learn, and learn for the better. My job is to continue to let my family explore, talk, and learn.
This family journey is not going to be an easy one, particularly with a late start. My parents had their second and final child when my father was 29, ten years younger than I was when Mari came along. I welcomed our first child at the age of 33. My mother and father welcomed me when they were in their mid twenties. When my father turned 40, he was preparing to teach me how to drive. The day I turned 40 I was still changing diapers on two children.
Though some might argue that it's all downhill from 40, I honestly think the best is yet to come. I'll get to watch my children learn to read, play sports, make music, and discover new friends, foods, and cultures. Lastly, I have to admit that despite the hard work my wife and I have put in, we've been tremendously lucky in our lives. If we continue to work hard, and raise our kids to appreciate the lives they are so lucky to lead, I can't help but feel our adventures will only become broader and more memorable. And maybe we'll help to make this world a slightly better place. I suppose I'll know in another twenty years.
And, extra-lastly, here are a few pics from our recent trip to the snow for those of you who have slogged through this diatribe wondering where all the pics are that usually fill my blogs. Thank you for your patience.