Those of you who like will want to check out my new literary blog Yomimono, which is an offshoot of the print journal that I intend to resurrect.
Okay, here’s something that I will NEVER do: babysit my kids’ electronic pets. I see Japanese mothers all the time these days pushing those little buttons to “play with” or “feed” or “medicate” their kids’ tamagotchis while the owners are at school or whatever. Today at the pool, there were two mothers with about four tamagotchi toys each. I suppose the mothers may secretly like playing with the things, but I’m glad that my kids haven’t shown much interest in them so far.
So I’m done with Ebay, for now at least, and am entering the Days of Austerity.
In case you were wondering, I finally did win an American Girl Doll on Ebay for a pretty good price. It’s not one of the character dolls – not Felicity, or Samantha, or Jess – but one of the generic ones. I figure I can write a story for her myself. Maybe I’ll dig up that one I started about the girl living in the jungles of Indonesia with her anthropologist mother. And maybe I should give her a name. Lilia, being deaf, doesn’t really get that you should name your dolls. She hasn’t been exposed to the wide range of names in the world.
About dolls. While I was looking around on Ebay, I found a line of newborn dolls, some of them preemie dolls. As the mother of a couple of kids who were born at 26 weeks, I ask you, what kind of person would want a preemie doll???
My daughter is the inspiration for the story I’m working on right now, but she has also served as a muse for others. A few years ago I interviewed textile artist Mary Edna Fraser. In the course of our conversation,I told her about my daughter’s disabilities. Shortly thereafter, she e-mailed to say that she had begun a batik for my little girl.
Here is what she wrote about the work:
“Crater Aurelia” Venus, batik on silk, 57″ x 49″
This silk is dedicated to Lilia, a two year old deaf child, and for all who are handicapped. The volcanic dome Aurelia is one of many on Venus. The image suggests a delicate ballerina skirt with Lilia dancing across the planetary landscape.
I wish I could afford to buy it!
From yesterday I’ve been taking my son to the YMCA for spring swimming. (My daughter wanted to go too, but they didn’t have enough teachers for her to work one on one with someone and she would drown on her own.) We parked in a lot next to the building which is manned by a guy with cerebral palsy. I first encountered him many years ago, when my husband and I parked there to go see a movie or something. Back then, when I didn’t really think too much about these things, I assumed that he was mentally incapable of doing anything else and I thought it was great that he had a job. But yesterday when I pulled into the lot, he started speaking to me in English. I was stunned because so very few able-bodied people around here can speak decent English. He was directing me into the parking space in English, which is more service than you get at most parking lots. It occurred to me that he is vastly underchallenged by his job and that his skills could be put to use somewhere else. But there was another, older guy, sitting in the booth, taking the money. His father, maybe? It all made me think of Lilia’s former teacher who, when she saw my four-year-old daughter stringing beads with concentration suggested that she might be able to do something like that for work when she grows up. Hey, I was thinking more along the lines of lawyer.
Instead of chasing down dust bunnies or writing a letter to my 90-year-old grandfather who lives alone or working on my novella this afternoon while my children were momentarily distracted, I was madly bidding at Ebay on American Girl Dolls. The Doll of 2006 is the best: her name is Jess and she’s half Japanese-American and half Irish-American and her parents are archaeologists. In the book that goes with the doll, they all go on an adventure to Belize. I’m trying to get this doll for my daughter’s birthday. Lilia is half Japanese and half German-American. She can’t read the book yet and she’s more interested in the blonde dolls, but I think Jess is really cool. I had a winning bid on a naked Jess doll when I went to bed, and even though I was starting to think that without the clothes she wasn’t such a great deal, I was disappointed to find out this morning that I lost.
At bedtimes this weekend, we’ve been having the Allen Say Lit Fest. The night before last, we read Say’s latest book, The Kamishibai Man, at the end of which I always get all choked up and hope that Jio doesn’t notice. Last night we read one of my favorites, Tea With Milk, which is the story of how Say’s parents met. His mother was born to Japanese parents in the United States, but moved to Japan when she was in high school. His Korean-born father was raised in China by European foster parents. At one point, May, the mother character is longing to go back to the United States where she can live the way she likes, but Joseph, her suitor, says if you have certain things, like a home, food you like, work you enjoy and good conversation,one place is as a good as another. I try to remember this when I am discouraged about living in Japan and wanting to uproot my own kids even though I read somewhere that Say was miserable as a child and his parents got divorced.
For years I have been trying to convince my baseball coach husband that if his team practiced less, they might win more. There is no need, I said, to practice seven days a week, 365 days a year. The body needs rest and studies have shown that athletes who train too much achieve less than they could. I have scoffed at the coach of a nearby high school who holds practices at 5AM on the day of a tournament game. It’s overkill. On the pro level, I’ve argued, American players show up for spring training overweight and out of shape, yet American Major League Baseball is the gold standard.
Yesterday, the Japanese national team held a full practice, while the Cubans just lifted weights. And look who won! Japan is now the champion of the world. My husband will never listen to his lazy American wife’s advice about baseball again.
I often inadvertently blurt out non sequiturs when trying to participate in Japanese conversations that I don’t fully understand. My daughter, on the other hand, sometimes exhibits an uncanny understanding of what’s going on around her. Take today, for example. When we arrived at the therapy room, I explained to Lilia’s therapist that her grandmother was visiting graves (something that people do at the change of the seasons) today so I had to drag along my son. I wasn’t signing or otherwise trying to include Lilia in the conversation, but she started pointing to the calendar on the wall. It looked like she was pointing to the red 21, which is Spring Equinox, and then she signed “dead grandfather” and “praying,” which is what you do when you visit the graves of dead relatives. It was really freaky. Understand that my daughter is deaf and can maybe distinguish between two familiar words if she is concentrating really hard and lipreading. She certainly doesn’t know the word “o-hakka-maeri.” I thought her grandmother must have explained to her in similar fashion that she would be visiting Grandfather’s grave, but when I asked her later, she said no. She said that yesterday Lilia wrote a letter to her grandfather and left it at his altar, and that she seemed to know that this was the sort of thing you do at this time of year. In my mother-in-law’s words, “Lilia knows things beforehand.”
My daughter lost her front teeth a couple of years ago when she fell down the stairs. Her adult front teeth came in last summer. She has been visited by the tooth fairy on numerous occasions (the girl LOVES fairies). In Japan, you’re supposed to throw bottom teeth on the roof so the new ones will come up, and top teeth under the house so the new ones will come down, but once Lilia learned about the tooth fairy, there was no going back. After I took her last tooth from under her pillow and left a hundred yen coin, I threw it on the roof.
Anyway, it’s been such a long time that I sort of forgot her twin brother would be losing his front teeth, too. Then, at graduation, I noticed that one of his best friends, who is a bit younger, lost his front tooth. This is rather apropos as we’ve been reading Charming Opal lately. In this charming story, the pigs Toot and Puddle get a visit from Cousin Opal, who happens to have a loose tooth. Opal loses it in the pond for awhile. Maybe because of this, my son is worried about losing his tooth and he wanted me to try the doorknob trick mentioned in the book. I told him that it would come out soon enough.