Freaks Like Us

Yesterday the neighborhood kids came around in happi coats and hachimaki with the omikoshi (a palanquin carried on their shoulders).  There was some sort of event at the nearby shrine.  My mother-in-law handed me an envelope of money to give to the kids when they came around, before heading out somewhere with a friend.

Lilia, who is way into kimono and other Japanese-y things, was very excited about the o-mikoshi.  When we heard the kids at the compound next door, we hurried out to wait.  Lilia was in her wheelchair at the edge of the driveway, holding the envelope, and I was standing with her.  Jio wouldn’t come down.  He watched from a window upstairs. 

The kids stopped in front of our house.  Total silence.  Nary a smile.  Lilia tried to hand them the envelope, but they just stood there, hands at their sides, staring at us.  Finally, one girl reached out and took the money, and, without saying “thank you”  – or anything else, for that matter, they went on to the next house.

I was ticked.  They could have at least said “arigatou.”  We have lived in this neighborhood for over two years, and I’m sure that at least some of them have seen us around.  And I’m pretty sure that there is a native speaker of English visiting the local schools, so they shouldn’t be afraid of foreigners.  Maybe the kid in the wheelchair freaked them out.

It would be better for neighborhood relations, I know, if Lilia could go to public school.  And if Jio went to public school, he might be able to make friends with the kids around here.  But he might also be bullied because he is different, and his family is different.

Later that evening, I asked him why he stayed upstairs.  I thought it was because he was shy, or because he had a bad experience with the neighborhood kids.  (He actually tried to make friends with a boy a year older who lives two houses away when we first moved in, but their association ended abruptly.)  He said, “I saw from upstairs how they just stared at you and didn’t say anything.”  And then I realized – it wasn’t because of something that had happend to Jio; it was because of us – the blonde American mom, and the crippled sister.  Jio is better integrated than Lilia and me, and I sometimes take his comfort for granted.  I think he was embarrassed for us.

Lilia was nothing but happy.  She drew the scene in her picture diary. 

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6 thoughts on “Freaks Like Us

  1. Hi Susan,
    This post made me feel for you all. Wouldn’t you want to be able to live somewhere in Jio’s brains, to understand how he feels on a daily basis? As you say, he blends in better than you or his sister, and at the same time, he’s very much a part of you AND his twin sister. This cannot be easy for him, and the fact that he’s aware enough to go and hide in his room, but still feel the need to watch what’s going on tells so much, don’t you think? It cannot be easy for you either, trying to blend in as best as you possibly can, but with circumstances that make it nearly impossible to actually manage that feat.

  2. Seems perhaps he was curious enough to have his expectations confirmed by observation. Not old enough yet to understand all the adult colorations of the situation, but young enough to feel the emotions at play.

    Personally, it seems that your family is more catalyst for Japanese insular society to experience the world outside their island nation… the same can be said for most communities… so few get out of their ‘hood’ mentality… a mindset programmed into their brains since birth and the experience of prejudice… as the Hammerstein song put it, “You have to be carefully taught”.

    I find Lilia’s reaction/response? interesting as well, as we all see/experience what we want to experience; and the entire game of creation is based upon this awakening of one’s self-conscious awareness. You can see/feel the energies swirling around the situation. Each participant playing with them as they are programmed to react or as they have awakened to the potential of personal choice. This can get rather esoteric in the potential ‘Adamic’ vs ‘Pre-Adamic’ nature of the situation… which only adds another layer to the catalytic situation… as the all participants can be viewed in the different layers of experience… personal/subjective reality, then consensual reality/group think and finally the objective reality underlaying it all in the archetypal energies of creation at play.

    What we see is what we get… until we want to see more… then is more revealed. Same situation with these kids and yourself… the challenge of personal growth… from reaction to response… the power of free will in our choices. I wonder how the other kids ‘saw’ it?

    Whenever pain is near, the potential for learning is always close at hand, be it at the physical-mind or emotional-soul level of the game.

  3. I feel crushed for you.

    Two comments which I hope might make the experience less dark. One is that, as you say, not going to the neighborhood kindergarten and schools really does make a big division between kids. They’re not in the same group, plain and simple. I see it here all the time with able-bodied, homogeneous Japanese families — they are out of the loop.

    Second is that kids can be like that even when you do know them well. Maybe this is truer for Japanese kids than North American ones — I don’t know. But the last time I did ‘flag duty’ I was blown away by the blank-faced response to my energetic ‘Ohayo gozaimasu!’ greetings. And these are the neighborhood kids who are very familiar with our family. I felt like I was in the Land of Lobotomies.

    It sounds like this was a ‘Kodomo Kai’ activity. Does your family take part in those? Maybe next year Lilia can be part of the procession — I bet she’d love it!

  4. This must be hard for everyone in the family, in different ways. I’m sure as time goes by, you will have many discussions about these issues, and I imagine that will help somewhat, but still, hard.

  5. Thanks for your supportive comments. I believe that ultimately Jio will be made wiser and more compassionate than most other kids because of what he is going through. I sometimes forget that it is hard for him to have such an unusual family. I tend to travel my usual rut, from home to school to the grocery store and back again, without anything to remind me of our differences. But I realize that I need to pay more attention to my son.

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