On Being Done

Tuesday was my last day as a teacher at the International Secondary School.  Last week my son finished grade 7 and my daughter finished grade 4.  My writer’s brain searches for meaning in everything, so I can’t help but wonder what it all means – starting, finishing, seasons, changes – all of it.  But now, after two days of processing,   I don’t think it means all that much.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are still milestones to mark, boxes to tick off, and occasions to note and celebrate, but maybe certain things do not have to be dwelled upon ad nauseum.  There are millions of books, articles, blog posts and poems written about startings and endings, and everything in between, but maybe it’s okay to just acknowledge the change and simply move on.

I’m saying this because we, as a society, have become fixated on these ideas.  Our kindergarteners graduate, our fifth graders graduate and our eighth graders graduate.  There is pomp and presents at every turn.  Maybe sometimes we have to just relax and move through things quietly.  Maybe sometimes we can stop and reflect quietly without a ticker-tape parade.

In Tokyo the expat community is contracting severely.  Banks are moving operations to other countries, as are various large firms, so many foreigners are moving not home, but to another place in order to keep their jobs.  So this year, not only is the year ending for the international schools, but with so many people moving, things will look very different when school re-opens in the fall.  Those of us staying are mourning the loss of their friends to whom we have been close and secretly wondering if they know something we don’t know.  But I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.  I want to let it all slide by me.  There’s nothing I can do about it, so I am avoiding the bigger parties and concentrating on spending one-on-one time with my friends who are leaving.  Normally I feel pretty excited at this time of year as I ready myself and the kids to take our long summer holiday in the U.S. But this year, I just want to quietly mark and pass the time.  I want to wish my friends well in their new lives, and prepare to move forward with my own.

There is something to be said for simple, quiet reflection.  Celebration and the special marking of the passage of time are all good in their place, but this year, I’m all about it the quiet reflection.

Our House, In the Middle of the Street

Is there a song with those lyrics??  Tokyo is one of the most populous cities in the entire world, and our family lives right in the center of it, within walking-minutes of the most popular attractions.  However, another attractive thing about Tokyo is its quiet-ness.  Our street is quiet.  Our kids regularly play outside in the street with the neighbors.  Here are a few photos of the house (with a random Japanese guy near it…), the basketball hoop that we share with the neighbors at the end of the street, and then a picture of some chalk drawings that Sydney and her girlfriends did on the street as they played, but they are partially covered by cherry blossoms from the neighbor’s tree.  The kids, from a young age, can play outside alone; it’s that safe and easy here.  Tokyo is a wonderful city in which to bring up children.



Good Morning

It’s not that early in the morning – just 7:30 – but it’s early enough that I’m the only one awake.  I’ve been up for about an hour now and I spent most of it at my computer working on another piece about the Japan earthquake and its aftermath.  Where we are staying now, with friends in Maryland, they have a very sunny kitchen with a picture window.  The window faces their grassy backyard and the sun is touching the top of the kids’ swing-set.  Why am I telling you this?  Well, because it’s peaceful.  It’s morning and it’s peaceful and it’s my favorite time of day.  I feel like at thing at this time of day.  I feel like myself at this time of day.  It’s easy for me to spend the time to get ready for all of the challenges that the day will present.  When I don’t get this quiet time for myself, I often feel somewhat unprepared for the rest of the day.

But mostly, I know that I write best at this hour.  It’s been a little while – a few weeks, I’d say – since I’ve had the luxury of my morning quiet time.  I’m reveling in it right now.

Ooops, I hear a child.  Quiet time is over.  But that’s okay.  I’m ready.