Monday, June 1, 2015

okaerinasai / itterasshai

The boy has returned. A full college-year older. The dog was ecstatic ... for about two minutes. Then, he plopped down on the living room rug, chin on the floor, eyes looking upward like a God-fearing apostle in a Renaissance painting, imploring, where art my dog treats? and looking very bored. The boy had a similar rush of excitement when he came home that seemed to wear off rather quickly and was replaced by happy boredom. He spent most of his days sitting in front of a screen of some sort, which seems like it would be boring, but he seemed to be both excited and happy, content to interact with whomever was pinging him while he made music or played that game where a small circle eats smaller circles (which he explained to me in great detail). In spite of this default setting for indoor activities, both the boy and the dog seemed happiest when outside of the house, running, at least for a little while, which made my daily to-do list a bit shorter: When you come downstairs, could you walk the dog, please?

After two weeks of allowing our son to decompress, we went to a picnic where he was asked how long he'd been home. His father replied, "Hasn't it been about a week?" while our son answered, "Feels like it's been about a month."
Well, that pretty much sums it up. It's rather unfair that time speeds up when you are older, and have less of it, while those who are still young feel like time is just dragging on and on and on, with WiFi and everything just so slooooowwwwwww. As much as I'd like to tell my son -- Hey! Slow is good! Appreciate your youthful young years, you young whippersnapper! -- I'm sure it won't mean a lot to him right now. (Okay, okay, I probably will tell him, anyways, since I'm prone to talking whether or not anybody is listening.)

Then, just like that -- after two blissful weeks at home, where snack foods are plentiful and laundry facilities are free, he is off to his next adventure. We dropped him off at the airport this morning for Japan, confident that he'll be fine, but worrying about him, anyway. We said our good-byes and waited outside the ropes, watching him go through the security checkpoint, struggling to see him though the glare-streaked glass wall. He glanced back at us with an incredulous little smile that said, why are you still here you know i will be fine you should just go home dad is coughing please go home, but he still indulged us with a final wave good-bye as he emerged on the other side of the scanning machine and left the security area. Even though he'll be home next month, I still found myself tearing up as my husband gave me a hug and our son disappeared from view. I suppose all the comings and goings will get to be the new normal soon. But I'm not quite there yet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

appreciating diversity

I've lived in this little town of Piedmont since the turn of the century. Just saying that makes me sound old, and I guess I'm mature enough to realize that yes, I am old. To clarify, the century I am talking about started in the year 2000, so I'm old, but not that old. With one child out of the nest, I took on a few new volunteer positions this year, and one of those is with the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC). I've been a MINO for over a decade -- that is, Member in Name Only -- and decided it was time to support the organization in a more active way. It didn't hurt that they had a fundraiser at Yoshi's last year featuring Sheila E.

The PADC's biggest annual event is it's MLK Jr. holiday celebration, which I had always intended on attending, but had never gotten around to it. This year, I went partly out of a sense of duty, but also because of a desire to see the Oaktown Jazz Ensemble and to support the four Asian American women speakers in the program. I didn't realize that I was about to see a sliver of Piedmont that I hadn't seen before.

I heard a woman speak today about her memories as a child, when she lived in El Paso, Texas, and could not use a drinking fountain unless it was labeled "COLORED." She spoke of her father, a veteran of two wars, wearing his uniform when he took his family to ride on a train to California -- and being permitted to ride only in the "colored" car. Her family moved to the Bay Area when her father was stationed in Monterey, California, and her mother wanted to live in San Leandro, but was convinced that this wasn't possible because people would not sell houses to blacks in San Leandro. She recalled her father telling her mother -- Don't worry, I'll wear my uniform, and we will be able to buy a house in San Leandro -- and how her father was wrong.

The woman then spoke of the pride she felt now, many years later, at a time when she, an African American woman, represents the district where San Leandro is located, as the Representative in the United States Congress.

Representative Barbara Lee lauded "the heroes and she-roes who came before me, who marched and fought for equality, without whom I would not be the 100th African American elected to the United States Congress" -- as she closed her remarks, shortly before she left for her flight back to Washington, DC. It was an honor to hear her speak, and to know that she took the time out of her schedule to address this intimate gathering of community members.
It was a moving and inspiring event. In addition to Rep. Lee addressing the gathering, there was also Mayor Margaret Fujioka giving a call to action directed at the youth in the audience, a self-reflection on "faith" by high school student Courtney Gao, a spoken word piece on white privilege by high school junior Jenna Stein-Corman, and one of the biggest surprises for me -- Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede, who started her speech with references to Ferguson and Brooklyn, and spoke about community policing and acknowledging the existence of issues such as fear on the part of the police that may not be justified, and the need to be critical and improve, to approach the question not as "What's wrong with them?" but as "What's wrong with us?"
Self-assessment, change, tolerance and hope were the common themes of the day -- appropriate for today and everyday. Thank you to the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee for giving our community a place to celebrate and appreciate diversity!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

waiting by the phone

Now that the boy is off to college, it is definitely quieter around the house. The dog seemed confused when we returned without him, but he adjusted. It is a new normal for all of us. I have caught myself driving down Lakeshore and panicking for a split second because I thought I had forgotten to take him to tae kwon do ... only to remember that he is not here and he has his license now, so he could have driven himself, anyway. I miss my twenty minutes of All Things Considered on the radio during our regular drop-off drives; an added bonus was watching how excited my son would get about the bumper music, frantically trying to Shazam a song before it faded out, usually, too soon.

With less driving around to do, I should have lots of extra time to do whatever I want ... but somehow it doesn't feel that way. I still feel like I am bouncing from one task to the next, punctuated by many tasks in the category of Putting-Food-in-My-Mouth, also known as Mindless Snacking -- not technically on my list of things to do, but something I do a lot. This has not been good for my waistline, but this is also not completely out of the ordinary. It has, however, gotten bad enough that I have taken to wearing loose-fitting dresses so that I don't have to feel the sensation of a tourniquet around my waist whenever I put on jeans. (But that's another story. Which I will put off for now. I will have a little snack while I am thinking about it.)

Being an almost-empty nester is something that has been made easier because I have friends with older kids, and they have tried to ease me into making the transition. One of my sempai is my friend Debbie, who is very good about getting me out of the house for a walk from time-to-time. She is a great multi-tasker, and she always suggests that I bring my dog. My dog loves Debbie.

As we were walking the other day, my phone emitted a choo-choo sound that almost made me jump for joy, or at least made my heart skip a beat ... my son had texted me!
"I have to get this," I said, apologetically.
"Yes, you do," said Debbie, with a nod.
I fiddled around with the phone and responded.
We continued on our walk, both of us knowing that the odds of this text-and-response turning into an actual text conversation were pretty slim.
Debbie proceeded to tell me about a text she got from her son, who had been traveling, telling her that he had arrived in Munich and was in line at a beer garden.
"I was so happy to hear that he was ALIVE, but then I'm looking at the time of the text and thinking that it's about 8:30 in the morning in Munich, and what the heck is he doing in the beer line at 8:30 in the morning? But then I couldn't ask him, because I didn't want him to regret that he had texted me, right?"

I agreed. It was tough to straddle that fine line of still being a parent and worrying about them, and not wanting to scare them away from texting you at all. I told her she should get a pet, because my son would almost always reply to a text of a picture of the dog. Video was even better. My husband's co-worker had confirmed that this was a "thing" -- she sent pictures of the family cat to her daughter at college, and always got a response. Debbie was not convinced that she should get a pet, but I think she may have considered it for a brief moment.

I will confess that I sent several pictures of our dog to my son, and eventually, that did not even garner a response. Sigh. He has, however, FaceTimed us a few times, for extended face-to-virtual face conversations, which has been very nice. The worst part about that is the dog can hear my son's voice, but can't seem to see him on the screen. I guess the dog is the only one who knows what's real. Meanwhile, I will take anything I can get. Don't mind me, I'll just be sitting by the phone.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

under the rim interlude

Had the pleasure of playing in a J-Sei fundraiser (a.k.a. FUN-raiser), Under the Rim and Over the Hill, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for hoopsters over 40. I had managed to cobble together a team of myself, my husband, Big Dave, and Mike Yoshii, also known as The Rev (because he is actually a reverend for the Buena Vista United Methodist Church). I had never played with Dave before, unless you count when he and my husband coached our daughters, and we all used to scrimmage them when the girls were all still shorter than me.

Mike Yoshii, however, I had met back in the day when my husband and I used to play at the Oakland JCC with the Asian Law Caucus pick-up game. You could tell Mike was a baller, even when he was just standing on the sidelines bouncing the ball. Since then, he’s survived a heart attack while playing basketball (props out to Deanna at the gym who gave him CPR until the EMTs arrived) and continues to preach and play ball.

As I sat there watching him play in one of the Under the Rim games, I caught a glimpse of him where everything just slowed down, as if I were watching him frame-by-frame. Top of the key, executing his signature stutter step, weight-shifting magic, the ball bouncing up and spinning in his palm, not knowing which way The Rev was going to take it as he blew by the competition. Basketball poetry in motion.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

the drop-off: move-in day

Move-In Day. This was it. The first day of college orientation.
It was also Miles’s birthday.
“Do you want me to get a cake?”
“No, Mom, NO. I don't really want people to know it's my birthday.”
“Oh, okay. But ...”
I guess that was clear enough, even for me.
We loaded up the car and drove the four miles to campus, and were greeted by a couple of cheerful students who directed us to park and register before unloading the car. We followed instructions, sort of, parked and took the scenic route to the registration building. As we made our way there, we passed trios that looked like us – a father, a mother, and a young adult/kid, looking slightly embarrassed. The weather was glorious. At least we could all talk about how nice the weather was as we – like our son – met a bunch of people for the first time who we suddenly had a lot in common with.

There was no registration line. We just walked on up and registered. The only glitch was with some fees that for some reason didn’t get pulled from the monthly installments that I was sure we made – believe me, there is no doubt when those tuition payments get automatically drawn out of your bank account – and I was a bit taken aback when the woman behind the table addressed my son and had him sign a document stating he would bring a check over to the office within a week’s time. Wow. This is really happening. Now, instead of wondering if I had forgotten to pay something on time, I could start wondering if my son had forgotten to pay something on time! This is getting real. Somehow, it felt like my life had just gotten more stressful, even though it should have had the opposite effect.

We decided to attend a faculty talk that was part of the parents’ “orientation” program. It was nice to run into a few other parents we had met in the Bay Area, and we sat next to each other like our own little club. The speakers were all very reassuring, and I started to feel ... reassured. This felt like the right school for Miles. He had chosen it, and it had, literally, chosen him. The talk went on with different administrators describing how they interact with the kids and what their areas of expertise were. They all gave different messages that basically amounted to the same thing: Leave your child alone, Don’t call the school, Don’t email the school, No you aren’t on the school emails but your child will be, Don’t call the professors, Do have your child call or email the professors, When you leave the school today, say good-bye. And leave.

Even with the bluntness that was underneath all the nice reassuring presentations, I felt okay with it all. Then, a woman raised her hand and started to ask a question. She was pretty much already in tears and could barely get her question out. She was doing exactly what I had imagined I would be doing: bordering on being a blubbering mess. And yet, I was sitting there, not crying, feeling ... strangely happy. This was my son’s time, and I was happier for him than I was sad for myself. Realizing this made me even happier.

After the talk, we found our son again and took one last look at his room. Time was ticking away, counting down to 4 pm when we would say our farewells. As I stepped into the hallway, a young woman stopped me and asked me if I was Miles's mom, and what kind of cake Miles liked, chocolate? She told me they knew it was his birthday, and they were going to get a cake and celebrate with him later. And, she was also allergic to nuts, so she would make sure it was nut-free. With that, I got to feel even more reassured. I was loving this college more and more by the minute!

We assessed his room again, and decided to make one last run to Bed Bath & Beyond to get a trash can, some over-the-door hooks, and maybe a full-length mirror. We said good-bye for now and hopped into the rental car and down Lancaster Avenue again. Careening around Bed Bath & Beyond, we grabbed a few options for hooks, one trash can, and no mirror. None of them fit the sleek modern lines of his room, so ironically, I decided against getting one.

As I drove around like a reality show contestant trying to beat a deadline, I made a mental note of the things a mom would notice: there’s the CVS, there’s the bank, there’s the Wawa Market, there’s the Chipotle. All within a two mile radius of campus. This gave me some peace of mind, since, let’s face it – my kid could get most of his needs taken care of at CVS, the bank, Wawa, and Chipotle.

It was surreal to think that eighteen years to the day, I was in labor, getting ready to bring this baby boy into the world. And, now, I was just worried about how close he would be to CVS, the bank, Wawa and Chipotle.

Driving back to campus this time, it was all feeling more bittersweet. This was the last time we’d see him. And we were running late, so we had barely enough time to get our latest purchases into his room before the parents’ reception and dinner, and the students’ orientation kick-off remarks. I rushed around, embarrassing him, since I had to walk past his small orientation group that was gathered in the common room on his hall. And, finally, it was time. Good-bye, I love you, good-bye, study hard, I love you! Good-bye.

And, amazingly, I still didn’t cry.