In sharp contrast to the eternal, mind-numbing boredom of my summer days growing up, my summers since becoming one half of an international couple have involved travel. We are always an ocean apart from one set of parents or the other, and this distance only became harder when Fred entered the picture. Both sets of grandparents are getting older, their health is an ongoing issue, and the responsibility to make the time to see them while we still can has become ours.
We leave early tomorrow for Japan, where Fred was born and had spent the first four years of his life. Though he’s stopped speaking Japanese, he maintains an inexplicable attachment to his first home. He still remembers the park near our home, the “school bus” he used to take to preschool, his favorite store, his grandparents.
I always go back with a bit of weight in my heart. Japan is where I became a mother, and memories of those early baby and toddler years are packed up – so neatly, so separately and so inaccessibly – on one side of the world. I have no physical reminders of my early motherhood where we are now in the States, at all…but when I go back – two planes, one three-hour bus ride and a taxi later – it all hits me again. I walk again down the path to our favorite park and the familiar streets to my three grocery stores. We didn’t have a car back then, so I used to walk those roads pushing Fred in a stroller, with groceries in a backpack and more hanging on the handles of the stroller. As Fred got older he would come with me on his tricycle. On bad days when he was too hot or too tired, he would refuse to pedal and ask to be carried. I would then carry him and the groceries, and push the tricycle the half mile it took to get home. But mainly I remember how he would stop to look at the flowers or pebbles along the way home, or we would stand at the train crossings to wait for and watch the trains go by. With Max away at work 16-18 hours a day, I often felt lonely and alone that first year, isolated in a town with no friends and knowing no one who spoke English. The days seemed endless with so many hours, and so I didn’t mind how long it took to get home from the store. During this time, Fred and I had our own special world: we had each other.
We moved to the States right around the time Fred was ready to enter school. By the time he started kindergarten he was becoming part of a social fabric that would stretch wider and wider. In the years since, he’s moved from my arms and my lap to arranging play dates on his own; from watching flowers and pebbles to explaining to us how our phones and camera work.
But we’ve both grown, haven’t we? I get together with girlfriends now, without Fred. I’m working again with clients. I’m reading again, and writing. We’ve both developed our own worlds here in the States, together, and apart.
So I’m looking forward to flying out tomorrow, and spending three weeks together with Fred and Max, starting with the 16-hour flight. I’m looking forward to asking Fred, “Do you remember this?” and sharing with him the pieces of our world that have meant so much to me but which he was probably too young to remember.
Do you revisit the different places of your children’s life?