15 December 2012

Because Japan

Just about this time 23 years ago, I met my daughter for the first time. In some ways she was immediately familiar. The shape of her head, her pointy little elbows, her feet, were as recognizable from the outside as they had become on the inside. That was reassuring, because I was still trying to accept the fact that my life  had just changed in a way that I could never undo. You'd think that would've happened sometime in the previous nine months, but no. It wasn't until I was confronted with the physical reality of her that I realized I was no longer me. I was us.

I don't know how much influence I might've had on the person she eventually became. It didn't surprise me that she was relentlessly verbal, or that she was a reader from the time she could hold a book. What choice did she have? We had no TV. For fun, we went to the library.

She grew up in a house full of dogs; her earliest reflex was pushing a big black nose out of her face. But she doesn't love dogs. I don't think she even likes them all that much. She never once asked for a pony. She didn't collect bugs, or small animals. She never wanted to be a vet. Or a biologist. That was a surprise. Not a disappointment – but a surprise.

Scarecrow wrestled in his youth, but gender aside, it never occurred to me that this child would be a wrestler. This was totally unlike anything I ever did; I could barely stand to watch. In eight years, it never got any easier.

Why Japan? I don't know where she came by her fascination with things Asian. She started taking Mandarin Chinese in high school, but really, there weren't that many choices. When she needed another year of foreign language in college, she switched to Japanese because it fit into her schedule better. Once she heard about the JET Programme, the prospect of going to Japan was never far from her mind. The application process took almost a year. Still, somehow, it was a surprise to watch her drag her bag through the door of the airport on her way to Japan. It was totally unlike anything I ever did.

In the past five months, she has been learning about life in a place I will never go. For all her facility with words, sometimes there's just no way to describe her adventures in a way I can understand. "Because Japan," she says. There's no explanation. That's just the way it is.

I get that.

Happy birthday, Tuffy. Happy birthday!


  1. Just wanted to say what an exquisite piece this is, maybe its because I too am a parent, but no matter, I really 'felt' what you have said here - thank you :)

  2. What a nice thing to say, Crusader. I think one of the best things about blogging is when someone says, "Yeah! Me too!"

  3. I don't know why I spend so much time doing all the mindless shit I do on the computer when I should be reading your blog!! What a brilliant, lovely piece of writing and so true, so perfectly capturing the universal thing about bringing a daughter into this world.

  4. Jane, you're way too nice. But thanks :)