accusing little girls on the playground

boy today i totally accused, lifted eyebrow, mouth curled upwards as if i desperately confused and desperate to solve some big heist.

in another language.

that girl running around …”kariin-chan no shatsu”?

my girl’s shirt? (hurrumphhh) & a smug, confused batting of lashes.
of course i thought that was giving benefit of doubt, like i was so high-class not running

over to pull up the little classmate’s cotton top

trying to place what US store it’d come from.

those are not Japanese flowers. or colors.
i mean, you could see my point–i doubt the girl

has aunties delving into US brand shelves or speaking with online representatives

in english. it was clear, i thought:

her mom must have quickly run to grab that fabric pen & write her own daughter’s name

after it’d accidentally travelled home with them.

and what kind of mother doesn’t even know the shirt inventory

or her daughter’s things.
and gee, i really must make sure i’ve written kariin’s name

on every article over everything.

and then i left


i was so good



just letting her have it.
we got good use

i mean i wasn’t going to write a note or anything.

and then, just now, hours after the teachers corrected me and i warily walked away,

only half mashed eyebrow,

just smoothed mouth,

i saw in my own girl’s drawer

the shirt

and how it was marked

old navy.

My faux-pas are probably numbered in the hundreds. I’m sure everyone in this little Japanese community is used to it, or used to me. Hopefully they see that I am well meaning. 

Adding the dimension of thin walls and close-together houses (close like the cookie parts of Oreos) with me being loud and colorful on phone calls or arguments, you can see I am up against a lot. 

Any recent faux-pas, embarrassments, or “private” comments you made that were overheard? Do tell!

proper names

“Names do have power”, I concluded with a nod, as I wheeled away from the crates of sweet potatoes, apples, lotus root, and nashi. This, my favorite market on our walking street, made conversation inevitable, a friendly treat. I am known and since moving here five years ago in July, I love recognizing people as I quickly spot them. “Oh, she’s from the post office. He does your dry cleaning.” I’m the woman who is not Japanese and I buy produce which makes some people very glad. I like their country and I know what to do with a squash. Honestly, no one cares, but it is a friendly feeling.

This trip was funny. Almost done ringing up when an older couple steps up and our cashier wants to show-off my sweet son. Why, yes! He is a doll, they exclaim! “Oningyo-san mitai!” And then peering-in like selecting from mottled fruit, she assesses, “Ogaijiin-san.”

Foreigner. But oh, no. Au contraire, argues the cashier, my new auntie. “He, (she attests proudly) he has a Japanese name. ” Her chin lifts with an authoritative air. And then as if following an unspoken nudge, I present them with his name. He is Tokutaro-kun. Actually, I say it with “san” at the end, instead of “kun”, for the unintentional added effect of regality. He is a classy, young Japanese man. Who knows how far he will go. He is Japanese, fair ones, sweet lovelies of the produce court.

I of course omit speaking his first name, Jude. My Jude. And here is where I thank my wise in-laws for giving us such pride in the lineage, such a name. And I speak this without derision, for what if I could only present “Jude” as an argument. My son is Japanese, yes, and I see the power in his name. Er, names.

For when he spends time in the US with my family, with his people there, will they ask if he is American? Why, yes! That’s right! There is an American name! It is even in front of Tokutaro for added American oomph. Everyone knows, like on the ingredient wrapper of salad dressing, whatever is listed first in waaaaay more in power, way more in volume, in nutrition, or lack thereof.

And back at the counter, where I hastily added some pickled seaweed and eggplant, its purple body bathing in some pickly-water solution, my friend, the cashier, even contributes more towards the fact that the kids are Japanese: her daughter has a Japanese name. “Why yes”, I say in Japanese–“You remember! Yes. ”

“Kariin-chan“, she produces my girl’s name with roundness, with beauty and kindness, as if she holds the very fruit of our daughter’s name–the ancient quince some say may have been the very apple-not-quite-apple in the garden with the original man and his wife. Karin, the fruit made gorgeous in jams, its wood even shaped into the Japanese shamisen. It makes its home here and blooms five sweet pink petals. Do they know what Jude will produce? No, that name is not known, but oh–the joys of Tokutaro, our Toku-chan.

The air smells sweet in fall air. How could it not at the edge of a market, at the edge of October, crates of plums spread open, grapefruit, apples, fancy matsutake mushrooms, gleaming tomatoes and even sale bananas growing old.

I steal down the ramp with a gleam and a smile. Thank G-d we didn’t name the kid George.


How has your name helped you to travel in and out of cultures? Or maybe it has been awkward? If you live in between two or more languages or cultures, what has the naming process been like for you as you ready/(readied) yourself for kids?


i. I wait for the woman to realize I’m pregnant–tight and round, belly twitching like an egg imminently breaking, like in Are You My Mother.

Wait for her to realize she took my seat–the one reserved for pregnant chics like me expecting a quick sit.

Instead, I mutter.

I wait for the house to be in order, for it to look ready for upheaval, change.

For my toddler-daughter to feel ready for a potty. Instead, encroaching anxiety. When will this baby be born?

When and how will I get baby clothes when I continue to miss every US sale and support. Freaking overseas and in need.

Waiting to meet this Israeli doctor who will perform our son’s bris in a culture that sees our ritual as outlandish, unnecessary, and above all, painful.

Waiting for my mind to join me in exhale.

Waiting to get the chance to sit under the puffy blooms of a tree, which are by essence, evasive and fleeting. Waiting for time to open-up.

For goodness and mercy to calm my anxiety and reach me.

I’m still standing, lady.


hakone 6

ii. While waiting, now slippers on,

soothing rendition of spirituals, Beatles’ Hey Jude,

Matisse coral shapes and humpback whales

block prints of Fuji, baby catalogues, coupons, and onezie giveaways.

Jack Johnson cuts through and I’m back to where I gave birth


and learned to nurse my little girl.

“Times like these, times like those.

What will be will be and so it goes.”

The waiting

and enjoying breath,


waiting giving way to a baby boy.

The Waiting Game is surely part of our human experience. Drive-thru lines, waiting on a pee-stick result, waiting til the little guy is born, trying to distract yourself as you wait on a prognosis, waiting for the turkey’s little thing to pop-out & scream, “Done!”

When has waiting been most painful, exhilarating, or transformative?



He touches me like a savage

and he is, really,

fresh from the womb

five months ago

and in this, his second exploration

of my face

on his own, with his meaty, strong hand

he mashes into me

crashes into my cheeks harder than i expect

his tiny thumb

twisting into my tear duct.

He is learning me

clawing me

and I am so in love.