I’ve Awakened Something

Something really bizarre happened today and I’m responsible.

Background you should know: My psychologist Dad has this story from when he and a head of the state hospital mental facility took a group of patients to the Phoenix Zoo. This worker launched into his best silverback imitation. Well, the unamused gorilla looked him square in the eyes, picked up a pile of his poop, and chucked it at the guy.

I  am pretty fabulous at imitating monkey, particularly chimp sounds, but this story highlights my keen bird-whistling skills.

I’m a good bird whistler, let’s just say. In this story, I am that worker, horrified and scared. But I caused a different kind of poop-storm.


Just before dusk, my son and I took our doxxies for their evening walk. We walked past the temple, past juniper trees, and azalea. Two large crows sat expectantly just above us on telephone lines. Tokyo is still largely “wires and lines above ground”, and it can feel a bit unsightly, but generally becomes landscape, just like our many train lines.

The crows here are quite gargantuan, more like thick ravens, their beaks gawky and toucan-ish, as if they tied it on with strings. Thick beaky toucans, shiny in black. They are first responders to trash bags, raiding and looting on garbage days. I used to feel quite paranoid walking home with grocery bags, sensing their aggressive tendencies. Hitchcock doesn’t help, either.


However, in the name of trust and respecting a creature of beauty and inky thick wings, we stop to admire the raven-crow-hybrid-terradactyls. I bellow, “CAAAAAAW!  CAAAAAAAW!” The crow nearest us ruffls its feathers and hops tentatively. An unseen crackle of energy, like knuckles cracking. Something has shifted.

My son and I quickly offer up a “hello” each, and moved forward. Supplication, like when robbers try saying, “Good boy, good dog” at a riled-up Doberman. They won’t attack him, will they?

I have no trust in wild beasts. It is like assuming the gator on the opposite bank will not swim out to eat your cat. Just what might two weird birds do to my dogs? I push my boy in his red tricycle, and tug the dogs’ lead. Let’s get out of here. My “CAAAAW” stirred something. It did. They both seemed instantly agitated. Tddduhhh tduhhh tduhh. Their legs hop toward us, birdy-knees straight, unbending.

We are not more than twelve steps when a woman (in her late twenties, I’d say), is attacked. ATTACKED. The same crows take turns crashing near her. At her. Contact. She screams and flees to a teeny alley. My boy and I stand still, barely breathing. There is no breath, just our lips parted, eyes round in worry!

We wait for her to emerge, hope her eyes are alright, that she is okay, walking out on the other side!

My gore-side envisions irreparable damage on the nightly news, first-priority on Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, NHK, like Japan’s PBS, that I neither subscribe to or would understand. I hunt for any crow-related news from our area later on Google.

We barely pivot when a man on his bicycle peels up, all of us on this narrow main street of a small neighborhood, two blocks from a Buddhist temple. Life is quiet. Life is pecking. He heads to the main road, approaching the hill that spills perpendicular to the street.

He is flanked by two midnight beasts. One crashes to his back. He wildly looks around in alarm, exactly when the other bird tag-teams him. A jettison of black, a beak, and the bird has tipped the man’s hat, from back to front. Like if you slapped your brother upside the head, hard. For zero reason. That kind of humor and mean streak. The man is quickly approaching the perpendicular traffic, hat off, arms splashing, bike in terror.

Two perfect curses leave my lips. My arms have loosened; I may not even be holding the dogs’ double lead. My boy gapes similarly atop his trike. What have we done. It was my “CAAAAAW”.

I turn us opposite. We walk away from crows. We walk and keep going. There is a young office lady clattering down our street in black pumps. She adjusts lip gloss, pushing soft black waves from her eyes. She is coiffing even in 5:48 pm summer heat. She will pass us and enter crow-territory. I don’t know what to say, between my lack of sturdy Japanese, and the absurdity of what I would say. “Don’t go that way. The crows are scary.” My boy and I exchange a look and move our dogs deeper into the neighborhood, lips sealed against any desire for bird-call.


Forgetting and ‘Membering

There are things, which, once we start them, just roll away from our memory. There are things I love remembering, and things I can’t stand forgetting. Now, during a 5:22 morning thunderstorm, I’m tapping into some of them:



I can’t stand forgetting  

To take in something important before a big rain. Or cover bikes, specifically, the kid seats. Even though we have a dryer, this is a big clothes-line culture. A couple times a month it’s, “Aww, grrr?! I forgot to bring in the clothes/blankets/sheets!”

Someone’s name. The world wearing name tags, or more subtle embroidered labels of names, would be so peaceable, so civil. We’d all lace names into every sentence, every utterance. It would be so polite and we’d never call someone by their wrong name, or freak out that we are past the point of asking!

It happens pretty frequently to me. Now that I have announced that I will not be teaching at a certain school next year, it is NOW that I’ve learned everyone’s names. I’ll probably wake with a sudden knowledge of their maiden names and the name of their childhood friends and pets. Yes, now that I’m leaving.

Coffee or the little filters. 

I am an addict. I will be a weak and whiny grouchy pants without a morning cup or three. And yet. I can go for long stretches, forgetting to pick-up more filters or beans. I do not understand this. It is like a stoner forgetting and forgetting to buy a fargin’ pipe already. Or a baking enthusiast continuing to not pick up the sugar.


I have been using paper towels as filters for …maybe three days, now?

Yes, I know.

Getting cards to the post.

Living abroad means that much more planning ahead. You cannot just stick a card in the mail two or three days before. We’re talking two weeks to be safe, 1-2 to feel good, 1 week for a quick-hope-it-gets-there, and two days prior to feel quite badly, but at least you paid homage to your loved one’s birth. So. It’s tough. Chanukkah, Mom’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, you know. Forget doing the whole Jewish New Year card thing. This year e-invites and Paperless Press became my good friends.


When I feel like a forgetful slouch, like I could play Drew Barrymore’s double on 50 First Dates, I calm myself by remembering my great gift:

I know when you, the man who sells fish five block from here, your aunt, the three year old I teach on Wednesdays, the teacher nine desks over, gets a haircut. I know when one hair is in a new place. It is my joy to remark and know, yes, I am right.

So what if I don’t even know your name?! You’ve gotten a haircut, my friend. Ahhh. This feels completing.


Gee. What else do I love remembering?

My kids’ birthdays. I’ve yet to forget one.

PS I did not sleep enough. The dogs probably woke the whole neighborhood at 4:34.

I have a long day ahead and my son with his hard head crashed into my right cheekbone. I’m pretty sure I heard something crack. Goodbye, high cheekbone.

Let’s see what I remember. Ten bucks says there will be another ridiculous paper towel in the coffee maker tomorrow.

The Magic of Strawberries

-Otherwise titled, Why a Terrace Garden.

 My kids cracked me up and amazed me more today than many many put together. Humor, do-it-themselves-ness, and their ability to just bust-out laughing when they’d normally be more apt to bark threats (okay, our older one) and push the other, even slyly, off of the shared stool at the sink. They were not total nutballs! They were delicious, calm creatures.

Maybe it was the strawbs? (My girl’s nickname for the seedy berries. It has caught on).



They were “hunormous”(my new word!!) and itty. From a fancy market-bought set of six, to our cutie 44 from two veranda plants. It was something.

Tonight they belted out a fifteen-minute, improvisational song in the shower. It was really a cantata, a very dramatic opera to the pelts and spray of water, under which, the stars of the performance held hands the entire time. They even swayed. At one point, my 2 year old and 4 1/2 looked like they were pulling off some ballroom combinations. My girl’s hand was lightly upon her brother’s shoulder and there looked like there might be a dip.

Daughter looked up, and doing that ballroom dance-lean-back-thing, said, “I feel like I am Cinderella and he is the Prince!”

“This is the best day ever in my life”, she said, before bed. Whoa. Must be the strawbs.



They worked-out every problem themselves, and with style–no way that tired, hungry adults could do this. Maybe Childhood is learning how to deal when people grate and insult your sensibilities. Okay, maybe adulthood is also learning how to handle people and ourselves. It all worked last night.

Generally, these are awesome, well-behaved kids, but…

Normally, there might be breakdown during these fine moments and transitions:

*picking & eating all of our strawberries

*being too hungry for dinner to eat it

*arguing over kitchen stool and bathroom stool


*the tattoos we applied

*the boy refusing dinner, attempting to walk away, food thrown, body wilted in stubborn tears

*teeth brushing

*having to exit the lovely shower

*having to walk

Tonight was MAGIC. This is the point.

They grew bigger than their years. Everything clicked. We were a house on wheels, a giant, sunshiny love-fest on the patio with juicy mouths and falling seeds. This definitely supports my view that kids need something a little wild, a little jungly, hidden, folded, waiting behind the routines. They need leafy foraging and dribbling juices. All of those science experiments we can’t seem to get off the ground. This hardly-a-strwaberry-patch is obviously yielding great results. If nothing else, it is a chance for increased oxygen outside. It is no TV for a bit, and then some gratifying red mouthfuls.


To top it off, the little boy even ate tons of carrots with dinner, and gobbled all of his fish. 

I love strawberries. From this point out, there will (always) be strawbs, and lots.

Watch me learn hydroponics. We’ll have strawbs hanging from the rafters.

Mom’s Day Report

I was feeling report-cardish with Mother’s Day coming around, like it was a tool of assessment of my mothering, how my kids speak, their rate of literacy, the shape of the house and laundry, and why can’t I remember to pick-up new razors and look at these feet, these nails. When will it ease-up, if ever?

It was last night, the night before Mom’s Day. I basically needed to crash into bed. You know when you need to talk, but you’re just too exhausted? When you feel the painful need for a personal trainer, personal assistant, private/home chef–you know, the whole working Mom thing? It can feel like I’m failing, miserably.

There is such an often-unspoken, intrinsic need or maybe self-imposed expectation for us to excel at EVERYTHING and still have oodles, rolls and rolls of spare time, and much to show for it. It all could sound like the wailings of white women on Pinterest, but I felt pretty dark. Who wants to fail? What woman wants to feel mediocre, or just a scraping-by. Dark. I was without my sense of humor, seeing little perspective.

All those thoughts messing up Mother’s Day but he said, “I hope you can just enjoy the day, just enjoy, without all that stuff, the judging, comparing, overthinking, and just feel loved. I agreed. I slept.

And then, this, that next morning:


Folded fanned-out napkin, steaming coffee in my favorite “M” mug, a sweet mini CHAMPAGNE, cereal, a chocolate bar, perfectly cooked eggs as if that guy on the perfectionista Martha Stewart video had tightly made them, an expertly lavish plate of strawberries, grapes, first cherries of the season, their stems crisscrossed; it was all unexpected. I was just hoping coffee had been made when I readied myself to go on up after some extra special sleep. Isaac found me at our door, tray in hand, and ordered me back into bed with my hotel-styled breakfast spread. I can be good at following directions.

Jazz, Champagne, coffee, everything beyond and relaxing, so much so, that I even did my nails.

And it was a day. It was so good to have gotten all those jitters and tired crankerydoos out of the way. I got to hear encouragements right where I needed it, in those rocky, tired crags of mother-teacher-full-time-fatigue. Love is a complete meal and drinks in bed. It is the practical and sweeping, words of life and gifts that stay longer than a day.





So much life and joy even before before ten am or noon. You look on at these kids, you see your life walk by on strong and fast legs, sit on your lap, giggle, skip, quarrel, cuddle, whatever. You hold hands and piggy-back.

I am in this family of total honesty and commitment and wholehearted desire to reflect the heart of G-d, to build up, accept, and support each other; aka they love me! And we eat really excellent food. No pretenses. These are my people, my clan, the children I’ve miraculously birthed and am raising as we speak. I’m calling Mother’s Day the day when you don’t have to overthink. Being is enough. You’re a mother.

By the Time

By the time your child is two or four, you already have an ocean of minutes stored up in the collective. You have sat, laid, hammocked if lucky, summer thick breaths together, forehead to forehead, in dizzying fevers or on runways, taking off or landing, hot with milk.

You have lost track of time, but for seasons which hold the rhythm and recollection of words. (Who knows when they started with “Mommy” or “I love you” or “please may I have a slice of pear”). There is now and the rolling, drizzling, dizzy months of sweaters, then peeling back to T-shirts, and then sandals and bare feet, peeling off suits, and then attaching thicker socks and parkas again. How many onesies did we unsnap, blocks moseyed in the carrier, all of these automatic motions and sore shoulders.

There are seasons of growth and even loss—the ebb and flow, round and skinny of the moon in our window.



By the time two and a half are here or five, say, there have been endless bottles taken to the curb, bottles of baby Tylenol or baby acetaminophen when fevers got too loud, too prohibitive of that luscious kid sleep every mom needs those babies to take.

Think of the scrapes, the prayers, hand holding across meadows, the roundabouts of worry, through rainbows and tunnels,  past orchards of cars. The thrill of exploration! Chest to chest carrying, a metronome of hearts. Think of rain and flurries and bowls of diaphanous noodles. You are first, your very beat and scent and breath. You are beloved, before feet-off-couch-rules and trying to eat a rainbow of veggies; there is first a raw, visceral, born from bone and spirit connection.


First some of me born from me and all the tracking to be brave. All the desire to know wisdom. The very first time I took your hand you’d been out less than a minute. To say I need you. Of course she needs us but I need you, too. We are for each other. Needed. That’s the only way I had the courage to begin that first nursing. I was fairly petrified, but the togetherness. Handholding can be a guide.

Before and after cereal sliding off counters and toweling off vigorously after showers. At the dentist. In screaming. You are mine and I am yours. Our fiery connection branded in the first moment of cells splitting, or later, also, in teeth cutting, in the power struggles of an almost two-year old throwing down cereal, marinara,  or fistfuls of banana mush.

Yes, by the time you sit back, there are oceans of moments accumulating, memories like fish swirling near your tired feet. Buckets of sand just waiting to be castles, molded in the discovery of who you are to each other, how you approach the word “family” and interact with these beings towering in their independence and sheer desire to be loved.

You pour and pour and pour juice. You close eyes, foreheads touching, his fevered, peppered warmth. He is your boy, neck and cheeks still plump. You see big boy, young man, emerging like someday-freckles and a new kind of walk, maybe like his dad’s. She is music and everything deliberate. She will be a woman, every good thing stored up like rain, dancing notes out of a flute like poetry in the park.

Forever your skin has touched, molded in TOGETHER. You remember some of the getting there, this closeness. It must have been in nursing, must have been in holding, in our legs entwined. Must have been in the spaces of prayer, in the glassine wings of a dragonfly. In the giggle of tickles or in some moment of pain? Somewhere along a wall. Somewhere in a box spring or in an unraveling azure thread, perhaps on a receipt thrown out–there is or was the secret of such life.