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Loss of Innocence

Yesterday, my 10 year-old daughter, discovered that the Tooth Fairy no longer exists. I was packing to return home from our vacation and was about to stow some bandages in my toilet bag when she caught a glimpse of her note and tooth that she had left for T.F. under her pillow several days ago. It was a real shock for her.

My son, who is older, was different. He likes to figures stuff out for himself. My wife and I knew he no longer believed but weren’t sure when he stopped believing. He was a good sport about it though and kept Julia in the dark for the past few years, playing along, saying nothing. Today I finally asked him when he was clued in. He looked up from an episode of MythBusters and said he figured it out when he lost a tooth but decided not to tell us. He put the tooth under the pillow and nothing happend the next morning, the tooth was still there. Eliminating the variables, he put it together.

As fat tears rolled down Julia’s cheeks, between sniffles, I could feel her ache of losing something magical, something bigger than herself, someone with whom she could keep secrets. With the fall of the Tooth Fairy, others soon would follow. She tugged at this loose spiritual thread and asked me point blank about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and so on. Knowing it was time to come clean, I lay down the cards for her. By mid-morning, not only had the Tooth Fairy ceased to exist but all the other childhood myths lay shattered in pieces.

I wonder how this will change her over the next year. She’s about to go into 5th grade, the last grade before she goes on to Middle School. Many of her classmates have been telling her that Santa and the others do not exist but she’s been resisting them, choosing to have faith. Now, with that dream broken, she’ll be on the other side of the fence. Those who know the existentialist truth of a world without the Tooth Fairy.

A father worries, what will become of that innocent smile?

Photo by CC Marks
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Girl’s Day

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As we drove through Chinatown this past weekend, we saw preparations for the Chinese New Year’s celebrations. Many were carrying sprigs of cut plum blossoms which are just starting to bloom so we bought some to go with the Girl’s Day display which we set up each year around this time and keep up until the beginning of March.

Tyler took a small plum blossom branch to school today to explain to his class about the festival and his Japanese background. Taking him to school this morning, he said he was worried that the boys in the class would make fun of a kid carrying pink flowers to show-and-tell. Later, in line waiting to go into the class, he noticed that the girls liked he flowers so he warmed up to the idea.

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Harley-Davidson, Japanese Engine?

I took my father in law out to visit a motorcycle distributor where he was hoping to get a distributor for the high end wheels made by Dymag, a company he owns. While it’s always interesting to step into a new industry and learn a bit about it, one of the more juicy bits of gossip that I learned was the nasty rumor that the Harley-Davidson is not really as American-built as some would like to believe. Not only are the wheels on most models made by an overseas company called “Inky” but the buyer we met also assured us that if you look carefully on the engines, you’ll see that they’re made in Japan!

He couldn’t remember which Japanese company makes the Harley engines which is a shame. According to him, all the engines are shipped to the US where they are assembled along with all the other parts which are sourced overseas. Makes me wonder if it’s all done under cover of darkness by a secret guild of factory workers sworn to secrecy.

If this is indeed true, it would be quite a scandal for the company that, when faced with cheaper imports from Japan, unsuccessfully tried to trademark the unique sound of their V-Twin engine.

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Christmas Eve

We were invited to the Central Baptist Church by Betty, our landlord of two months, while we looked for our house. The service was an hour long. We sang a few hymns and had the lyrics conveniently projected onto the screen behind the pulpit, listened to a short sermon, then watched a short film that explored the historical context of Christ’s birth. Towards the end there was a rousing rendition of Go Light Your World by a member of the choir and our kids couldn’t help but get into it (pictures above). All in all, although we aren’t regular church goers, it was very nice to be part of the ceremony and share the occasion.

We later went to join the congregation over at Betty’s house, the beautifully restored Garrett Mansion, for the traditional post-service chili dinner. The picture to the to the left is from the traditional singing of the Days of Christmas where each family is handed a glass with a day and they then sing their verse. That’s Betty conducting the singing. Thank you Betty for inviting us into your life and sharing your Christmas tradition with us – we had a great time!

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Playing Father Christmas

Tonight I had the rare privilege of keeping the dream alive for some 70 kids who came to our street to visit with Santa. Our street gets totally decked out in lights for the month (we even got covered in the SF Chronicle) and to cap things off, we have a little Santa’s workshop thing going on the median right in front of my house.

Santa duty is on a volunteer basis and, wanting to make a good impression with my neighbors, I jumped in with both feet and signed myself up for an evening. Izumi told the kids I had to step out for a few hours to take care of something and I ducked into the garage to change into the suit which the fellow from the night before brought over for me earlier in the day. The beard was kind of funky smelling so I spritzed it with some cologne, threw on an extra sweater for warmth and then threw open the garage door for my 6:30 appearance.

I had some quick explaining to do to the startled kids that wondered why Santa was coming out of a garage to which I said that it’s the best place for the sled b/c parking is tough in this town. I settled into the chair that had been set out for me and then realized that, (a) the cologne smell was going to make me woozy, (b) I couldn’t see a thing b/c of the spotlight on me and the condensation on my glasses, and (c) I was going to sweat up a storm with all this gear on because the wig and hat were actually quite warm.

No matter, my elves, which were older kids from the neighborhood, moved things along nicely and whispered each child’s name into my ear before they approached. It was great to see their eyes when I would say to them, “Jose! How good to see you again! Now, tell me young man, you have been good haven’t you?” In one glance I could tell if they were good or bad because they were either happy to see me or looked at their toes in guilt. A few words of advice later (“be sure to make your bed each morning, pick up after yourself, and eat all your veggies”) and then I would get an education on the state of the toy market.

Most popular request? Bikes followed by Gameboys.

Then there was the handwritten note slipped to me by one boy when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. It was a simple boy’s request for some things to make his life better:

  • Juice
  • Stuffed Cat & Dog
  • Clock
  • Garbage Can for Room
  • Telephone
  • Rescue Hero Hyper Jet
  • Green Long Hair for Daddy
  • 100 Quarters ($25)

Some things seem so mundane, like a shopping list, then there’s the Rescue Hero, an indulgence, and the “Green Long Hair for Daddy” – I would love to know the full story behind that one but alas I didn’t have that much time.

The other note slipped my way was from a father who had scrawled on the back of an envelope:

Santa,
Please mention to Jonathan to be sure to take the rubber snake off our garage roof so it doesn’t frighten Prancer.

When I discussed this with Jonathan, he almost lost his cap! He was just beside himself and solemnly promised to tell his father about Prancer’s ophiciophobia.

Good fun, it was totally worth it.

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Little “t”

Encho-sensei

I’m in Tokyo for the week catching up with the family who has been here for the past month and a half. Earlier in the year, Izumi negotiated with a local kindergarten to see if we could send Tyler (5) to their school for June and July while Japanese schools are still session. I had gone to a Japanese kindergarten when I was Tyler’s age and it did a world of good for my ability to pronounce Japanese so the logic was that it would help Tyler as well.

To a large part, it’s been successful. Tyler has fit right in and learned a little Japanese to boot. I’ll post pictures when I return and can upload them from my camera. He’s off today for a two night trip to the mountains to pick blueberries with his classmates which is a wonderful way to finish out his experience.

The school is affiliated with a Christian church in Denenchofu, about 15 minutes away by car. For the past two mornings, I’ve been walking Tyler to school after getting dropped off halfway by Izumi’s mom on her way to work. Tyler leads the way, explaining all the things he sees on the way to school. As we approached the school on Monday, he pointed down the road to his school, signposted by the, little “t” as he described it. It took a while for me to figure out what he was talking about but then I saw it. The little “t” he was talking about was the Cross, up on top of the building. I had internalized the symbol so much I didn’t see it for what it is, a little “t.”

Tyler with his Japanese school teacher
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The Perfect Gift

I know exactly what to get Tyler for his next birthday . . .