Monthly Archives: May 2018

Calder Is In Japan

This is a continuation of my previous post where I was trying to write a Goodbye of sorts to my son who moved to Japan for 2 years to study Japanese and the Japanese culture. I was attempting to do this a few weeks before he left but it was way too difficult a task. The excitement and joy for him was completely overshadowed by motherly angst, fears and panic. You always know when you have a child that they will leave you one day and truly if they didn’t that would be kind of like telling me I was going to live forever instead of die. We think we want to live forever, but do we? The finality of it all puts us into the circle of life orbit and I think as humans we like a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s kind of another story.

fushimi inari shrine

Little Side Shrine off Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto, Japan

If someone told me that my son would never stop being a child and would live with me until I died I might rethink having children. The beginning is having a child, the middle is raising that child, and the end is them leaving to find their own way. Of course it is not the end of the relationship, but more like a new beginning, a new cycle. This is where I am with Calder, the beginning of our new cycle.

I could never think of him as not living in our house. He was part of everything every day for the past 18+ years and I couldn’t think past that. I could only imagine feelings of what it would be like with him not sitting with me in the kitchen while I cooked, or him helping or him sleeping in his bed or sitting in the car going somewhere. Imagined feelings are awful and I felt sick every time I looked at him and thought about not being able to do that. I mostly seemed to dwell on the moment myself and my daughter Íde (we were both going to Kyoto to “drop” him off) boarded the plane for home without him, and then walking into the house after getting home. I knew I was going to strip the sheets from our beds before leaving and wash them so our travel-worn bodies could sleep in perfect cotton crispness, but I couldn’t stop imagining how Calder’s bed would be stripped and then left like that. It was stupid and overly sentimental but I get like that. I get wrapped up in the feeling and all I could think about was this loss and me pining away without him. The last few weeks were the worst because both he, and his sister would either be afraid to mention anything about him leaving for fear of me busting into tears or they would talk about it on purpose just to see me busting into tears (their sick way of making me laugh at myself, and it worked sometimes).


 Bamboo Forest in Saga-Arashiyama, Kyoto

So, I decided to put off writing about Calder and his big adventure away from home, and from us, until I got back. And now here I am writing, and not a tear is being shed. I imagined all sorts of scenarios, but I never imagined what is actually happening: me being able to cope, and not just cope, me being happy, without him. 


It was Cherry Blossom Season

I realize now that my feeling of panic and sadness was not really about him being gone, it was about him being unhappy. I can see now that when I got upset I was imagining him being far away from home feeling lonely, or scared or regretting his decision because his idea of what Japan was like in his head was completely different and disappointing. To my greatest relief, it was quite the opposite, which showed me once again that worrying about something is such a waste of time and energy. I need to remember that when my daughter leaves for God-knows-where next year!


Monkey Park in Saga-Arashiyama, Kyoto

We were in Japan for 10 days and in that time Calder moved into his cool new digs with a bunch of international students like himself, started classes, and literally… disappeared. It was like a magic trick where I tapped him on the head with my wand and said: “You are going to love it here and we are going to be ok” and it happened, just like that. I cannot even explain it. My friend Kristen said it best when I came home and told her of his transformation. “He found his people”, she said. And that’s it really. He found where he wanted to be right now in his life, and immersed, body and soul. 

Calder's dinner in Japan.JPG

Calder has been sending me pictures of the dinners he makes. sitting in the kitchen with me all those years has paid off!


How could I be sad? How could I want him back? We text, talk or video chat every day for just a little bit. We promised that we would and we said if we didn’t make it into a big deal, taking up tons of time (unless we can), it should be easy to keep up…and it has.

The only “Japan” thing I want to talk about is the place I mentioned in my last post: the Fushimi Inari Shrine 

Two years ago I knew for sure that my son, who was in High School at the time, did not want to go to college right our of school, but wanted to go to Japan and to live there and experience all the things he had been reading about since he was very young (the movie Totoro was the beginning of his obsession!). He and I began looking at how to make this happen and found a great language and culture institute with a campus in Kyoto. We had no idea how to proceed but over the course of the his last year in high school we got his application in and went through the arduous tasks of getting a visa and everything squared away. 


Still from the movie Totoro

I did all this without really knowing if I could swing it financially. I have never let the lack of money stop me from at least trying to do the things that I want to do. I figure if I go ahead like everything is going to work out, at least I have the opportunity to do that thing if it miraculously does. I am a total optimist and it’s a blessing and a curse. Not everything works out but the odds of good things happening are better if I activity work on them. A couple of years ago I made something that might be corny to some but it is something that has helped me: A Vision Board. I am a big believer in visualization, not only for grandiose dreams like Calder’s but for small things too. My vision board contains just the pretty big things that I want or care about and one of those things was an image of a shrine in Japan to represent what I wanted to happen for Calder. I didn’t know anything about the shrine, or even where it was at the time I pasted it onto my board. I just knew it was something beautiful that said Japan to me. 


Well, this place turned out to be a few train ride stops away from where Calder lived and the day before we left him, we made our visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine (read a tidbit about it here). I was really overcome with the place and seeing it, after looking at it everyday for two years on my little board, was like a real dream coming true. I linked Calder’s arm and walked through the first pillars with him, a physical affirmation that was the beginning of his own new life and of my new life cycle with him . Both of my kids knew this was a big sappy moment for me and they let me have it, tears and all. I will never forget it. When I came home the first thing I did was put a little ✔️ by the dog-eared picture of the shrine on my board.

I will write some posts about some of what I absolutely loved later but for now it is enough to say that the time I spent there with my two kids doing something really important and exciting is something that I will treasure forever. And the feelings I felt are not the kind that will fickly fade into the recesses of my memory. I will hold onto them because it was magic. 

Thank you to everyone who made it possible for Calder to go to Japan, to my family and friends who I love so much and am forever grateful