A few weeks back, my dear friend Yumiko and her children stayed with us for a weekend. Yumiko and I have been friends for over 20 years, a friendship that harkens back to SUNY Fredonia. We were both there studying English. That first year, she celebrated Christmas with my family and my new boyfriend who is now my husband. I still have origami that she made for us, for our Christmas tree during that visit and that we in return have used every year since. I had the fortunate experience of visiting her in 2002 and seeing her culture first hand; meeting her family, friends, and colleagues; site seeing, and getting a first person perspective, that could not be replicated by any organized tour. Who would have thought that 20 years later she would be coming to the United States, for an annual spring visit with her English students, from the college she teaches at in Nagoya?
In the last few years, her husband and children have accompanied her for part of her visit. This was year two of our children being together and playing together. This was year two where the culture of pure childhood blended wondrously and purely in our home. Within minutes of seeing one another, the children were communicating in the seamless way it seems only children can do, over a loom and rubber bracelets. The children carried on in both English and Japanese about the bracelets, as our daughter explained what to do and Yumiko’s children tried it out. Yumiko’s son and our oldest daughter broke the ice once more over some computer games that had them both laughing hysterically. Other games with balloons; timeless games of chase; playing outside in the snow; and time spent together at the incredible children’s museum “Explore and More” were also times and instances that illustrated for me the ways in which the nature of childhood knows no bounds. It also once again demonstrated for me how the beauty and richness of diverse cultural traditions makes us all more enlightened especially when experienced. From shared meals and conversations about family and our societies to lessons in sushi making and collecting gold chocolate coins from leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day, the warm embers of friendship were rekindled once again. We have next March to look forward to, to do this once again, and Skype and Facebook to hold us over.