To Makudonarudo

I realize that my installments of the Harried … with Children saga border on tattling; this week I was ignored, this week I was laughed at, this week I was criticized, this week I was molested. Boo hoo. It’s easy to dwell on the negative; it makes more of an emotional impression after a long day of frustrating work and, due to the drama, often makes for a better story. But here I must confess that for all the students who force me to shout with my mother’s voice, there are students who absolutely charm me, little ones I honestly can’t wait to see each week. Today I am inspired to introduce the exquisite 2-3 year old babies; doll-sized, uncoordinated and squiggly with high piping voices and chubby hands that pat at their mothers and the flash cards I lovingly offer them each class.

They arrive in sandals and sun hats, clinging to their mothers’ hands and babbling in pidgin Japanese. There is Masa, who has become bold enough to attempt singing the weekly songs but, of course, doesn’t know the words. It doesn’t stop him from shrieking along, though, and performing the matching actions with great gusto.

Kazuya gaped at me the first class and remained rooted to his mother’s lap. After fifteen minutes of my spastic leaping around, I noticed a single silent tear trickle down his cheek. 12 weeks later, he tries to push ahead of Masa to tear off his shoes and tumble into the classroom, shouting out the names of colors and dancing to beat the band. He has taken lately to trying to nuzzle my lap with his forehead. His mother grins in apology.

Sara arrives for class in frilly dresses, wispy pigtails and pink Anpanman shoes that squeak each time she takes a step. She barely speaks, even in Japanese, and is often more interested in exploring the colorful posters on the walls. The other week, she discovered the word “Purple!” and shouted it delightedly throughout the class, even when I pointed to “Blue,” and “Cow.” I tried in vain to get her to say it again yesterday but, alas, she did not.

Yuusuke is the tiniest and youngest of the class, content to doze in his mother’s arms most of the time. His peaceful face lights up like the Fourth of July each time I bring out the crayons and every so often at something I’ve done that has escaped everyone but him. I’ve never heard him speak; perhaps he is too young, but he does love to wave good-bye.

Mia is the newest addition to the fold; tiny, toddling and initially a bit shy but, by the end of the class, racing to hand back each flash card I’d laid out on the carpet for the students’ consideration. When class was over, she joined Masa in asking me, “Doko iku no?” A fairly straightforward question: Where will you go? They asked this question two times apiece, and given the context, my guess is they were asking where I was going at that very moment, after class, now that the singing, dancing and giggling was all over.

I cheerfully gave them a straight answer – “I’m staying here!” – but am now considering my options if they ask me again.

Down for my nap, I might say. To the beach. Nowhere – I simply vanish into a puff of glitter once my purpose is served. Home, to watch cartoons. To play with my new puppy. Nothing; I’m free if they want to buy me ice cream and hang. To “Makudonarudo”, for a nice 99 yen Hot Apple Pie and Royal Milk Tea McFlurry. Tokyo Disneyland. My answer will blow their minds. I only hope they ask me again; I love it when we chat.

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