Wednesday, December 21, 2005

One Sorry Santa

Santa in His Changing Room

Because of the surge in the poles of my popularity rating among Kazamaura’s six year olds after my appointment as Ikokuma Santa I was pretty positive about my return to office, this time as Hebiura Santa. I was even more excited when I learned that my Santa time at the Hebiura pre-school coincided with the massive end of year cleaning time at the junior high school. At 1335 hours I left the junior high building with the phrase “so long, suckers!” echoing in my heart, only to discover that my wife had gone shopping and locked the doors to our house. I had forgotten to mention to her that I always keep my car keys in the little basket by our door instead of in my pocket. I waded around the house through the snow in search of unsecured windows, but when Yuko locks up, she’s thorough. At 1342 hours I made an executive decision that it would be embarrassing to beg anyone at the junior high school or the board of education for a ride, and that it probably wouldn’t take that long to run to Hebiura. It did take that long, and I didn’t run (not all the way, at least—my lungs didn’t allow it) and I was very sweaty by the time I got to the preschool half an hour later. Then, of course, the double-sided adhesive tape on my Santabrows and Santastaches wouldn’t stick to my sweaty face. Nevertheless, I am happy to report another successful year in office. Here is a partial translation of Q & A time with Hebiura Santa:

Q: Where did you come from?
A: The North Pole.
Q: How did you get here?
A: I ran. My reindeer caught the flu.
Q: What food do you like?
A: Natto and Takoyaki.
Q: Did you bring any presents for us grandmas?
A: Um. (Glance at preschool headmistress). No, sorry.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you have kids?
A: Almost.

It’s hard to say how much of this information was disseminated accurately since the questions were posed in Japanese, Santa spoke exclusively in English (except when whispering in the preschool teacher’s ear), and the headmistress had only her imagination to guide her in interpreting what Santa said to the kids.

The Lamppost—It’s Always Winter and Never Christmas in Narnia: Last year, when Tsugaru JETs suffered through shovelling a couple of feet of snow every morning, in Kazamaura I only had to shovel snow twice the whole season. So what’s going on this year? We didn’t even have snow yet on 21 December last year, but I’ve had to shovel snow three times already.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Closer Look at Our Kid

So far our kid is beginning to look like an American space alien . . . . We don’t know what to make of that because although I am a fully registered, card carrying alien here in Japan, I haven’t been to space and neither of us are American. How will we know how to raise it?

We chose Saturday for Yuko’s second visit to St. Cecilia Ladies’ Clinic so that we could go together. We chose St. Cecilia for its philosophy of approaching “childbirth in a manner not contrary to nature,” but it has the added bonus of being sparkly new and cute. This is the little pink Baby Book they gave to Yuko for keeping a maternity journal. I’m not sure which angel we’re meant to contact to supply us with memories, but I think that we will stick to our own. I was hoping that I would be able to get a good look at all the high tech gizmos, especially the equipment for taking the ultrasound, but a modesty curtain contained me and Yuko in a cosy little niche and I missed all the technological action. I guess I need to convince the doctor to break protocol and let me commute back and forth to his side of the curtain.

We are now in the tenth week of our parenthood. According to these graphics, two weeks ago our kid was a soybean, but now it is a strawberry. I anticipate that when we return in two weeks for the 12 week mark, it will have transmogrified into a mandarin orange.

In other news, the villagers are dying off, sometimes at a rate of seven or eight per a month. The board of education trustees were an especially vulnerable group since all four of them were rather old men, and we all know that men die faster than women. Indeed, some months ago these grandees lost one forth of their memberships. Subsequently, the mayor stopped by at our house for tea and asked Yuko to allow her name to stand as a new member of the board. To make a long story short, Yuko now outranks me since as an Assistant Language Teacher I am the lowliest employee of the board of education, whereas she is now a board member—she and the three remaining grandees of the old boys’ network.

In other, other news, I have been reappointed to the position of Hebiura Preschool’s Santa Claus. I generally shun Santa Claus and other manifestations of secular “Xmas,” but my execution of that office at Ikokuma Preschool last year did a lot for my approval ratings among six year olds this year. When I brought up the subject of Santa’s visit last year with my grade one students I couldn’t subdue the following bedlam. Among other startling memories shared, there was the stunning revelation that under Santa’s big white beard there was another, smaller, darker beard.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Our Advent Log and Other Advent News

Yuko, Sister #3, and the Resident Foreigner in the Fellowship of the Advent Candles
We are just about to devour Yuko’s Japanese pizza: mayo-sauce with teriyaki chicken (Mmmmmm, my favoriet!)

This Christmas Yuko and I are laying the groundwork for lifelong family traditions. While we are for the most part basing them on the traditions of our own parents’ respective households, there is a lot of learning and experimenting involved. Take gardening, for example. We always watched our parents go at it, assuming that by merely having parents who gardened, we could ourselves be considered experts of sorts on the subject. How naive we were. In the case of Advent, I am attempting to overcome my twenty-eight year long refusal to sing. Hopefully by the time our kids are old enough to know do from fa I’ll be able to sing Christmas carols and hymns more-or-less in tune. (On evenings during Advent we light the candles after dinner, sing some Christmas carols, and read Christmas stories from various anthologies).

I made the advent log myself out of Aomori hiba at the Muraguchi workshop. As was the case last year, I took advantage of Kazamaura Junior High School’s woodworking program hosted by our good friend Mr. Muraguchi.

When I was very young, Advent was simply an opportunity to play with melted candle wax and a "heads up" that packages of presents would soon be arriving from relatives unknown from overseas. Now, it’s a time to worshipfully reflect on the very core and essence of the Old and New Testaments: the prophecies and promises concerning the Messiah. Handel’s Messiah is by far my favourite vehicle for reviewing and reflecting on these prophesies and promises. Unfortunately, this year Yuko and I will not be able to attend the Messiah concert in Hirosaki so we will have to sit down with some cups of hot cocoa and listen to the CD.