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Archive for October, 2010

obaachan and clare 2

It seems in Ireland, grannies play a pretty important role in the lives of their grandchildren. For a lot of my Irish friends, their Granny was an integral part of the household, living with them and their parents and helping with everything from cooking to homework. And for a few of my friends here, especially those who were the first-born son, Granny was more a mother to them than their Mammy. She took them into her home and essentially raised them from infancy to adulthood.

Although I didn’t grow up around my grandmother or Obaachan, as I would call her (that’s Japanese for “grandmother”), I have great memories of the brief period I lived in Japan as a child and of the visits we’ve had over the years. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately as last Saturday she turned 101 years old. It’s really mind-boggling to think of all she’s experienced in that time: her marriage to my grandfather, which lasted for 73 years until his death; giving birth to five children, two of whom she has outlived; witnessing the transformation of her beloved city of Osaka from a quiet town to a bustling, modern city; leaving her house of 50-something years to move into an elderly-care facility and learning, later, that it had been torn down.

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If you would have told my parents a year ago that they’d spend their next vacation visiting me in Ireland, they’d have laughed it off as an amusing but silly joke. To be honest, I probably would have as well. Funny how quickly life can change.

Last week my parents came over and got some insight into my new life here and what it all means. They partook in some of my now-daily routines, like breakfast of sliced McCloskey’s Cottage Brown Bread with a medium-boiled egg served in an egg cup (something not at all popular in the U.S.). They did their laundry in my tiny washing machine/dryer combo, and managed to hang everything properly on my indoor clothes horse and realized it would take approximately 24 hours for those clothes to dry. And after a few searches in the dark, they grasped that the bathroom light switch in Ireland is always, always outside the bathroom! And they experienced all little things that used to drive me crazy, like the nonsensical pricing scheme of Irish Rail tickets (Dad: “How is it 12 euro for one way to Dundalk when it’s 14 euro to go all the way to Dublin and back!?”). It was fun to watch them adjust to all the oddities I struggled with upon my arrival here. It reminded me of just how settled I feel now.

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Anne Clare Child

Me (left) and my sister in Kamakura, Japan

Walking along the beach here a few months back, I spied hundreds of washed-up jellyfish on the shore and was immediately reminded of my childhood home of Japan. My sister and I spent the first five years of our lives in a beach town called Kamakura, and we used to spend hours scooping up jellyfish with our little plastic buckets. God knows why but we would cut them up with scissors (I know, horrible!) because we were fascinated by their soft texture. I think we just saw them as jelly, not live creatures of the sea. It was innocent, really, just like our life there.

Much like small-town Ireland, Kamakura was a place where you knew your neighbors and where it was perfectly safe to let your kids run around outside without having to check on them every two seconds. So safe was it that my sister and I used to take the train to preschool every day. Though we were all of four years old, we along with a couple of neighborhood school mates would walk down a little stone pathway to the train station. We wore school uniforms, including a hat that bore a colored button indicating which train we were to take. I remember our button was yellow. The station agent would look at the top of our hats, see the button color and put us on the corresponding train. Our teachers awaited us at the other end, and then walked us to our school. If we got lost on the way, various neighbors would put us back on the right path. They all knew our school, they all knew us and we could count on them to help us find our way.

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