Are We Starting to Take This Seriously?

The bay seen between two fishing huts, with a single person walking along the beach.
The bay, where hopefully surfers are keeping two metres apart.

It’s Saturday morning. It’s warm and there’s moisture in the air. We’re expecting rain for almost an entire week. Right now, the rain has paused and some sunlight is filtering through fast-moving clouds, shining on surfers taking advantage of the wind-whipped waves in the bay, occasionally causing a glare that burns my eyes.

This weekend, we are to stay indoors except for emergencies, and the weather is cooperating. Last weekend, it was sunny and warm, and despite weaker requests to practice social restraint, the parks overflowed with cheery groups enjoying the cherry blossoms. At least this weekend, with wind and rain, those intent on ignoring experts and elected officials might be dissuaded from gathering for weather-related reasons.

Finally, it seems, this COVID-19 business is being taken seriously here. I have spent weeks watching countries abroad—my home country, Canada, included—shut their borders and announce various states of lockdown, while Japan did nothing beyond continue to plan for Tokyo 2020.

I cried tears of relief when my home province of Ontario declared an emergency. My parents are in their 70s, and my mum is immunocompromised. I am terrified for them.

I am terrified for my sister, cousin, cousin-in-law and aunt who are nurses.

I am terrified for cousins who have diabetes.

I am terrified for people like them in Japan, where life, for the most part, has continued as usual despite a growing number of confirmed illnesses. I am terrified at the nonchalance with which many continue to gather; with which clubs and cram schools, closed at the beginning of March, reopen.

But finally, this past week, the governor of Tokyo, as well as those of several other prefectures, stepped up their requests. They’re still not orders, as apparently that is not within their powers. The requests also only apply to the next few days.

But it’s something. And beneath the request from Tokyo’s governor at least, there was a threat of lockdown.

I know I am not alone in hoping and praying that this will be enough to get the attention of the general public, and for more than the three days that the request lasts.

Because if it doesn’t, I am afraid of what the next weeks and months will bring. I am afraid that Japan will become the next China, Italy, USA. I am so afraid.

Dandelion Sunshine

It is certainly a strange world out there. And like so many others, I’ve been struggling.

But the other day, the sun was shining and warm, the sky was bright blue, and a breeze seemed to blow the sharp edge off my worries and fears.

I visited a local park with my kids, one that stays fairly empty and which has zero playground equipment. I sat and watched the waves, and squinted at the faint outline of Mt. Fuji in the distance to see whether it was actually the mountain I could see, or simply a memory of the mountain I’d etched out of the clouds.

Then the complaining started. The kids are lonely and bored. They miss their friends, most of whom are still seeing other friends. We’re the most self-isolating family I know in our area, and it has been hard on my older daughter in particular.

I try. I try not to lose my already stressed-out mind at the kids, but alas, I am not perfect, especially when I struggle. And so we went home in a partial huff.

On the way home, the toddler fell asleep in the stroller as her big sister ran ahead. When we got home, the older settled onto the couch, and I laced up my running shoes. For the first time in almost a month, I got out of the house alone, and got some exercise.

I went back to the same park, jogging along the oceanside walkway and up between the bluffs. I sprinted a few stairs. I jumped and stretched. I admired the view again, this time without complaints in the background. I found dandelions and marvelled at their brightness. And I felt good and happy and optimistic for the first time in weeks.

Moments like this are few and far between these days. I know brighter days await on the other side of the pandemic, but it’s hard to grasp hold of a time when it’s shrouded in mystery, when we don’t really know if this dark tunnel will be long or short.

So I take moments like these: I take the bright yellow dandelions. I take the purple phlox. I take sunny days. I take Mt. Fuji, even when I can’t see it soar into the sky. However faint, I know that the mountain is there. Just like I know this, too, shall pass. Even if the end is faint. Even if the end is not in sight at all.

Like I do with Mt. Fuji, I will look into the distance and see it there, even if it’s just a memory of good times etched in the clouds that shroud the future. It is there. I know it is. I just need to wait for the clouds to lift.

The Handle is There to Help

I made a foolish purchase the other day: a mini trampoline.

My husband is not happy with me. I knew he wouldn’t be. I knew he hated trampolines.

But the kids are home, the weather is supposed to turn bad, and we’re trying hard to be good and limit trips outside, which means hardly any parks, and definitely no playground equipment.

So I thought a trampoline for my daughter’s birthday—which is right around the corner—would be a wise move. I checked two boxes with that one purchase: present for kid, and activity to keep the kids happy. I was clever.

Even more clever—I didn’t buy a child’s trampoline. Oh, no, that would have been a waste. I want to jump, too. And so does my eight-year-old daughter. And possibly my husband, if the phenomenon of men warming up to purchased cats and dogs until they’re the little animals’ biggest fans also applies to mini trampolines.

Picture of a young girl jumping on a mini-trampoline, holding onto the handle.
Handles are for helping.

So we now have a trampoline. Bigger than expected. With a handle. Because let’s face it, the last thing I need right now is an injury that requires a trip to the hospital.

But the children are resistant to using the handle. They are resistant to taking advantage of the help and support it provides.

“Use the handle!” I have shouted over a dozen (possibly over 100) times since the trampoline arrived and was assembled yesterday afternoon. “No handle, no jumping!”

This morning, the eight year old snuck onto the trampoline while her toddler sister slept. She did not use the handle. She hit her elbow on it instead.

A very minor injury. Not even an injury at all, really.

As she rubbed her elbow, I did a version of I-told-you-so: “What have I told you about using the handle?! It’s dangerous just jumping around willy-nilly!”

As I said it, though, it occurred to me that I was really quite the hypocrite. I mean, how many times have I been offered help and support, and not taken it? How many times has someone offered me a handle to hold for support when I jump into something new or intimidating, and I’ve said I’m fine, thanks, but I can manage this on my own?

More times than I can count.

I’ve emerged mostly unscathed, but I can’t help but wonder how much easier some of my more difficult moments would have been if I’d just grabbed onto the damn handle. Fewer falls, fewer tears.

As for the trampoline, beyond opening my eyes to one of my shortcomings (the list grows longer the older I get, but I think it might just be a case of increasing clarity rather than increasing ineptitude), it’s also done a good job of keeping my toddler busy, and she’s mostly been using the handle.

My husband hasn’t warmed to the trampoline yet, but still, maybe it wasn’t such a foolish purchase after all.

Fish Faces Are Always Appropriate

A woman wearing a white Japanese wedding kimono called a shiromuku and a black wig with accessories, and making a fish face.
Forget duck lips—go full fish face

So this is me at my wedding in 2010, making a fish face. ‘Cause that’s what I do. I make fish faces at inappropriate times.

But really, is a wedding that inappropriate a place for a fish face, especially if it’s your own wedding?

Right. It’s a very appropriate place for a fish face. Especially when wearing a (surprisingly complicated) wig, layers and layers of kimono fabric, and a thick coating of white makeup. In fact, I’m fairly certain making a fish face is almost always the appropriate thing to do.

I’m glad we’re on the same page.