Coming to America

     My son Max has been living in Japan for the past year. He is a teacher at The Tokyo School of Music. I miss him every day, but I am happy he achieved his double dream of living in Japan and teaching music. When he told me he was planning to return to Stoneham for two weeks, I was excited about his arrival. Facetime can’t replace seeing him in person. When he told me he was bringing his fiancé, Hiromi, with him, I was even more thrilled.

     “I thought it would be a nice chance for Hiromi to meet the family and see America,” Max said. My ever-expanding family is about to go international and I couldn’t be happier.

     My son and his fiancé planned to arrive in Boston at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday. I left work at noon and checked his flight information online. Everything was on time and proceeding smoothly until I got a call from Max at the Chicago airport telling me he missed his connecting flight to Boston due to long lines at U.S. Customs. Of all the fatherly advice I’ve given, I guess I should have reiterated “never book a connecting flight through Chicago”.

     After being bumped from multiple standby flights, a kind-hearted ticket agent took pity on my son. The agent found seats on a flight to Boston by way of Charlotte, NC. Hiromi got to see more of America than she thought she would.

     Finally, after a harrowing midnight trek to Logan airport, full of night construction pit-falls and missed exits (my wife was driving), we made it to the American Airlines arrival gate. Even though cell phone reception wasn’t ideal, I found my son and his fiancé at the far end of the concourse from where we parked. I waved from a distance and flagged them down. Big hugs and introductions were followed by a Welcome to America bouquet of flowers for Hiromi. Everyone was tired after the 36 hour no-sleep ordeal but things were looking up. My son was finally home, that was all that mattered. When we arrived home in Stoneham, Hiromi read a beautiful letter she wrote to me and my wife. She thanked us for welcoming her into our family and she told us how much our son means to her. Hiromi’s letter was written from the heart and read through tired tears. This touching scene at 1 a.m. in my kitchen made the whole night worth the wait.

     On Friday we had a Welcome to the Family/Engagement Barbecue to introduce family and friends to Hiromi. My favorite moment of the night was Hiromi meeting my older son Joe for the first time. Picture a petite lotus blossom being hugged by a huge grizzly bear. His wrap-around greeting enveloped Hiromi like a Tsunami. Joe’s voice boomed, “Nice to meet you, my new sister!” Later I snapped a photo of Hiromi competing in a cornhole tournament in the back yard. Hiromi held her own throughout the game although I am sure she was slightly overwhelmed being thrust into the middle of an American family having never visiting the United States before.

     It’s interesting to see Max and HIromi converse in Japanese. Max has really progressed in his adopted language. Hiromi can read and write perfect English. She can understand our language but conversing in a foreign tongue makes her feel hesitant about what she is saying because she doesn’t want to make a mistake.

     I’ve introduced Hiromi to my favorite pastime, American television. TMZ left her head spinning with it’s fast-paced cut-away sensationalized tabloid reports. During our conversation I learned there is no Japanese equivalent to Kim Kardashian. The series Big Brother encapsulated American society in a nutshell. I couldn’t begin to explain the plot lines of Days Of Our Lives, but Hiromi got the idea after a few scenes. She turned to me and said, “Drama.” Oh yes, and plenty of it.

     During the week, Max and Hiromi visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Fusion Taste, Mexico Linda and Waxy O’Connor’s. Hiromi is getting quite a taste of America. I also took an interesting trip with her to Ebisuya, a Japanese grocery store in Medford, to pick up some authentic Japanese food to make her feel at home. American food is heavy, sweet and sauce covered – just the way we like it. Food in Japan is much lighter, and the portions are a fraction of what we serve in the United States.

     The newly engaged couple have a few days left to spend in Stoneham. As much as Max loves being home, I can tell he misses his life in Tokyo. Who wouldn’t? Hopefully their flight connections will be smooth and uneventful. Next week I’ll have to be satisfied with my son’s face on a cell-phone screen once again. Seeing him in person made me realize how much I love him. And if you love someone, you have to let them go. I just didn’t know he was going to the other side of the world. I’ll find out what it’s like in Asia next year when I venture to Japan to attend the wedding ceremony. That trip that may not fit into one newspaper column. It sounds like an ongoing series to me.

3 thoughts on “Coming to America

  1. What a beautiful story! I’m sure her parents would love to have that read to them in Japanese. You’d better start learning the important Japanese phrases, such as “Where is the bathroom?”

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