From Far East to Northeast

     My holidays were like a Hallmark Christmas movie and a Travel Channel documentary all rolled into one. My youngest son, Max, who lives in Tokyo, Japan, excitedly told me he was coming home for the holiday week. I was super excited as I hadn’t seen him for a year and a half. I didn’t want to get my hopes too high as plans can change in an instant, especially for 24-year-olds. He was scheduled to arrive home on Christmas Eve and leave on New Year’s Day – perfect timing for a family visit.

     Once his flight plans were confirmed, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing he was actually coming home. Texting, emailing and FaceTime only go so far. I couldn’t wait to spend some quality time with my son, face to face, without a glass screen and 7,000 miles between us.

     My family and I had no problem rearranging our holiday schedule. In fact, we still had a turkey in the freezer that we didn’t cook when our Thanksgiving plans changed. Our Thanksgiving meal would now be celebrated on Christmas Eve with the welcome addition of my son at our table. 

     My son’s flight was on time (the joys of flying direct). Picking Max up at the airport went smoothy.My older son drove so I didn’t have to navigate the nightmare of confusing roadways that spiral through Logan International). Parking was a breeze. The airport was deserted because most people were already at their holiday destinations.

     When we arrived home, my family enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. The only awkward moment occurred when we took our places at the table. My four-year old granddaughter realized her regular seat at the table was formerly Max’s seat. After a tense staring contest, the self-proclaimed Disney Ice Princess deferred her seat to the Prince of Japan and all was well in the kingdom.

     It was a joy exchanging gifts with my son on Christmas morning. The hand-made painting my son and his wife created for me will be treasured forever. As an artist, I’m the one usually giving art to other people. To receive art made specifically for me was deeply touching.

     My son had lots to do in the short time he was home. He kept up his tradition of going to the movie theater on Christmas night with his Stoneham friends. 

     The next morning, my son was excited to set up a group video-chat with his wife who spent the holiday week with her family in northern Japan. It was the first time since my son’s marriage in November that my wife and I would be speaking to our new daughter-in-law’s family, or as I call it, Meet the Parents: Millennial Edition. There were lots of smiles and waving as our combined families exchanged hellos. Four people trying to fit onto a cell phone screen is a sight to behold. The language barrier didn’t stop us from trying to converse. Earlier that morning, I Googled a quick Japanese catch-phrase so I could impress my new Japanese relatives by saying something in their language. As goodbyes were said, I ended the phone call with my newly learned greeting, “Gokigen’yō”, which the internet translated as “Have a nice day”. The family in Japan looked perplexed and my daughter-in-law giggled sweetly.

      My son let me in on the joke. Apparently the phrase I used was an archaic Japanese saying from hundreds of years ago. My greeting was the equivalent of someone in America speaking Old English, tipping their tri-corner hat and uttering, “Have a grand afternoon, kind sir!” 

     During the rest of the week, time with my son was at a premium. He planned an overnight stay in Boston. The following morning he headed for New York City to catch up with friends he hadn’t seen since he moved to Tokyo. Of course, I worried about him the whole time he was gone. He wasn’t the only one who was sleep deprived. I didn’t expect him to stay home with his parents watching the news every night (although I wouldn’t have minded that at all). 

     Max returned to Stoneham from New York just in time to attend a New Year’s Eve party before he departed for Japan the next morning. My celebrating was kept to a minimum since I had to drive to the airport at 4:45 a.m. on New Years Day.

     And just like that, my world-traveling son was gone again, flying to the other side of the world, back to his new life and his new wife.

     Like the holiday song says, “Through the years we all will be together / If the fates allow…” This year the fates allowed my son Max to be home with us for Christmas. And it was the best Christmas gift ever.


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