Grandparents, Square Dancing, + Cherry Blossom Season

Mexican-ish holidays must run in the fam.  Well, kind of.  My birthday is Nov 2/ Day of the Dead.  Trav’s is 4/20.  And Henry’s half birthday was Cinco-de-Mayo!  I can’t believe my sweet babe is already half a year old, eating some big boy food, speaking fluent Tasmanian Devil (a bllghh–da-da-{fart noise}-ga-ma-{fart noise} raaaa!), crawling + scooting all over the place and into everything!

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Over the past few months he’s met some of his extended family.  Travis’ parents (Henry’s Nonna & Papa Jeff) came in January and then my family came in late March.  Seeing him meet his grandparents for the first time was such a joy.  With the extra help around I had a little bit more time to straighten my hair which does for me what doing dishes does for some people- it’s mentally relaxing and when I do my best thinking. It got me reminiscing about my own grandparents and how much I took for granted having them always there in my hometown.  Wednesday was a church day, and the day my Mommama picked me up from school to meet everyone at church.  I remember waiting under a big tree, so excited to see her blue Astro van come around the corner (yea these were the days before school safety patrols and kids having to wait inside).  Mommama would always take me out for a treat- either ice cream from the Tasty Freeze or candy from Gas-N-Go.  I preferred the candy but I knew she preferred the ice cream so I would “pick” that sometimes just for her.  My grandparents were all fairly young when I was born so some of the most fun memories I have involved doing things with their friends. Fridays and Saturdays were Mommama & Papa’s square dancing days.  I have so many memories of staying up past my bed time to watch the Star Promenaders. Yep, my most thrilling childhood memories included glittery women with big boofy skirts and bow-tied men with slicked Johnny Cash haircuts twirling about those uneven hardwood floors at the Bauxite Community Center.  Saline County, Arkansas circa 1989–yea those were the days!

{Upon writing this, I remembered that I had some pictures saved from an old presentation I made for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary…!}

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Mommama & Papa
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My aunt Amy, cousin Joey, Papa & my mom
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Top- My Great Aunt Mary & Uncle Jim with Mommama & Papa
Bottom- Papa (center) with friends. (Don’t remember the couple on the left.)  Good friends Billy & Angus on the right!

My favorite moment of the night would come when it was time for the Cotton Eye Joe.  That was the one dance that I was allowed to participate, and the natural showboater in me couldn’t wait to get on the dance floor. We’d go to Ed & Kay’s restaurant in Benton or Shoney’s with the same crowd.  I have similar fun memories with my other grandma, Mama Toon, and her friends.  We’d pack up toys and books in a suitcase (maybe an old habit from someone who raised 9 children), pile up in her blue VW “bus” and meet her gal pals down at Sweet & Cream in Southwest Little Rock.  Except for Port Arthur, TX once a year to visit my great-grandmother, my family didn’t travel much.  These “ordinary” things were some of my richest memories.

When my mom was visiting Japan, I think she felt a certain sadness about the distance, fearful that our children won’t be as close to her since we’ll most likely always live in another town.  I reminded her that Travis grew up as an Air Force brat and is just as close with his grandparents, perhaps because he knew that grandparent time was a special, rare time (usually over summer break) and he didn’t take it for granted the way that I did having them so close.  Inevitably, our children won’t have as much time with their grandparents as I did growing up, but it’ll be the special time that we make of it.  I am forever grateful for the influence of my grandparents in my life and for the influence that our parents will have on Henry!

Part of my family’s visit in March/early April included Cherry Blossom Season!  How serendipitous that they bloomed early this year and my family was here for the 10 days out of the year when they do their thing.  It was actually Travis’ and my first Cherry Blossom experience.  We moved here right after they died in April 2011 and then last year we were in the states at the time and missed them again.  I knew they were special and a huge part of Japanese culture but I had no idea just how magical they are.  I think God gives us seasons to more deeply cherish the wonders of His creation. I love how Japan has very distinct + celebrated seasons.  There’s Plum Blossom season, then Cherry Blossoms, Tulip Season, then Azaleas, Hydrangea season in early summer, then Sweet Olive (Osmanthus) in the Fall.  And the same goes for food.  Unlike other modernized countries where you can get pretty much anything any time of year, Japan has embargoed certain fruits and vegetables to protect their own industries so you can only get certain things when the season comes.  For example, Spring is fresh Strawberry season.  And we wait all year to get peaches, pears, and plums in the summer- (I don’t know how they are grown with such perfection but they are the best and undoubtedly the most expensive in the world!).  Persimmons come out in the fall about the same time that the air smells like Sweet Olive blossoms.

But Cherry Blossom season is the most special, sacred and celebrated of all.  The practice of picnicking under a blooming Sakura, Hanami, is centuries old- dating back to the Heian & Nara Periods (710-1185).  

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It’s a fleeting beauty that marks the arrival of Spring.  The falling petals almost glow in the dark- like a Springtime snowfall. I dragged my family to Yoyogi Park (which by the way is NOT the same thing as the Meiji Shrine Park in Harajuku) for an American style hanami (ala McDonalds) just in time for sunset.

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When the petals fall and liter the streets and parks, it’s just as beautiful.  Nature’s confetti!

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just outside our apartment

I couldn’t help but take some pictures of my little naturalist in the petals.  He is in his happy place when I take him outside and was so zenned out here I couldn’t even get him to look at me!

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We just celebrated our 2nd Japanniversary which means we have 1 more year left, and if we’re lucky, we’ll stick around for 1 more Cherry Blossom season!  This also means we have 1 more year left for guests in Japan! Who’s next? 🙂

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One Comment Add yours

  1. marcelaires says:

    Que doce ver seu bebê Natalie.Muito bom, estamos com poucos contatos, não tenho mais Facebook, acho que o email que tenho seu não é o que usa, muito bom ver um bebê tão lindo. Que benção, feliz dia das mães para você, 12 de maio. Beijos, beijos, espero rever você pessoalmente, que seja breve isso. Fique com a paz e o amor do nosso Senhor. ( Escrevi em português, para lembrar-se da palavra saudades).

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