Monday, July 22, 2019

How a Family Reunion is Like the Start of the New School Year

Setting up my classroom for a new school year was nothing compared to getting my house in order for the visitors I had over the 4th of July weekend!  Three months ago, I received an email from the Japanese exchange student, Naomi, that my family had hosted for a year back in the 1970s.  She wrote that she and her husband were planning a trip to the U.S. and would like to visit us in Arizona.

How a Family Reunion is Like the Start of the New School Year | The ESL Nexus
My family and Naomi when she graduated from her U.S. high school; source: The ESL Nexus
As a result, I spent the next three months preparing for their visit.  I had visited them in Japan in 2005 but my parents and sister hadn’t seen Naomi in over 40 years and had never met her husband.  As you can imagine, we all wanted everything to be perfect for the reunion.  (Like I always wanted my classroom to look the very best it possibly could for the beginning of the school year.)

The upcoming visit by Naomi and Toru, her husband, was the catalyst for finally remodeling my guest bathroom.  It took me a month to choose the vanity, floor tiles, mirror, towel bars, and sink and shower fixtures.  Multiple visits to Home Depot and Lowe’s, in person and online, occurred.  (Just like when I was trying to map out the content of my ESL Social Studies courses for the year by reading numerous textbooks and surfing various websites, searching for info that would enable me to design effective lessons.)

Discussions with my parents and aunt, who live in the same community as me and with my sister who along with her Japanese husband (!) live in Los Angeles and planned to fly over for the long weekend, ensued.  We debated sightseeing activities, restaurants to go to, and which meals we would cook at whose home.  Coordinating all this took time.  (So did consulting with mainstream teachers but that was similarly ultimately rewarding as it made for a better learning experience for my students.)

Finally the big day arrived and my father and I drove to the airport to pick up Naomi and Toru.  In the photo collage below, the top left photo shows the moment they saw us waiting for them in the airport.  The rest of my family was waiting at my house to greet them.  (While I always looked forward to meeting my students – many of whom I had for more than one year -- the anticipation of seeing them again after summer vacation was nothing like the excitement of seeing Naomi, and her husband, after so many years.)

How a Family Reunion is Like the Start of the New School Year | The ESL Nexus
Enjoying our reunion decades later; source: The ESL Nexus
The other photos in the collage show some of our activities: Dinner at a restaurant for their first-ever taste of Mexican food (top right) and cooking a Japanese meal for us the next morning (middle left).  That was fun because I had compiled a cookbook of family recipes for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and included recipes Naomi had cooked when she stayed with us years ago – what she prepared that Saturday morning was one of those recipes.  We went to a nearby state park so Naomi and Toru could enjoy the desert landscape up close (middle right).  Saturday evening, we ate dinner at my aunt’s house and made one of the recipes my mother frequently cooked when Naomi was in high school and lived with us (bottom left).  After dinner, we viewed family photos and reminisced.  Then, Sunday morning I and my mother drove them back to the airport and said farewell (bottom right).

The days went by in a blur and all too soon it was over.  Naomi and Toru were gone, on their way to the next destination of their 2-week trip.  It was hard to say good-bye after such a wonderful reunion.  But we’ll keep in touch and hopefully, one day, we will see each other in person again.  (Like it was hard to say good-bye to a favorite class at the end of a school year but knowing that I’d stay in touch with a few of those students as they made their way through high school, college, and out into the world beyond.)

How a Family Reunion is Like the Start of the New School Year | The ESL Nexus
Greeting my guests with a cake at my home; source: The ESL Nexus
So that is why I haven’t blogged in the past 2 months.  All my attention was focused on getting things ready for this visit by Naomi and Toru.  And even if I do say so myself, it was worth all the time spent because it was an amazing weekend and a wonderful experience hosting them.  Arigato, Naomi and Toru, for making this Fourth of July a truly special and unforgettable holiday!