I arrive at LAX with one bag. One large suitcase that without fail causes my mother-in-law to exclaim at its enourmous
girth upon our departure from Japan and my dad to ask upon our touch down in Southern California, "that's it?" The amount of baggage when I leave the good ol
' US of A? Well, now, that is something to talk about. You see, in that one suitcase are four rolled up duffle
bags waiting to be filled with my treasures, waiting to bulge with excess, tip scales into the red zone, test the limits of the generous trunk space of my mother's boat and cause the first tiff between Toshi
and I of the new year. So yes, people wonder, what has she got in there? Besides the Christmas presents we received, which this year included a full size umbrella (okay, I asked for it) and hobby horses (didn't ask for them, but adore them), new clothes for the four of us, English workbooks for the kids, 42 Children's story books and 24 novels for mom, here is a list of the random things I unpacked from the first suitcase: two Thomas wooden wacky tracks (they were 50 percent off!), Planet Earth DVD set, three magazines, biscotti
, doll clothes, children's vitamins, omiyage
chocolate, two bags of cookie mix, a framed picture of Tinkerbell in the palm of Mina's hand in from of the castle at Disneyland, Neutrogena
make-up removal sheets (the Japanese ones make my skin sting!), two boxes of hot chocolate (hey, if my mom buys it for me, I am not going to turn it away!), a bag of pink and purple hair accessories for Princess Mina, hot fudge (you just can't get it in Japan), two Mickey mouse sweatshirts, a Monorail (of course it's a toy!), a new raincoat for Toshi
, three shoe boxes of miscellaneous crap (spices, confetti, printer refills, medicine, Sharpies, knitting needles, taco seasoning, scented candles). Things that are cheaper in the US, things that are better in the US, things I can only get in the US and things that give me little spots of sunshine on dark days. Now you know.
Home for the holidays, there is nothing better. Everyone in Japan keeps asking what I did while I was in California, but do they really want to hear about taking a walk with my sister and smiling as her husband lifted Sam up onto his shoulders, playing cards with my mom, checking out the new artwork in my aunt's home, having a slumber party with my sisters, meeting my brother for Super Mex, stocking up on bear hugs from my dad? This trip was all about family. It had been a year since I had been back and I only had two weeks to soak up the love. I was busy! Still, it was so great to browse in a bookstore where I could actually read the books, to try on clothes in shops where things actually fit, to place an order for coffee without confusion because the person behind the counter was not stunned by the Japanese words coming out of the American mouth. We went to Disneyland. I went to a King's game. Walked around Target for hours. I played Wii for the first time ever. I laughed. A lot. I ate. A lot. Enchiladas, nachos, burritos, tamales and best of all, my mom's chorizo breakfast. I drove. Pig man and his daughter descended upon the movie theatre. We celebrated Mina's 6th birthday at American Girl Place. I ate lunch with my father on California Pizza Kitchen's patio. Made egg rolls. Drank Cherry Coke. Had the best Sunday brunch of my life - yes, the food was good, but mostly I think it was the company.