It’s rare when someone leaves enough info in the comment section that you actually feel like you get to know the person. However, with Deanna from Deanna’s Corner I have done just that. Just by reading her comments, I have learned that she is hails from the Great Northwest, that she is such a diligent baby food cooker that she shelled the peas before blending them, that she caught a baseball at a Seattle Mariners game in 1997, and even knows alternate lyrics to the tune “Copa Cabana” that parodies Star Wars. How could I not want to keep checking out her blog? I also learned that Deanna found my blog when Busy Mom was kind enough to write about her own Family Traditions back in December. So, Deanna has come full circle as she has been kind enough to contribute her own Family Tradition tale. Please welcome Deanna from Deanna’s Corner!
It’s April in Seattle, and that means several different things around here. One thing it means, as a local comedian once said, is that the rain gets warmer. The Mariners start the baseball season. The lawn gets mowed. For me, though, it also means the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Seattle Center.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is basically a large, weekend-long fair of everything Japanese and pseudo-Japanese (I am pretty sure that there is no tofu carving for kids at any cherry blossom viewing in Japan). There are ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) displays, the local language schools show off their projects, there’s the kimono dress-up, calligraphy, art displays, the origami table, taiko (drum) music, martial arts demonstrations and other fun things to look at. In more recent years, there’s been a table for the Orix Blue Wave, the Japanese baseball team that Ichiro Suzuki came from. The website for the Seattle Center says that the Cherry Blossom Festival is the oldest cultural festival that they host. I think the roots probably stretch back into Seattle’s pre-World War II Nihonmachi (Japantown, now the modern-day Chinatown/International District). In Japan, the first cherry blossoms of the spring are celebrated with people taking time off work and having picnics with family and friends, so I’m sure that’s where the beginnings of the local Festival came from.
My parents took my siblings and me to the Festival for many years. I’m not exactly sure if it was to expose us to Japanese culture, or because it was free and we also had a family pass to the Pacific Science Center for several years. Even though my father is Japanese, he’s a third-generation American. We were raised with some of the trappings of Japanese culture, but it was an unconscious part of our daily lives. We ate a lot of rice, had Pocky in the cupboard and used a handful of Japanese words (chopsticks are “hashi” and soy sauce is “shōyū” in our family), but we were just as likely to eat lasagna as sukiyaki. The Cherry Blossom Festival allowed us to get a closer peek at our Japanese heritage, and it was something that I always wanted to do every year. Family outings were always special to my brother and sisters and me, because our parents worked odd schedules (to this day, my Dad works a swingshift as a janitor for a local school district, which meant that he wasn’t home in the evenings during the school year), so we always loved the times when we were all together. Once my youngest sister was born and my brother started playing baseball regularly, with games on weekends, my parents stopped taking us. I missed it. When I started college, I took some friends with me and went again – and it was still fun, even though I was grown up.
Even though it holds some great childhood memories for me, the Festival has another even more significant meaning for me now. In April of 1999, it was the setting of my first date with my husband. I took him around to all of the booths and the ikebana show, and he was interested in the technology prototypes that were on display. It was there, after years of knowing each other and being friends, and a couple of months of beating around the bush, that we became a couple.
We have been back since that fateful day, but we haven’t yet taken our kids with us. That will change this year. Our daughter, the Munchkin, is now 2, and our son, Baby Boy, is 8 months old. She is now old enough to enjoy some of the kid activities, and if I’m lucky, she’ll hold still long enough to get dressed up in a kimono. Baby Boy will enjoy the people-watching, because he’s a social little guy. I want to share this part of my childhood and my heritage with my children for many years to come, and I hope that they will enjoy it as much as I did. And I hope that hearing the story of their parents’ first date every year doesn’t bore them too much.
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