January 2, 2008

A Savage Family Tradition

When it comes to the blogging community, I have come across some great people who I know would be equally great friends were we to have a three-dimensional relationship. Amy from Savage Stories is one of those people. I have been following her beautiful twins Baylee and Brayden forever and I am convinced that we can make life a lot easier for our kids by arranging the marriages of Baylee and TheMonk and Brayden and Swee’Pea.

So, as future family, I was thrilled when Amy sent this post over this week. Please welcome Amy and her family traditions…


Over a year ago (11/7/06 to be exact–I kept the email knowing I would one day get around to it), Matthew asked several bloggers to write about their family traditions. I’ve wanted to do it ever since he asked, but two things kept me from doing it: 1) I wasn’t sure yet what my own family’s traditions would turn out to be, and 2) I was desperately trying to avoid coming to terms with the fact that my childhood traditions would be forever altered as I knew them due to a fall my grandmother took last Thanksgiving.

I was born in a town called Ruston, Louisiana. I lived there until I was in 4th grade, when we moved about 4.5 hours south. Until I was out of my parents’ house, I returned there for every Easter, summer break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Even up until the point that I had my kids, I returned every Christmas. Santa always brought our presents to Grandma’s, and my cousins, sisters, and I would swear every Christmas morning that we had heard Santa’s sleigh bells come during the night. Every trip up to Ruston would have us eagerly anticipating the turn onto Grandma’s road, where my sisters and I would race to shout, “We’re on Grandma’s road!” All the crappy music that my dad forced us to listen to for the whole ride up suddenly faded into the background as we raced to the door and into my grandmother’s waiting arms.

I brought my kids up there for their first Christmas, which turned out to be the last one Grandma was in her own house. The following Thanksgiving, she slipped, broke her hip, and went to rehab, then, eventually, into a nursing home. My kids and I have been up to visit her several times, and each time, she was slowly slipping away. It was a coin toss whether she’d recognize me or not, and she certainly didn’t know my kids. I got home from my latest visit yesterday. She passed away tonight.

When I think of my childhood family traditions, they always revolved around great, big meals with lots and lots of family members. My grandmother always made her cornbread dressing and pecan pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cousins always delighted in each other’s company.

As my sisters and I have forged our own families and traditions, I see where the basic elements of our childhood come into play: food and large gatherings. I’ve taken over Easter, my mom does patriotic holidays, and one of my two sisters does Christmas Eve at her house. Christmas morning (for the three we’ve had so far with kids) is just the small families, each at their own house. Thanksgiving is the only time of year that my husband’s family gets together each year, so we do that day with his family. But when I get home, my mother has always left me some cornbread dressing and pecan pie in my fridge.

As my children grow, I want them to know the love for their grandparents that I had for mine. And I want them to have memories of loud, loving get-togethers centered around the wonderful meals of my childhood. So far, I think we’re doing pretty well.

You can find more of Amy by visiting her here

December 31, 2007

A Homesick Home Family Tradition

L. from The Homesick Home is one of my favorite bloggers. She is often so refreshingly honest in her writing that you really feel for her when she’s going through a rough stretch or want to celebrate with her when things are going well. In addition, before I did this introduction I checked out all the comments she’s ever left on this blog and you gotta love a person who is willing to share with the world that she left her kid sitting in a grocery cart once. (See! There’s that honesty thing! And to be fair, I was in such a sleep-deprived coma my first year of parenthood that it is an absolute miracle that I didn’t do the exact thing same thing.)

Anyway, another reason I love reading Homesick Home is that she is raising bi-racial, bi-lingual and bi-cultural children. I love reading about how language and culture collide and I was eager for L. to share a Family Tradition that revolved around her family’s Japanese culture. She didn’t disappoint. So, without further ado, please welcome L.


In our house, no matter where we’re living, Christmas is just the runner-up to the Japanese New Year celebration.

When we were in Tokyo, the kids had to go to school on Christmas Day, and my husband and I had to go to work. We put up a tree and decorations, but otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary day. I took the kids to mass on Christmas Eve, and we usually had a nice dinner, which included a Japanese Christmas cake. But sometimes my workaholic husband couldn’t even get home in time to eat it with us. Hey, it just wasn’t his holiday.

Now, New Year’s, or “Oshogatsu,” on the other hand, is a very big deal. Most Japanese are off for a whole week from late December until Jan. 4. Every year, we would go to his parents’ house in Kyoto, where his mother would cook all the traditional foods. And then one day we would all walk to Kitano Tenman-gu , a Shinto shrine near their house, to do our “hatsumode“.

Although Oshogatsu is considered a serious holiday, more for reflection and atonement and quiet time with loved ones than revelry, kids still have their fun. They receive “otoshidama” — envelopes of cash — from all their relatives. The entire country shuts down for a few days, but most toy stores, from big chains to mom-and-pop shops, are open for business, so that kids can spend their holiday loot.

Now that we’re in America, of course, Christmas is a very big deal, but I’ve managed to keep it low-key in our house. My kids are conditioned to not expect very much, which I’ve recognized is a very good thing. They get one big present (this year they got a Wii) and a few stocking stuffers, and that’s it.

There are a couple of Christmas traditions that we brought over from Tokyo:

We still make a Christmas cake (from a mix in a box, of course) and I let the kids decorate it themselves with lots of gooey white icing and candy.

We decorate a live, potted pine tree. Cut trees are hideously expensive over there — a friend of mine once paid the equivalent of $200 for one. I didn’t want to go the artificial tree route because we always lived in tiny apartments in Tokyo, and I just didn’t want another damn box to store. So I bought a small tree growing in a pot. It lived on our balcony 11 months of the year, and every year I put it into a larger pot, so it got a little bigger. We used the same tree for our seven Christmases in Tokyo. In San Francisco, an Afghan pine I bought in 2005 for about 50 bucks at Home Depot has just been decorated for its third year, so I think I really got my money’s worth.

However, there are a few problems: I have to clean the dead leaves and spider webs off the tree before I bring it in, and I’m always afraid some creepy crawlies are going to hatch out of it and infest the house. This year, I sprayed it with Raid, but then after that I worried about exposing us to pesticide.

Also, as the tree grows, it looks less and less like a Christmas tree, and more like a potted shrub. I try to prune it into a classic shape as best I can, but I am no bonsai artist, and every year, it looks a little more scraggly, and worse for the wear. Of course, when the decorations are on it, it still transforms into something really lovely.

Moving on to Oshogatsu, every year when we’re not in Japan my husband makes a few traditional dishes, which never fails to astound me. To say that he is not a cook is a bit of an understatement — to say that he has a serious case of “kitchen aversion” comes closer to the truth. Therefore, I am always amazed to see him standing over pots on the stove. Fortunately, the only two dishes he makes are “soba” “ozoni” soup with “mochi” , all of which only involves boiling. And even someone with serious “kitchen aversion” can boil stuff.

There’s a saying in Japan that was popular when I first arrived there in the mid-1980′s, that “Unmarried women are like Christmas cakes –no one wants them after the 25th.” So if you were 26 and unmarried, you were compared to a stale cake that had missed its moment. (Note: Imarried my husband when I was 25, but I want to assure everyone that had nothing to do with any fear of being compared to stale baked goods.)

I’m happy to report that I have lived long enough that this is now referred to as an “old” saying, and no longer seems to apply. I think the average age for women to get married is now around 27 or 28.

Plus, as I watch my kids eagerly devour the leftover gooey cake we made last week, I can assure you, Christmas cake is still VERY much in demand after the 25th.

Happy new year, everyone, from all of us at the Homesick Home.

To read more from L., please visit The Homesick Home.

December 21, 2007

A Cynical look at Family Traditions

In this ever-growing Daddy Blogging community, there are those who were part of my original group of dads that I consider to be “old school” friends from “back in the day.” Chag, aka Cynical Dad, is one such daddy blogger. I was thrilled when he agreed to share his Family Holiday Tradition. In fact, I like it so much, we just might adopt the first part. Without further ado, I give you Cynical Dad.


Our Christmas tradition revolves heavily around our car. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve toyed with the idea of putting the Christmas tree in the backseat or telling the kids that Santa shimmies through the exhaust pipe instead of down the chimney.

On Christmas Eve, we drive around and look at people’s Christmas decorations while listening to Christmas songs. Then we come home, put out milk and cookies for Santa, and put the kids to bed. My wife and I spend the rest of the evening watching Christmas movies while eating Santa’s cookies, wrapping a few gifts, and assembling the kids’ toys (because it is so much easier doing this the night before; assembling a toy in front of your kid doubles the time and the frustration).

On Christmas morning, the kids wake up early, open presents, and have breakfast. We then drive thirty miles to my mother’s house for lunch and more presents. We then drive back to our house, drop off the kids’ loot, and then drive two hours in the opposite direction to see my wife’s parents, eat another meal, and open more presents.

I think we need a AAA card for Christmas.

You can read more of Cynical Dad by clicking here.

December 5, 2007

Family Traditions: Honea Express Style

So for the past few years now, I’ve been trying to create Family Traditions here at the Childsplayx2 household. The problem is, we’re not very creative. And I KNOW just someone out there has some kick butt family tradition that they’re ready to share. So, every year – especially around the holidays – I contact a few of my fellow bloggers and ask them to share something that they do that will be with them for a long time. In essence, I hope to steal some good stuff here. Of course, many who I do contact scream, “What?! Family Traditions?! Me?!” But others jump in and share. And so it is with Whit from Honea Express. He has agreed to step away from his plethora of paying gigs to hand down a little wisdom here. Enjoy.


Tradition is a funny thing. In theory it has been set and is practiced as such, but the reality of the matter is that nothing is constant and even the way we do things on a regular basis is slowly evolving.

That’s my take anyway.

When I was a kid there was never any doubt as to how we would spend the holidays. We knew where we would be, when we’d be there and who would be joining us. It was Christmas by rote.

Yet, even then it was tweaked- babies were born, relationships ended, people moved, people died. Suddenly I’m an adult with children of my own and living in a different state than the traditions I left behind. And still they continue.

This year I’m taking my children back there. We will enter a machine that has been running for nearly 40 years and while the gears have kept turning our arrival will add much needed grease to the wheel.

Is this our tradition now, a moveable feast? Are we set to wander like so many Yuletide gypsies? Perhaps. It is too soon to tell. Ours is still forming and the only constant that we’ve carried thus far, besides brown paper packages tied up with string, is the happiness of two small boys and the love they spread wherever they go.

Tradition is a funny thing. We’re only making ours now.

So far, so good.

April 8, 2007

How was your Easter?


P.S. No matter the holiday, some things don’t change.

Twenty Easter photos have been uploaded on Flickr. Click on the photo for more.

December 11, 2006

Family Traditions: Issa’s World

There was a time when Melissa didn’t have a blog. She would leave comments on this blog at such regularity that she probably had a year’s worth of posts on my blog alone. Now, even though she has joined us in the blogging world I still look forward to her comments as she drops by to say hi. It is because of this long history with Melissa that I was thrilled that she agreed to participate in my annual Family Traditions guest blog series. Please welcome the lovely and talented, Melissa.


Last year, before I was even blogging (well I was lurking and sometimes commenting), I remember coming to Matthew’s place and seeing all the stories of miscellaneous people’s holiday traditions that he’d pried out of people. It was so cool to see it as a person who was so new to this. When he asked me to write up one of mine I was honored….and then three weeks went by and I hadn’t done a darn thing. I figured since Matthew is such nice guy and one of the reason’s I am a blogger, I’d do my best not to disappoint him. So let’s see…..a holiday tradition.

My parents have quite a few things that they each did when I was growing up. The problem was that I lived at both houses and their traditions were so different and holidays were spent going back and forth and generally filled with some form of drama, so my favorite holiday tradition may be a little different.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is when we’d get our tree with our mom and step-dad. She waited until that weekend, because she knew we’d have the time and she wouldn’t have to fight my dad for kid dibs. Every year we’d go Sunday, the weekend after the holiday weekend to pick out our tree. She’d tell us that was what we were doing, but you knew when you got up in the morning because she’d pulled out the boxes of holiday stuff. She’d also make breakfast, or brunch depending on our ages and willingness to wake up before 11am on a Sunday. Then we get ready and go get a tree. Not just any tree, the best tree. She liked the spruce ones or the fur ones, I forget which, but the most expensive ones. Not that she wouldn’t every year complain about the price and think it was less the previous year, but she still wanted the best one. So she’d show us the section and the kind she wanted and then let us pick the most perfect tree. One of us would inevitably choose the 9 foot one, which would get vetoed, but we’d eventually find the one we wanted. To this day it still amazes me that she’d let us decide. Have you ever tried to get three kids to agree on anything? Or a set of identical boy twins who are polar opposites? Yeah…not so easy.

We’d find our tree and take it home and wait impatiently while my step-dad Jack would put the lights on. He’s a little anal about the lights, but it always looked great when he was done. While he did the lights, we’d open the boxes and start unwrapping the ornaments and scattering other decorations around the house. Candy bowls, angel figurines and singing snowmen all found a place some where in the house. Then we’d decorate the tree. It may not seem that exciting to any of you but it was, still is in fact, for us. See my mom started collecting ornaments the year she found out she was pregnant with me. She gave each of us an ornament every single year. And each one has a story which she’d remind us of as we hung the ornaments. The stories were generally something that she thought was funny throughout the year, so she found an ornament to always remember it. Like the pistachio ornament for Alex the year he was ten and had eaten jalapeno pistachios and then thought he’d rub his eye. I swear his eyes watered for a week. Or the pair of lady bugs she gave to Justin the year he was eight and had learned about the birds and the bees by finding a pair of lady bugs going at it on his coke can. My favorite ornament is the peppermint baby she bought for me my first year of life, with it’s vivid blue eyes and wild red curls, she bought it because it reminded her of me. When my brothers and I became teens, we started buying them for her and our step-dad Jack too. It’s our tradition and it’s the best childhood memories I’ve got.

We’re all adults now and she still buys us each an ornament every year, even though we’re not always able to be with her on Christmas. She also buys my kids each one too. Five years ago, when my daughter Maya was born, my mom tried to give me all the ornaments she’d bought for me. I wouldn’t let her, I just couldn’t imagine them being anywhere else but at her house on her tree. While my kids and I did help my mom decorate her tree this year, we also did our own tree too. There are stories to go with each ornament I’ve bought for them too. My greatest hope is this continues for generations.

I hope you all have a great holiday, which ever ones you celebrate.

June 5, 2006

Family Traditons: Two Pink Lines

I started reading Corinne at Two Pink Lines early in her pregnancy and immediately got caught up in her total enthusiasm as it related to her pregnancy and the impending birth of little Shepherd (whose name she withheld forever). While I wouldn’t let any of my stuffed animals over to play at her house (that Fleming is sure to be a bad influence), I sure wouldn’t mind hanging out with Corinne. She seems fun and has just the right attitude when dealing with all the little things that pregnancy and parenting infants has to offer – like going to your doctor’s appointment on the wrong day. So, let’s sit around the dinner table while Corrine tells us about her family tradition.


I was honored when Matthew asked me to write about my family’s traditions. I thought, awesome! I know there’s bound to be something I can write about! But here I am, weeks later, racking my brain trying to think of one of our “good ol’ family traditions”. It’s hard, because my family is anything, if inconsistent. When I was little, we moved every 4 years or so, and never close to family. We even lived in Costa Rica and Chile for a few years. So having moved around all my life, there was little time to cultivate traditions.

Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve looked back into my own childhood, remembering what it was like growing up. And the one thing that I found that we consistantly did as a family was to eat dinner together. Even when I was in high school, dinner was always served at the table, and everyone ate together. We never ate in front of the TV, never ate in shifts, and never did anything other than eat at the table. It was a time for us to come together, to talk, and to deal with issues we struggled with. I remember many a debate that took place over dinner with all four of us offering our own opinions. This was the great thing about dinner… we could own our own opinions, we could disagree, and we could still love each other. We did this from the time I was an infant to when I was in high school… I never thought to ask if I could eat somewhere else, because dinner was fun. Yes, I even thought that as a teenager. It was fun to talk with mom and dad, it was fun to listen to what was going on at mom’s work, to hear about dad’s day, and to joke around with my little brother. We enjoyed visiting, and we enjoyed being together.

Years later, I still find myself lingering at the dinner table long after the meal has been consumed, talking with my parents. And even today, in my own home, we strap our little 4 month old son in his high chair, sit down together at the table, and talk. Mostly, we make faces at Shepherd trying to get him to smile, but occasionally, some adult conversation takes place… and long after our plates are clean, we sit, talking and enjoying the time spent together. Traditions have a way of forming, even in the most chaotic situations, and I’m thankful for our dinners together… and look forward to many more years of shared dinners.

You can read more of Corrine at http://twopinklines.blogspot.com

May 16, 2006

Family Traditions: Sarah and the Goon Squad

I don’t remember what the blogosphere was like before Sarah and the Goon Squad arrived on the scene. I’m sure it was rather drab and a bit boring. Certainly it didn’t have enough twin mothers who love football and writing about the trials and tribulations of raising kids. Good thing Sarah came along! Anyway, she’s a girl after my own heart. She loves sports (the co-creator of Draft Day Suit, the sports blogs to end all sports blogs that I contribute to) and totally rocked the 80′s. She also has twins that are older than mine so I depend on her to show me what I’m in store for down the road. I had to laugh when she came to the realization that she needs more family traditions. But you’ll just have to hear her say it for yourself. Please welcome the talented and lovely Sarah.


“Hey Mom, do we have any family traditions?”

“Why do people keep asking me that?”

“Other people have asked you if we have family traditions?”

“No. Just you. But you keep asking me that.”

“Did you ever answer me?”

Hmph. A while back, Matthew asked me to be a part of his series on family traditions. I’ve been thinking about it for about a month, and I’m really having trouble coming up with any. Is it possible we don’t have any family traditions? What kind of lame-o doesn’t have family traditions?

My Mom said (on my fourth try asking her) “Well, what about getting together on Thanksgiving? Or dyeing Easter Eggs? Or going to church on Christmas Eve?”

Doesn’t everybody do those things? Can I consider getting wasted with my cousins on Thanksgiving a family tradition? Who is my Mom trying to kid about the Christmas Eve thing? We go to churches for weddings, funerals and paying singing gigs. (Okay, the singing thing is just me, not the whole family – but that would be cool if we all did).

When we are with Gabe’s side of the family on Thanksgiving they have a traditional game of Pictionary that has ended with father/son wrestling on at least one occasion. The first time I participated in the game of “Extreme Pictionary” my partner (Gabe’s cousin’s husband) and I won an “all play” when I yelled “PARENTHESES!” Everything would have been totally cool, except Justin drew this ” “. Maybe some day the two of us will live that one down, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I guess on the Easter Egg front, my brother and I usually use the white crayon to write the names of characters or phrases from the movie “Deep Cover” on the eggs. For example, every year there will be a “Felix Barbosa” egg, or an egg that says “Jumbo BBQ Shrimp…”. I guess you would have to be really familiar with the movie to get that last one.

Do you ever type something and then think – I can’t believe I just told that to the whole interweb?

I guess now that Gabe and I have our own family it would be a good time to start up some family traditions of our own. If I come up with any good ones I will try to remember to let you guys know. We’re open to suggestions if anyone has any recommendations.

Sarah and the Goon Squad
To read more of Sarah and the Goon Squad, visit http://www.sarahandthegoonsquad.blogspot.com

April 25, 2006

Family Traditions: Friday Playdate

I can’t remember how I came across Susan and her Friday Playdate blog. She just seems like the kind of woman you’d like to have as a neighbor. Hang out. Drink coffee. Laugh about the kids. In fact, I liked her so much, I campaigned for her to win when she was honored as a BOB finalist this year (for future reference, never ask me to campaign for you if you get nominated for something – apparently it’s a death sentence). This week has been a big week for Susan. She turned XX* this week and now she gets to walk with the Rhinos here at Childsplayx2. So, welcome Susan as we get ready for a truly summer tradition.


Friday Playdate Family Traditions: The First Day of Summer

I live in Oklahoma, where summer starts not when the calendar says it will (Memorial Day is still a good month away) but whenever God the Republicans Mother Nature decides it will. Like now, for example: it’s the end of April, and it’s already 120 degrees out (no, not really, but it IS in the 90s, which does NOT bode well for the actual summer). Despite the fact that school is still in session and the swimming pool won’t open for another month, it’s summer at my house.

My sons are nearly-four and nearly-six; to say that they are energetic is to understate the dawn-to-dusk frenzy of running and jumping that makes up an average day here. My husband was telling some friends recently that our kids never get tired; the run and run and run and then fall asleep. But they are never tired; instead, they are on the go all day long. It’s exhausting. I have made a career of thinking of ways for us to be outside and not die of heat stroke, in Oklahoma, when it’s 90 degrees. Or more! And in the process, I have started a new family tradition, one that marks the beginning of summer: the inflatable plastic wading pool.

Like most traditions, this is one we just fell into. In fact, I am compelled to admit, it is one that I actively resisted in the beginning. Five years ago, when H was just a year old and barely walking and I was out of town for the weekend, my in-laws bought him a swimming pool, one of those hard plastic one-piece deals. We never used it; H was terrified of the water and I was terrified that he would drown. The unused pool sat on our porch all winter; in the spring, my husband hauled it to the curb for our neighborhood Big Junk Pickup. And that was it–no more swimming pool!

But I was pregnant that summer and it was hot (when ISN’T is hot in Oklahoma?) and one day at SuperTarget, I found myself staring longingly at a display of colorful inflatable wading pools. For $7.99! And I thought how nice it would be to fill it with ice-cold water from the garden hose and put my swollen feet in, without ever having to put a swimsuit on. And H was two now, and less afraid of the water; he was also not talking much (by which I mean AT ALL) and I was desperate for things to do with him. I held the wading pool box up in front of H, who was was sitting in the cart, ignoring everything around him. I said, “Buddy, do you want a pool?” And he looked at me and said, “Pool!” So we bought it. And I spent the whole summer with my feet in the four inches of water in the bottom of the wading pool, watching H splash and laugh. At the end of the summer, I told my husband that we were going to deflate the pool and store it, for next summer, because we believe in recycling and not wasting things, even if they only cost eight dollars. He agreed.

In February, he popped it with a pair of garden shears and dragged it to the trash.

Spring came, and H–who has an autistic spectrum disorder that makes it difficult for him to make emotional connections or try new things, and who was still a little afraid of water, even in the bathtub–H said, “Mommy, where’s our pool?” When we told him that a tornado had taken it, he said, “Let’s get a new one!” And then when we got it home, he said, “Let’s blow it up!”

And a tradition was born.

At my house, the beginning of summer is marked not by the last day of school or the first day of camp but by the ritual purchase of the inflatable plastic swimming pool. When I was growing up, summer was all about playing and lounging. My brother and I didn’t go to summer school or summer camp; we took tennis lessons (through the city parks and rec program) and rode our bikes around the neighborhood and hung out with my mom. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of running in the sprinklers with my mother, or playing on our swing set while my dad worked in the yard. My parents encouraged us to go outside! and run! and have fun! We would stay out until it was nearly dark, playing in the big tree in the front yard while my parents sat on the porch drinking Manhattans. My childhood was peaceful and safe and free of worries. I want my sons to have the same.

So today we’re off to SuperTarget to get this year’s inflatable plastic pool. We will fill it up and put on our sunscreen and swimsuits and get some plastic dinosaurs and spray bottles and go outside. Because it’s officially summer here now. It’s time to have fun and be outside and play.

You can read more of Susan at http://www.fridayplaydate.blogspot.com

*I’m not telling her age! You can read that for yourself on her blog.

April 19, 2006

Family Traditions: Deanna’s Corner

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.

You can read more of Deanna at http://www.deannascorner.com

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