Sunday, March 20, 2011

Randoseru Magic

While the mule was in yochien, the assistant principal, Keiko sensei, was absent due to an injury. Word was sent out for everyone to make a few paper cranes and a get well page. Later the pages were put together to make a get well book. I really liked the impact of all the individual cranes, drawings, and words coming together. A friend explained that in Japan when someone is sick, it is said that one thousand paper cranes will help them get better.


Last month a mama meeting was scheduled at yochien. Upon arriving for it, I was surprised to see a small group of ten mothers- usually meetings consist of all of the mamas and are held in the Hall. We went into the classroom and sat down in kid sized chairs at kid sized tables gathered into a circle. We were instructed by the Moose's sensei to fold origami medals with silver and gold paper, putting stickers of frogs and monkeys in the center and then taping on safety pins. I immediately commented that, "In America there are no mama meetings to fold origami!"

As we each folded our three origami pieces, the sensei asked the mothers to share something about their child preparing for the upcoming transition to shogakko elementary school. We folded and listened; it felt therapuetic. Each mother shared something- from their concern that their child just didn't seem ready to how much their child had grown during the past year. I was about half way in the circle so I had a few moments to both listen and formulate a thought to share. Sometimes I get so verklempt that I cannot think, but on this day I was inspired by my prior year's experience with the Mule. I told the mamas about "Randoseru Magic!" They thought this was a funny yet helpful take on a traditional rite of passage in Japanese life.

A randoseru is a durable leather backpack that elementary school children get in first grade and use through the sixth grade. The traditional colors were red for girls and black for boys, but in more recent years a great variety of colors are available. On the Mule's first day of school she made a new friend who had chosen the exact same shade of rose pink. The Moose chose Navy blue.

To get to yochien, we walk from our house to the bus stop which takes an adult about ten minutes, but with munsters, twenty. On school days, the munsters and I walk to the bus stop with me most often carrying their school bags. In three years of walking to the bus stop with the Mule, I don't remember her once carrying her bag- she was always running off and squirreling about. I wondered if she would be capable of carrying the randoseru backpack to shogakko which is a farther walk than to the bus stop. I had even tried to get her to practice walking to school with it- a no go.

On that first day of school, she put on the randoseru backpack and without a word, off she went. She did not complain. Later she told me to stop worrying, she was a big kid now so she could do it. She was magically transformed- I did nothing; it just happened. That is what I told the mamas that whatever your fears, the kids know that this is their rite of passage. They will do it. The new found independence of walking to school with your mates helps. The new experiences of their days where suddenly mom knows less about the day than the kid reinforces the child's maturation. Now they ogle you with tales of their day- friends, teachers, games, events, etc. Now you are learning from them. The shift from coddled childhood to elementary school kid was "randoseru magic" for me- it happens when it needs to, no rush.

I don't always manage to reassure my Japanese friends, but due to simple birth order- my kids are a year apart and my recent experience- I had a fresh perspective. My good friend Aya was there that day to translate the nuances to the other mamas. They all laughed at my story.

The randoseru magic story happened because I used my left brain to follow the origami folding steps, freeing my right brain to listen to those mamas' concerns. A simple art task opened my mind in a new way. I was glad there was a mama meeting to make origami in Japan by the meeting's end.

This morning I awoke from a dream, and I knew that I must ask everyone I can to make a few origami cranes for Japan. If we all make a few, we can make a thousand together. I want to string them up and tell my friends in Japan, these are from my friends in America for you.

Japan is trying to recover from a 9.0 earthquake, an unimaginable tsunami that traveled ten kilometers inland at record speed, and an unstable nuclear plant shutdown . The root of Japan's character is in these kinds of rituals and traditions. As I heard in my inflight movie, "The International," "character is easier kept than recovered" plus it is always nice to have a few friends cheering you along. Please help me make one thousand cranes for my Japanese friends.