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I am chugging along on my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy list train. This next stop brings me to the list of my oldest friend. Growing up, I didn’t have a large group of friends. I was an extremely shy child; so shy to the point where I spent a majority of my Kindergarten year of school cowering in the corner by the door of the classroom. I was so extremely shy & frightened to sit along with my classmates, that I spent the entire class period sitting in the corner between the front door & a table, doing & saying absolutely nothing the whole time. At the urging of my teacher (who was very gentle & kind), my parents tried to encourage me to engage with my fellow classmates, but like I always did when I was that scaredy-cat, little tyke, I bawled my eyes out. (I was an easy crier when I was a little kid.)

It wasn’t until I met a girl in my Kindergarten class who broke me out of my shell, & we became fast friends. Her family came all the way from Japan, & we were both two shy little girls with runny, sniffling noses who were both extremely into Hello Kitty & other cute Japanese things.

I don’t quite remember the details of how the two of us met or became such close friends in such a short amount of time, but we built a close friendship rather quickly. Since this girl came from one of the rare Japanese families to move into our neighborhood, both of our families bonded fast. I don’t know how, but my dad knew all of the Japanese speaking neighbors in our immediate neighborhood, & all of the moms got to know each other very well.

When we first met this family, my dad was thrilled to interact with a fellow neighbor who was also born & raised in Japan, someone he could freely speak Japanese to, who understood him. That’s how both of our dads became fast friends. Both of our moms also became good friends, with my mom teaching my friend’s mom how to speak English. My friend’s mom, in turn, taught my mom all about Japanese culture, & my mom was also able to pick up a few Japanese phrases here & there. I remember my friend had two older brothers who pretty much kept to themselves whenever I would hang out at their house, but like in true sibling nature, both brothers found us girls to be annoying (even though we never really bothered them).

I was super sad when my friend had announced after three years of living close by that her family was moving back to Japan. At that time, I had no idea what was going on or why my friend was all of a sudden moving back to Japan. Back in those days, especially when you’re a little kid, you never heard of the work-abroad program that was so popular in Japan. Big-time companies would send selected employees to work overseas for a maximum of three years, to build work experience & learn more about foreign business. My friend’s dad had come to the United States for his company’s work-abroad program, & the whole family moved to my neighborhood. I got to know this girl through school, & my parents got to know their family through all of the times we would spend at each other’s houses on play dates.

Ever since my friend had moved back to Japan, we have kept in touch over the years. We send each other greeting cards with letters written inside. I’ve traveled to Japan to visit her multiple times, & once stayed overnight at her parents’ (gorgeous & substantial) house in Tokyo. She has come back to visit the Bay Area a few times & take a walk down memory lane, checking out our old school grounds & passing by the house she once lived in.

A lot of time has passed between us, but we still keep in touch. My fondest memory was when my parents had planned a huge family reunion in Japan, & they had extended the invitation to my friend & her parents (her brothers were both studying & working abroad at the time). All of my extended family members came out, & we packed an entire Italian restaurant with our reunion group. My oldest brother (who is my dad’s first biological child) with his wife & two daughters were part of our travel group, along with my brother’s best friend (with wife & two daughters). My dad was extremely generous to invite my brother’s friend with his family to join us on our family reunion trip. It was so much fun interacting with my extended family & all of our friends.

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Here is a photo of my friend & I with our moms during my family’s huge reunion party circa 2006.

All in all, I am very thankful to call this girl my friend. We have both grown up so much from our days of sniffling noses & playing with Hello Kitty toys, but we’ve definitely stayed good friends throughout our time apart. There was another girl that I met in primary school after this friend had moved away, & we also became fast friends. We went through a shit ton of ups & downs (mostly downs), but I will leave that whole can of worms for a different blog post. I want this post to be happy & upbeat. So until the next time, cheers & T.G.I.F.!! (I really need a break this weekend.)

Today’s song of the day:

 

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