Sunday, October 28, 2007


THE FOREIGN SPOUSE


Yesterday evening as I was waiting for my train on the platform in Kyoto station I saw a pale foreign fellow in his early twenties sticking way out from the rush-hour crowd. Well over six feet tall, wearing shades and with a backpack on, he stood there dazed amidst a smaller crowd over which he towered, holding a newborn baby. With him stood his petite Japanese wife. The smaller crowd around them comprised her parents and siblings and some luggage. The wife's relatives had come to meet the couple at the station and take the train back to their home together.

From what I could overhear, the couple had just come from the States and were visiting the wife's home in Shiga for the first time together, likely having met at college or a homestay. Her parents, simple country folk, were in a culture-daze themselves, at having thus to suddenly deal with a giant foreign husband who spoke no Japanese, had never been here before and stuck out like a tall gaikokujin, the parents looking numb at the new world their daughter had brought home from America to their country village.

In the shock of the new that they couldn't even talk to, the parents were focusing on everything but what they should have been focusing on, i. e., their daughter, their grandchild, their son-in-law; there amidst all the tangle of emotions and changed reality that was happening on the train platform they didn't know how to engage this new future that was redirecting their lives...

As a parent myself of international children (now adults), I saw for the first time in full clarity what a life-sized shock it is when a child goes to a foreign land and comes back with a spouse and de facto family. My heart went out to them all: the young mother and father, their child, her parents... I knew what they were going to go through; it wouldn't all be easy, for any of them; they were only now beginning.

It gave me new insights and a great measure of sympathy for all that Echo's parents went through, back in Japan's even less worldly days, when she and I returned to Japan with Kasumi in our arms, wanderers with no firm future, and time our only equity.

I could see that the shock for these people was greater than they could handle at the moment; yet, having no choice but to confront it, they will change and adapt in the way things must go, get through it all in time. May the new couple, their child and their in-laws have all the best of both their worlds, that can be gained through years of understanding.

The world itself will be all the better for their effort.




5 comments:

Joy Des Jardins said...

If your life with Echo is any indication....they certainly can have the best of both worlds.

Mary Lou said...

When I started reading this, I thought you were posting about yourself and Echo! then I realized that you were talking about someone else and would probably end this by telling how it was when you first came over. See how smart I am? ;)

Pam said...

Funny how that contrasts with my first meeting with my (now ex) Japanese in-laws. I had already been living in Japan for several years and spoke the language fairly well. My fiance brought me to his parents home and the first thing that happened was his mom got down on her knees and bowed, thanking me for agreeing to marry her first-born son.

I should have known right then something wasn't quite right. ;)

I'm no longer married to him, but I am still on good terms with his parents. They have told me they still consider me their daughter. My ex mother-in-law, in particular, is a delight.

Bob Brady said...

My father-in-law bowed to me too, (the first time I ever saw him) but not until our Shinto wedding, 3 years after we came back to Japan.

Martin J Frid said...

Nice post... I showed up with my then-gf at a party for Nakasone, the ex-Prime Minister, wearing a WHITE SUIT. I still can't remember why I thought that was the right outfit for the event (it was not). The father-in-law-to-be promptly offered me a glass of beer. That's 18 or 19 years ago now. Ah.. memories... (wipes tear).... LOL