It's always hard to understand, what people from another culture are really thinking. The Americans, mostly, say what's on their mind. The Japanese don't. The time we spent with Taka's family turned to resemble the United Nations' assemblies: Taka's parents would say something in Japanese, he'd translate it into English, I - into Russian. Then the order would be reversed, with my parents speaking in Russian, I translating it into English and Taka - into Japanese.
It seemed like we got along fine together. His family took us on a trip to a spa in the snowy mountains. The way there, on the roads covered with snow and ice, was an adventure in itself!
The spa was, actually, a rustic retreat, with thick, wooden walls, baths and lovely softly glowing wooden furniture everywhere. We again had a Japanese style room with futons, which we put away in the morning. The spa was built on the natural hot springs, and we went to the baths with children. I don't think I've ever felt so taken care of!
At night, we all went to Taka's parents' room for dinner. His brother's and sister's families also came to the spa with us. When we arrived, we found a bunch of kids wrestling in the area, where the futons were folded and put away. Sonny's cousin, whole two months older than him, took him by the hand and brought him into the melee, where she proceeded to soundly defeat him! It was such a cute picture: a laughing little girl sitting on Sonny's chest and proudly waiving at us!
My mother made a grand entrance. Earlier in the evening she worried, what to wear. Fortunately, the spa provided simple kimonos for all. They were too small for us, but she put one of them backwards and one - on top - the right way, so that she was all covered. She looked gracious and felt it too, because her smile on a picture from that gathering is sure and relaxed. It was the best photo that we could find for her grave when she passed away.
After the spa we all (except Taka's brother's family) went to Tokyo. My in-laws did everything to show their hospitality. They bought us presents after presents, took us to restaurants and spoiled their grandchildren. We were overwhelmed by their generosity.
That's why it's so hard to write the rest of the story. In a few years after we came back to the U.S., little by little, it became apparent that they wanted nothing to do with us! At first I thought that it was me, that I, somehow, offended their sensibilities with my behavior. Then I thought that a reason for Taka's parents not communicating or responding to us anymore was that his sister, whom he brought to the Unification Church, had a baby with Down Syndrome, and the grandparents blamed Taka for going against their religion and invoking the wrath of the ancestors. I still don'r know, what's true. For many, many years there were no phone calls or greeting cards or presents for children from Japan, although we always sent our own holiday greetings there.
A year ago we heard that Taka's father had cancer. We worried and prayed for him. Then, perhaps because he felt better or because he felt that it was time to make peace with his oldest son, my father-in-law told us, he wants to visit us in the summer. Amid my anxiety about welcoming him and my mother-in-law, I am tremendously relieved that they decided to become closer to us. Thank you, Heavenly Father!