Family Ritual Time Machine

August 20

The day started rather slow. My sister-in-law's family was driving in from Shizuoka, giving us time to catch up on some shopping and buy a tatami style rug for our living room back home.

No sooner did they arrive and we started to enjoy the initial excitement of reconnecting did I slip out to meet an old friend for coffee. Back in the day, he was my Aikido senpai and English student of a friend, so we enjoyed hanging out while he worked on his English skills. Over the years, the language of communication has switched, to the point where I only use English if I'm searching for vocabulary. This limits the range and depth of our conversation to an extent, but we were still able to catch up on the essential developments in each others' lives.

From there, it was off to the studio for the BIG FAMILY PHOTO. Of all our visits, this was only the second time we've done this—no doubt to commemorate my mom's visit. Our kids kept the mischief to a minimum so the session went fairly smoothly. When the photos arrived a few days later, that was all the evidence we needed that taking time out for the portrait was a good idea.

After a short break at home, we piled into two vehicles and made our way to the local kaitenzushi—the only restaurant that could reasonably accommodate the varied diets of every family member. It made for a relaxed dinner in an informal environment. Despite being split up in different booths, somehow it all worked.

We finished the day with hanabi in the backyard. Backyard fireworks are like nothing compared to the displays you see at parks in southern Ontario. In fact, they consist of little more than the lighting of sparklers and tiny flares. And yet this was the ultimate family moment of the day as three generations and four families shared flames with each other and tried to keep at least one going at all times. While I watched my mom participate for the first time, I also recalled my first experience when I watched my now high school-aged niece express her delight as a two year old. I saw the echoes of previous family celebrations where the past and present seemed to merge together, the younger and older versions of loved ones crouching side by side, their faces reflected in the light of controlled flames.

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