Thursday, April 22, 2010

Plans and Expectations

I don't know why I remember some of the things that I do. Domestic Partner and other people seem a little amazed that I can recall things that happened in my little life, even before the age of three.

Nothing too astounding though, such as repeating "Milk" over and over in the darkness of my bedroom until my mother brought me a small serving in a Tupperware cup. I can still picture our first family dog, Nagako, calmly watching me from the hallway before my mother heeded my late night plea (late to me, then), her friendly and reassuring canine presence visible in the light coming from the living room.

It was a very small house, that first home my parents lived in when I was born. I slept in the only bedroom and then shared it with my brother when he was born. My parents would unfold the futon mattresses every night and sleep in the living room. Their bedding had been a wedding gift from my Hii-obaachan, my great-grandmother in Japan.

After they had gotten married, and my father had first brought my mother from Japan, they lived in the Japanese-American community of Gardena, in the suburbs of Los Angeles. When I started kindergarten there were not only white children in my class, but also Japanese children, and Mexican kids and African American kids. I didn't realize until later how much I took this for granted, having friends and classmates of different races and cultures.

Our family attended a church in Gardena that was walking distance from our house. I wanted to invite Mark from school to go to Sunday School with me. Of course, I didn't plan it ahead of time. It probably occurred to my 5-year-old mind at the last minute, on a random Sunday morning.

Mark was also Japanese, like me, but full-blooded, with both a Japanese mother and a Japanese father. But I didn't think of that back then. He was just my friend, Mark, from kindergarten. He lived right by the school, too. I walked all the way to his house, on a day when there was no school, happy about bringing him to church and introducing him to my Sunday School teacher.

Mark's big brother answered the door. "Oh, Mark is still sleeping. He can't go to church with you. I'm sorry."

My eyes must have started welling up with tears right away.

"Don't cry, okay?"

I knew I couldn't help it. I was already crying, even before I turned right around and headed back home.

Like so many of my memories, I'm not sure why that has remained in my mind (and for almost forty years, now). But I have thought of that Sunday morning many times, probably because it's a natural part of growing up: making plans and the joyful anticipation of fulfilling youthful ideas, and then having to learn to get over disappointment when your plans fall through.

I know my parents had their own plans for me, expecting that I would finish college by the age of 22 and perhaps go to graduate school so that I could go into a professional career before the age of 30. Then I would be able to successfully and securely get married, buy a house, and raise children without any financial or emotional stress. I would be able to avoid the hardships that defined their marriage and their lives.

But I had to go and ruin their plans by wanting to dance and sing and perform. Thanks to me, they had much disappointment to get over when I dropped out of college at age 19 and started working at Disneyland.

I had many disappointments to get over, repeatedly. Audition after audition gave me plenty of practice to survive the heartache of unfulfilled plans.

It's funny how distant that all seems, now. I still make plans, but I'm not as easily disappointed anymore if things go wrong or fall through. I don't set myself up, I guess.

Maybe I'm not taking enough risk nowadays? Maybe reaching my forties is too old to take risks?

I make financial plans. Pay off the scooter, then tackle the car loan, then the student loans. After that, there's the mortgage to pay off.

And then retirement.

Domestic Partner and I are talking about retiring in Hawaii. That's about twenty years away for us, but I know that the next two decades will go by much more quickly than the last two.

And if it doesn't happen? If we don't ever move to Hawaii? I'll be okay. I won't cry - not too much.


Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Just don't lose sight of the present while you're planning for the future, that's my motto.

Michael DeAntonio said...

Crying makes everything ok.

thelastnoel said...

Don't be an old retiree thinking, gosh, I should have made use of my forties better. Live it up!