New Year, Old Home

As per tradition, Reiko and I are spending New Year's Day -- and a couple of days after -- with her parents at the family home in Gifu. This was the house where Reiko and her sisters were raised. This is the house where I lived for a year after moving to Japan, then again after Reiko's mother fell in the middle of the night. This is the house where Reiko and I stayed in the final month of her pregnancy with the boy. If walls could speak, they'd have stories to tell.

The boy has been here a number of times over the last three years, but rarely has he spent more than a few hours here before we piled in the car for the return trip home. Tonight he gets to sleep downstairs with his mum while Nozomi and I are upstairs in Reiko's childhood room1. There will be different smells, different sounds, a different bed, and somewhat different pre-sleep habits. He's adapting to the environment, but it's clear that he's not completely comfortable in this unfamiliar home where none of his stuffed animals can keep him company at night.

This situation is one that I used to think of as a "Different Ceiling", as that's what I would generally observe while trying to fall asleep or shortly after waking up. My parents liked to socialise and, when parents have 5+ kids to bring places, there's almost always a requirement to adapt to new sofas, new beds, and new cots on a regular basis. I was quite the quiet person when growing up, preferring to buy my head in a book or two rather than goof around with cousins or other bored kids. This started to change in my mid-teens thanks to being old enough to play board games with "the adults" but, until then, I would generally be found sitting in the living room with a Star Trek novel in my hands and2 a glass of soda nearby. People would occasionally try to interact and I would quickly shut them down. At the end of the day, generally around 11:00pm, if the parents were still loud and playing their Trivial Pursuit game, then I would curl up on the sofa and get some sleep. I was not exactly a fun kid.

My son, while similar in many ways, is much more like his mother in temperament. This means that when we're at places, he's much more willing to interact with people -- including strangers. Will he develop the same disinterest in going places as a family and perhaps crashing on a sofa or in someone else's bed3? Will he stay awake and notice all the differences between where he's sleeping that moment and his bed back home? Will none of this ever cross his mind?

The older the boy gets, the more I'm reminded of my own youth and the peculiarities that I exhibited … and still possess to varying degrees. Hopefully my life-long neurosis does not rub off on him.

  1. The room has long-since been changed into a guest room, so it's not like we're stepping back in time a quarter century or more to her room as it was in her teens.

  2. There would also be a second book next to me in the event I finished the first.

  3. I have a really hard time doing this for some reason. I can sleep in a hotel bed just fine but, if the bed is assigned to a single person (who is not me), then I am not comfortable sleeping there.