This used to be a van. Not a large van and even when it I first saw it, it was broken down and sitting on blocks. It was rusted and lopsided and inside there were ropes and pipes and shrubs trying to make it into a trash terrarium. It sat (sits) on the edge of a field off behind the highway and if I passed it at all it was after pushing aside weeds and watching my step for snakes. It was a forgotten piece of junk.
Or so I thought. Or so Takumi thought.
One evening I was making croquettes for dinner. (I distinctly remember this since it is a big job that can't really be interrupted.) My hands were covered in flour and bread crumbs and I was standing over a pot of oil deep frying my croquettes when Takumi came home from school and came straight to the kitchen.
"Um... I need to tell you something... Um... I got in trouble at school today. Well, not really, but sort of. Well, I had to go talk to the teacher because of something I did, but I didn't do it by myself. But I didn't know it was wrong. The teacher might call you."
I think the conversation went something like that. It's been a long time. Anyway, Takumi wasn't being very clear. It seems that he and some other boys had found the old van by the side of the fields and thinking it was abandoned had thrown rocks through the windows and smashed them all. And that had been weeks ago. BUT the farmer who owned the van discovered it vandalized and realizing that the deed had probably been done by school children had contacted the school. The school had promised to look into it and had talked to the upper grade classes and STRONGLY SUGGESTED that the culprits come forward and confess.
With a bit of soul searching I guess Takumi did. But either he didn't want to tell on his friends or the teacher wanted to let them confess themselves, the other boys hadn't come forward yet. The matter was still being pursued, and after being mildly scolded Takumi was told that his parents might be contacted later.
My son was on the verge of becoming a vandal! I put my croquettes on hold and marched Takumi back to the elementary school. The teacher was surprised to see us and surprised to hear that Takumi had told me right away since she hadn't really decided what to do about the situation yet.
Takumi repeated his excuse that he didn't know he'd done anything wrong and that he didn't think the van belonged to anyone.
"But you knew it didn't belong to YOU!" was my retort and I started crying.
The teacher had to switch from scolding Takumi to reassuring me that I had a good son who had made a mistake but mom, there was no reason to get so upset. I asked for the name and address of the farmer and we would go and apologize.
"Oh, no. We don't know who the other boys are yet. When we know who all was involved then the boys can go and apologize together."
Japanese like to do things together. I don't. There is safety in numbers. I think if we wait until we find out WHO is guilty, and then decide HOW to apologize, and then WHAT to take as an apology offering and then WHEN it is convenient for everyone involved including parents and teachers, then the apology is watered down and the child doesn't learn the lesson.
Tetsu happened to be at a seminar for a month in another prefecture but he got called that night and he came home that weekend and together he and Takumi went to apologize to the farmer. I heard that the other boys went later together.
I still don't know if this was the right way to handle the situation. It was not the Japanese way and Takumi may have felt we were making a much bigger deal over some misdemeanor than necessary. He has always said that I was much too strict a parent and as a child he was constantly being reminded that his foreign mother had different ideas about child raising, about solving problems.
The van never moved off its blocks and continued to serve as the farmer's storage container. It has rusted to the ground and I wouldn't be surprised if it has been assaulted by other grade school children after Takumi's years. It really was an tempting piece of junk. And this is how it sleeps these days.
Hey Takumi! Does this bring back memories? Good ones? Bad ones? I'd love to hear your thoughts.