Monday, 14 April 2008

Vying For Tadashi

One very hot summer day, our family took a trip down to Kyushu, Southern Japan, to visit a former professor of mine. Our children were nine and six at the time, and prone to quarrel about everything. We thought that once we were away from their toys, books, and friends, they might feel a little sisterly solidarity and bond a bit better, but this proved not to be the case.

They quarrelled about who sat on which side of the car we had borrowed. Over who sat next to their father or me, (preferences changing from day to day). Over where we would go or not go, what we would eat or not eat, who was given the larger ice cream or biggest piece of cake, and who got to stand closer to the octopus in the aquarium. Going on a vacation with kids is the biggest oxymoron I can imagine. Truly, once you've had kids, your days of carefree holidays are pretty much over.

The heat didn't help, but we finally got a brief respite in an airconditioned hotel room, when we managed to organize coloring books and crayons and get a delicious thirty minutes of uninterrupted, rivalry-free quiet.

Then my former professor showed up with Tadashi.

Tadashi was a perfectly nice young man, a graduate student who hoped to become an art teacher. He was delighted to meet us and charming with our kids, who took to him almost worryingly, bringing him drawing after drawing and generally bending his ear as they eagerly told him about their friends, their art classes, and their preferred media. (Crayons for the youngest, magic markers for the eldest.) Tadashi could hardly get a word in edgewise and frequently looked a little overwhelmed by our offspring and their rather suffocating attention, but he took it well.

The trouble started after he left.

"I'm going to marry him," our eldest proudly informed us.

"He's mine!" insisted her sister.

"I'm older than you!"

"Big deal! I was born in Japan!"

"So what? I've lived here longer!"

"That's just because you're older!"

"Who cares, you stupid kuso baba?" (Don't ask; they didn't learn it from us)


I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I've heard stories about sisters quarrelling over suitors, but not when they are nine and six respectively.

"He's too old for both of you," I told them.

"Uncle Paul's girlfriend is 20 years younger than him!"

I sighed. "That's different."

And for the next two days, we had to listen to their squabbling about Tadashi and who 'got him.'

Before we left the area, Tadashi paid us another visit and invited us to his house. His mother, he told us, enjoyed showing off her hand-painted doll collection. Our girls were ecstatic, but it wasn't the dolls they were looking forward to seeing.

Takahara-san, my former professor, met us before we left for Tadashi's, and I happened to mention that our girls were taken with Tadashi, though I refrained from telling him just how much so.

"Tadashi's a really nice kid," he informed us. "And I've taught him and his brother."

"He has a brother?" I asked, winking at my eldest.

"Not just a brother -- a twin brother. They look exactly alike."

As soon as he left the room, our eldest turned to her sister.

"You can have the brother. I get Tadashi."


Kanani said...

Excellent story, Mary.
You should send this in to a magazine as a short aside. Look into Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Redbook or even AARP Magazine which pays a good amount.

Carole said...

Exactly...what Kanani said.

This is a great story and so true to life. I assume the twin wasn't good enough for the youngest.

ChristineEldin said...

This is so real!!! I love how you weave these family stories.

I took Things 1 and 2 to the Grand Canyon two years ago. Long story, but DH wasn't able to make it.
I wanted photos of course. They kept fighting over who was going to sit on the biggest rock for the photo. And you cannont find a place where two rocks are the same height and width and within the photo frame.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I wonder what he would have said if one of them had proposed!

Mary Witzl said...

Kanani -- Thank you. I've tried a couple of those before, but they've never gotten back to me. Maybe I just need to be more persistent. At least people who read my blog seem to like my stories, though. That's a huge consolation.

Carole -- You've been through this, haven't you? Nope, the twin was NOT what my youngest wanted either. If he'd come along and been just as pleasing as Tadashi, who knows? I was just amazed that such a hotly disputed item had a perfect twin, but my kids STILL weren't satisfied.

Christine -- Hahaha! I can picture you trying to find two identical rocks in the Grand Canyon! I have been reduced to similar efforts, and halfway through trying to find the perfect rock or side or pillow or whatever, I have thrown up my hands and given up. Pandemonium always ensues, but it's almost worth it.

GB -- I was on tenterhooks that we'd find out, actually, and I'm just glad neither confessed her love. Tadashi would probably be a lot more interested now, but fortunately, he'll never know.

marshymallow said...


Yet another reason to be thankful for having brothers instead of sisters.

A Paperback Writer said...

Thanks for the laugh at the end of a long, hot day.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Great story, Mary. I agree with the others . Your stories deserve a far wider audience. This is quality writing.

I remember having a crush when I was 8 or 9 but at 6 I was still more interested in picking the scabs off my knees than in men. I guess that's what having an older sister will do.

Keep trying with the magazines to get your stuff published, Mary. You're a natural storyteller and your stories are thought-provoking, entertaining and authentic. Get thee to a publisher, Mary!

Kara said...

i've always thought it would be creepy to date a twin. there's always that slight chance you sidle up to the wrong one at a family function or something, you know? no one wants a "hand on the wrong ass" situation, you know?

Mary Witzl said...

Marshy -- Yes, but think of all of those nail polish bonding moments you've missed out on! (Just kidding. I'm so sick of nail polish and hairspray I could scream.)

APW -- (It's HOT there? It SNOWED here last night!) I loved your backstage at the theater post and laughed my way through that, so you are quite welcome.

Sam -- I'm a former scab-picker myself! My sisters and I were late to the whole boy craze, though. We fought over things like candy and who got to sit behind our mother in the car. When our hormones eventually kicked in, thank God we didn't have the same taste in men.

All of you people are sweet to praise my work. I usually feel very good about it, then I nip over to your blogs and wonder what in the world I was thinking of, imagining I could write. I think I'd stand a damn good chance of getting published if all of you good writers started churning out crap for a change.

Kara -- I know exactly what you mean. And some of the twins I've known over the years have been the playful sort. I wouldn't put it past them to pull an impersonation stunt or two, just for the heck of it.

debra said...

Another great story, Mary. Thank you.
My two used to fight much of the time, including the time spent in the car. I remember one time when #2 wailed,"She's looking out my window!"
Of course this all might be genetic. My sister and I once had a fight that went like this: She had an object that she didn't want and I did.
"Take it." "Give it to me." "Take it!!" "Give it to me!!" T-a-k-e i-t!!" "G-i-v-e- i-t t-o- m-e!"
"TAKE IT!!!!!" "GIVE IT TO ME!!!!!" I have absolutely no recollection how it ended.

Ello said...

Awesome story, Mary! Your kids are such a riot! They keep us young and make us old at the same time. It is an amazing feat!

Kim Ayres said...

Fancy them bringing Uncle Paul into this...


You truly are a superb writer, Mary.

Susan Sandmore said...

Great story! I wonder what Tadashi is doing now and who "got him"?

Mary Witzl said...

Debra -- Oh, we've had the 'my window' thing many times too! On one of our trips to the U.K. when we were living in Japan, we went to Wales and our youngest kept telling her sister not to look at 'her' sheep through the window. Later, the eldest started humming Pop Goes the Weasel, which the youngest had sung earlier, and we had a dispute about whose song it was. Anyone who wonders where greed and man's inhumanity to man begin need look no further than the average family.

Ello -- You've got some like this too, don't you? And you were brave, having THREE. For one brief, mad moment, we considered having another, but fortunately, it passed quickly. Yes, our kids DO keep us young -- and make us tear out our rapidly greying hair. It's an interesting paradox.

Kim -- Coming from you, that is a huge compliment, and I thank you. We never cease to be amazed by how quickly our kids can spot holes in our logic or hypocrisy in our reasoning. Wish they were as astute about themselves occasionally...

Susan -- I have often wondered about him, too. We fell out of touch with my professor after he and his wife divorced, or I would have been able to find out. Tadashi never knew just what a hit he was with our two or what passionate rivalry he inspired.

bunbungirl said...

Hi. I found an article related to Japan in your site.
I want to often visit your site from now on.
Do you like Japanese Culture (Foods and fashion and manga...)?
If you are interested in Japan, please link to my site
My site has information about Japanese culture
(For example, Japanese health food, animation, games).
Would you introduce information(URL)in your site if you like it?

kathie said...

Mary, Mary, I'm so glad to be back blogging to share in your literary world. Nothing compares--your stores are endless.

-eve- said...

Great punchline...!

The Anti-Wife said...

Great story. It's one of the advantages of twins.

Mary Witzl said...

Bun-bun -- If you look closely, you'll find more than one such article on this site. Mata watashi no saito e dozo...Soo sureba, anata no saito to sugu rinku o shimasu. (Kyo, anata no saito de komento o ireyou to shimashita.)

Kathie -- Yay! You're back! This really makes my day! My kids gripe that my stories are endless too, and so is my nagging. But unlike you, they don't say that in a nice way.

Eve -- Thank you. This really cracked me up when it happened. The minute I heard Tadashi had a twin, I wondered how that would affect the dispute. As usual, the oldest figured she deserved the best of the spoils.

Anti-wife -- If our girls ever do end up with mates, given the way they are now, only twins will do. Each boy one will have to weigh the exact same amount as the other, and all the other parts, of course, will have to match as well. Sheesh.

Danette Haworth said...

My sister and I had a crush on our second cousin Mark. He was so handsome and nice and OLDER than us, and way cool too.

When I think of all the little machinations we did to get him to notice us (we worked as a team), I marvel that someone at his young age could be so gracious to a couple of star-crossed little girls.

Mary Witzl said...

Danette -- Still, I am impressed: you and your sister worked as a TEAM. I would love to see my girls do this; I wouldn't even mind so much that they were scheming to snare an 'older man.' As for your cousin being gracious to you, I imagine that there are few things as gratifying as having a couple of admiring little girls worship you, cousins or no!