I kept in touch with the Ueharas, initially more out of common courtesy than any long-term plan. They had been very generous to me while I was there, and I could not help thinking that the impression I had left was not the best I might have. As I saw it, it was like they were much better at being hosts than I was at being a guest. So I sent something for each of the family members at Christmas, and occasionally updated them on developments in my life, such as when Mika and I got married, and the birth of my son.

The trouble was that whatever I did they would send back in spades. If we sent gifts at Christmas, what we received in reply was much more precious. Out of the blue okaasan sent cash when she heard we had married, expensive vitamins for Mika when she was pregnant, and volumes of carefully-chosen children's books for Tyler after he was born. It was like some bizarre competition, and I was woefully ill-equipped to compete. And it wasn't just my comparative poverty . . . Part of the problem was that while I freely volunteered information about my life, okaasan rarely did, or if she did, I was a bit too dim to pick up on her cues that there was in fact something to report. So I started revealing less about my life, not to be more distant, but out of fear that they would find cause to send something more. I was spiraling downward under the weight of their generosity.

Since then, I have gradually gotten closer to the family, due, I think, to a number of factors, not the least of which is that I no longer have any remote hope of achieving equity in the gifting department. Rather than "equity", as our means grow a bit greater, I find myself looking forward to the events in the Uehara children's lives that might afford the opportunity to mark the occasion with a gift of some kind. Not to pay them back—that is not even on the map at this moment. Just to do it. Because I'm older than the children are.

Tyler's emergence on the scene, and the chance to introduce both him and Mika to the Ueharas in person when we traveled as a family to Japan meant a lot. Another time, I was able to deduce that grandfather, ojiisan, was in the hospital, and of course with each subsequent correspondence I could inquire more pointedly about his progress. But to be honest, okaasan has made the bigger adjustments, and is now revealing more. Like when she revealed out of the blue that their house had been nearly destroyed by an earthquake. Why does it take something like that? Tragedies, illnesses . . .

Having a more stable home in the U.S., where we can reasonably invite members of their family to visit, has made a difference too. They haven't taken us up on our invitations yet, but I think maybe they, their kids or their grandkids just might before too long.

page top