Monday, May 19, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

I got a lot done today, mostly a visit to Kyoto, to see Nijo-jo, which was at one time the Shogun's castle in Kyoto, and is now a world heritage site. It was well worth the visit.

I was weirdly happy walking in Kyoto, feeling like I've gotten to know the basic city enough to find my way back to the train station. (That doesn't mean I can necessarily find my way to places not marked on the tourist map in big ways. I'm geographically challenged, and the smaller streets aren't laid out in ways I can easily suss.) As someone who's not really good at geography in general, I'm a tiny big egotistical that I can find my way around Kyoto. Kyoto is laid out as a grid, with obvious big hills to the east, a north-south river along which runs my train line, hills further up to the north, and then hills further away to the west. If I can see the hills, I can find my way to a train station. And yet I'm still sort of proud that I can find my way around, so I can just relax and walk.

It's my last relaxed visit in Japan, probably. My Mom comes tomorrow. I'm hoping it goes okay, but the last email I got from her sort of irritated me. It was one of those "send this to all your friends" emails, with several pictures of confusing overhead street-type wiring, from India, with a caption about how that's where the call center you end up talking to for computer problems is. It just seemed to have an easy assumption of racism and irritated me.

Why send the email to me? She knows I get irritated at racist stuff because we've had any number of fights about such things. So why poke at me with an email?

We're going to be in this area for a couple days, then do a tour. That may have been a mistake; we'll see. I'm pretty willing to get myself good and lost, and try to ask directions, walk an hour or so out of my way, and so forth. But I'm not willing to do any of that with another person being unhappy about being lost. I get lost rather frequently, and at some point, I just learned to relax about it. People who don't get lost frequently are maybe a bit less relaxed about it. So I decided to get us on a tour; that way we have arranged hotels, transportation to get us here and there, and guides to explain things. It could be great.

Or not. We did a tour once together, a couple years after my Dad died. The first summer after, I talked her into going river rafting with me and a friend, and it went well. I think she enjoyed it, but not enough to really want to do it more. But she wanted to do this bus tour of the Badlands and Yellowstone. (I can understand why she didn't want to just drive together, because while my Dad was alive, he pretty much drove, and that meant they didn't stop unless he wanted to. So if she's going to feel powerless about driving, she'd rather feel powerless on a bus where the power is abstract, than in a car where it resides with the driver, pretty much. My family is a bunch of control freaks, and I'm up there with the worst of them.)

So, off we went on this bus tour, because my Mom really wanted to go, but didn't want to go alone, and by the way, I'm single, so my vacations should be spent with my Mom, right? especially now that she's alone.

I like animals and wildlife a fair bit. So there we'd be, driving along, and the tour guide would point out that there were often elk in this particular meadow, a meadow we were passing at 45 miles an hour, passing the parking area, and I'm trying to glimpse to see if there are elk from the wrong side of the bus. Or we'd pass an area that's famous for birds.

But we couldn't stop, or even slow down, because we had to get to some big, famous drugstore, or gambling/shopping town so that we could all have a couple hours to shop or gamble. And this wasn't fun shopping, no hardware store, bookstore, or bike shop.

As if that weren't bad enough, we'd be driving through some grainfields, a two hour drive to our destination, and I'd be ready to fall asleep (because basically in a car, I'm either driving or wanting to nap). And just as I'd start to nod off, the guide would decide to make a couple comments about the area where we were headed. And then she'd add in some conservative comment about the joys of Reaganomics or something. My head would pop back up at the noise, just in time for her to stop after four sentences. At which point my eyes would start to droop, until fifteen minutes later, she'd realize she'd forgotten some point about the wonder we were going to see in a couple hours. And this would go on until we got to the scenic spot.

So my desire to be on a bus tour is sort of low. I'm hoping this will be way better; keep your fingers crossed.

On the other hand, I'm working on being a more generous person. My first step is to not try to pick fights. And since the one person in the world I'm most likely to pick a fight with is my Mom, I need to work on this seriously.

It's not that my Mom is a bad person; she's a really fine person. Ask anyone. And she certainly wasn't abusive as a Mom; quite the opposite, in fact, she was an amazing Mom. My college friends all thought my folks were the cool ones. And the things she thought to do when we were kids, so creative and neat.

But still, I have a lot to work on. Wish me a good attitude!


  1. Good luck with Mom. I hope the tour isn't like the last one,or if it is, that you can escape it on occasion.

  2. Anonymous9:02 AM

    Your stories sound very much like mine, and especially like my sister's, with our mother. Fine person, was an amazing mom when we were young...can drive you nuts in 15 minutes. She sends me these twee little Christian emails that I hate hate hate (and then feel guilty about hating). Maybe the utter foreignness of Japan will help ease the situations. Good luck, and enjoy!

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  4. Thanks, Inside :)

    Theodora, I guess lots of us have conflicts with our Moms, eh?


  5. I, too, have a drives-me-nuts in some ways, what's-not-to-like in other ways, mother. (Which is probably what my kid will be saying in another 30 years.) At least time time, the tour will be in Japan--no casinos on the itinerary, I assume? Good luck with the trip.

  6. Isn't it weird when tours think the thing you want to do when on vacation is go shopping? I was on a tour in Scotland once that did that. Shopping can be fun, but in moderation, please.
    Good luck! I love my Mom, but a long spell would be really hard.

  7. hope it is fun! i think theodora has a point, that japan is so completely different -- and since you have been there a while, you will be the family expert on all the amazing things you see.