The Curse the Summer House


As I promised to Haru last month, we went to the summer house out in Chiba once again.  Originally, we planned to take a trip up to a Mother Farm (yes I spelled this correctly -no ‘s  at the end of Mother), a nearby ranch that is opened to the public to see the fireworks show and spend a night at the house, but then I learned that my cousin was was staying there with his family.  Haru always looks forward to spending time with her second cousins, especially Karin.  They always get along well, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for the girls to spend some time together.  My cousin planned to take Karin to a public swimming pool on Saturday morning, so instead of going out their after  Haru’s gymnastics lesson on Saturdays as originally planned, we decided to skip the lesson all together and leave for the summer house on Friday night instead, so that we could take Haru to the pool as well. Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about going to an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of summer in Japan, as they are known to get insanely crowded.  And, when I say insanely crowded, I do emphasize the word insane, because you would have to be insane to go to some of these pools during the summer.  Tokyo Summer Land is a good example of how crowded these places can get.  There are so many people sardined into the pool, you would literally wonder where the water is.  I can only imagine how much of that water is really water, and how much of it is urine.  Makes me sick to even think about.  However, my cousin assured me the that the pool that we were going to doesn’t come close to being that crowded. I left work about an hour early, so that we could get a good early start out, because it takes about an hour or so to get there.  I wanted to get there before Karin’s bedtime and perhaps have some time to do some fireworks as well.  I texted my wife to be packed and ready to go before I get home.  An hour later, she texted me back that Haru had a slight fever and had developing cough, but she was still  excited about going, so  I assumed that our trip was still a go. At 5pm, I rushed to the station to board an already crowed subway.  Since it was the weekend before Obon (お盆) or the festival of the dead, I guess everyone in Japan was leaving work a bit early.  And instead of my usual 40 minute walk home from of the station, I took the bus home to expedite the trip home. After making it home in near record time, I noticed that nothing had been done.  Haru was sitting in the middle of the living room watching TV as if we had nothing was going on.  As I walked into the door , she turned around and muttered you’re home early, to which I responded “why aren’t you packed and ready to go?  Apparently she had just got out of the bath.  Nothing was packed, no one was ready, and I was quickly getting irritated by the lack of effort being put in by both Haru and my wife, especially after the massive effort I put in to get home an hour early.  My wife defended her inaction and responded I told you that Haru has a fever and a cough, so I didn’t we were still going.  Rather than getting to a big tiff about not making it clear as to whether or not we were going, I told them that we were going.  Despite a small cough, Haru looked to be healthy enough to go, and her fever had gone down.   And more importantly, she was insisting on going, especially knowing that Karin will be there too.  After 30 minutes of cramming everything we need into duffel bags and backpacks, we were ready to go.  We loaded everything into the car and including the dogs, who looked confused but excited about the road trip. The roads were relatively empty, so we were able to get through traffic pretty quickly.  Haru fell asleep part way there, but woke up shortly before we arrived.  We grabbed a few things at the nearby grocery store, and headed up the house.  By the time we arrived, night had already fallen and it was already dark outside.  After I parked the car in front of the house, Haru and the dogs jumped out and immediately headed in, where Karin greeted her.  We then unloaded the car and settled in. After we were all settled, we decided to whip out the fireworks.  Both Haru and Karin had their own fireworks set.  The fireworks were all hand held sparklers so there was very little risk of injury, however my cousin had pulled out his hidden batch of bottle rockets that he had hidden in the house several years ago.   Bottle rockets are kind of rare because they tend to cause injuries and sometimes fires if they land in the wrong place.  Since we were in a mountainous area, it would be disastrous should one of these rocket caught fire.  Luckily, other than a loud whizzing and popping sounds which probably put the neighbors on alert, nothing disastrous happened. The rest of the evening went on uneventfully.  Haru’s cough had seem to subside a bit.  The girls played with the iPad while watching Harry Potter on TV.  After awhile, it was tine to turn in for the evening.  Haru and Karin decided camp out together in one of the four rooms (minus parents), which means another good night’s sleep without being kicked for me.

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The next morning, I was rudely awakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by two giggling girls peaking into my bedroom and watching me sleep.  Knowing I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, I woke myself up despite it being a Saturday.  Both girls were so excited about going to the pool that they were already in their bathing suits.  Since we obviously had plenty of time before we actually left for the pool, the girls sat on the sofa and watched videos and played games on the iPad again.  A few minutes later, Karin developed a bloody nose, which is apparently pretty rare for her.  It started out as small drizzle but quickly developed into a gush of blood.  Using my years of bloody nose stopping experience, I managed to get it under control with some ice compresses.   We left for the pool at about 9AM, which was about a 30 minute drive from the house.  It was only 9AM and the temperatures were already in the mid-30’s (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit).  It was suppose to be the hottest days of the summer, so I was not looking forward to how high the temperatures were predicted to be by noon.  Having only slept a few hours, Haru was a bit sleepy so she fell asleep on the way.  When we arrived, there were already a quite a few cars in the parking lot.  Images of the Tokyo Summer Land’s overflowing pool full bodies immediately came to my mind.  I could only hope that its not that crowded. I could feel the searing and almost suffocating heat rising from the pavement below me.  If I weren’t wearing shoes, the hot pavement would probably burn the skin right off the soles of my feet.  After we changed in the locker rooms, we all headed out to the pools.  There were about six or seven different pools.  There was a lap pool for doing laps, there were two water slide pools, there were two small children’s pools and a huge wave pool.  There were a lot of people but not quite at the Tokyo Summer Land level.  We got there early enough to where we could get a decent rest spot in the shade.  Haru and Karin wanted to jump into the pool right away, so we all got in. Karin is already a pretty good swimmer.  She was able to do freestyle for a pretty decent distance.  Haru had just finished a week taking swimming classes, so of course she wasn’t as good as Karin, but there was a pretty big improvement from last December when she had her first swimming lessons.  She is able to stay under water longer and open her eyes, which is a lot more than she could last year.   I even threw my locker key into the pool, and told her to get them for me, and she was able to swim to the bottom of the pool the keys. Every hour, the lifeguards would call out to the swimmers to take their floatation devices out of the pool so that they could start the wave machine. The wave machine made some pretty sizable waves that could swallow up  even adults, so I made sure that Haru stayed pretty close to me.  We stayed in the shallow end because I wasn’t sure how Haru would react to having a giant mountain of water trying to push her under.  I know that when I was her age I would have HATED something like this.  I often has nightmares of people holding me under water or drowning.  Being a new swimmer, I didn’t want Haru to be traumatized by a bad experience in a swimming pool. When the wave machine started it was an instant hit.  She loved the wave machine.  However, there were I couple of times when the waves crashed on top of her and she was dunked under water.  I could see her facial expression change into somewhat of a panic when that happened so I immediately pulled her out of the water so that she doesn’t panic.  Overall, both Haru and Karin seemed to enjoy the whole wave machine experience.

After spending about four hours at the pool, it was becoming apparent that the gross lack of sleep was overwhelming both girls.  Haru was becoming somewhat groggy and sleepy, and Karin was becoming a bit cranky.  Haru’s asthma seemed be acting up as well.  At first, we thought it may have been due to her cold, but she only coughed when she was out of the pool.  When she was in the pool, she was fine.  This kind of reminded me of when I was a kid growing up with really bad allergies.  When I was in the swimming pool, I was fine, but out of the pool, my allergies would act up pretty badly.  This was partially why I joined the swim team during high school; to escape my allergies.

After a few minutes rest, we packed up said our goodbyes to Karin and my cousin and headed back to the house.  Haru fell asleep almost immediately during the 30 minute trip back.

After we got back, we had a light lunch and a nap.  It was hard to tell while we were at the pool, but four hours out in the hot near 40 degrees Celsius sun, had made Haru super dark.  She kind of looked like a little south east Asian girl.  After sleeping on the sofa for about 2 hours, Haru was woke in a sudden panic.  Her nose was bleeding.  She was sitting in the exact spot where Karin was when her nose started bleeding.  I started to grow suspicious that the curse was back.  In the past, I also experienced allergy attacks, severe rashes and burns, or really bad bug bites from sleeping on the sofa.  My cousin told me that the sofa and some of the beds in the house may be infested with bed bugs or ticks,which may be the cause of my previous bad experiences.  After a few minutes of ice compresses and putting pressure on the nose, the bleeding stopped and she was back to normal.

Later that night, we went out for dinner at our usual restaurant.  We originally planned to go to Mother Farm to watch the fireworks afterwards, but we didn’t want Haru’s cold to worsen, so we chose to return back to the house instead.  Haru lounged back on her usual spot on the reclining sofa -the same sofa where Karin sat when her nose starting bleeding, and the same spot where Haru’s nose started bleeding earlier that day.  It was kind of strange how both girls’ noses started bleeding when the sat in the same exact spot, but we figured that it may have been just a coincidence.  That is until Haru’s nose started bleeding again.   It was no longer a mere coincidence.   It was the curse that had come back to haunt us.  In the past, it was always me.  I would be the one to be bitten by small invisible bugs, or break out in a strange rash from sleeping on a moist bed, or have sneezing attacks from laying on the sofa.  This time it was Haru who was under attack.  Her asthma had acted up earlier, and now it was bloody nose -no doubt an allergy attack.

I always knew that there was something going on in that house.  Its in the mountains and it gets quite hot and humid during the summer, so its a haven for all kinds of small allergenic plants, pests, and maybe even fungi.  I personally don’t care for going to the house anymore particularly for this very reason, but Haru -despite her bloody noses -really likes it there.  I am not too sure when we will be going there next, but personally, I would rather spend the weekend at nice cozy onsen, that is free from strange plants, fungi, and invisible pests that causes allergies, and that’s where we will be going next.  Watch this space.

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Camp Luck


This summer, Haru participated in two camp events.  One was with her kindergarten class.  Basically, it was to allow the kids to experiences a night away from their parents away from home.  To a lot of kids in Haru”s class,  this is kind of a big deal because many of them have never spent more than a few hours away from the parents,  let alone a whole night away from home without at least one of their parents present…including Haru.  But in reality, it wasn’t a real camp and the kids were taken to a venue across town less than 15 minutes away by car, just in case someone really couldn’t take being away from home for a night.  The night away from home with her kindergarten class was pretty uneventful.  None of the kids cried or through up too much drama, and everyone came home the very next day perfectly grateful for the experience away.

Camp Luck, a camp program independent of Haru’s kindergarten school a bigger deal for the kids and some of the parents.  This was a real camp, spent at a venue several miles away in Yamanashi prefecture, a mountainous region just west of Tokyo and Yokohama.  If the kids get homesick and want to go home for some reason, its several hours to make the trip there, so its not as easily accessible as the kindergarten camp.

Haru’s best friend Yuka, opted out of going to the camp.  3 days 2 nights away from home was a bit more than she could stomach.  However, for Haru, she had been looking forward to this for weeks.  The whole idea of being away from home was exciting to her.   Apparently the trip with her kindergarten class didn’t quite  live up to all of her expectations and she really wanted do more and spend more time away.  Camp Luck would be the perfect experience for her.

As one of the many activities at Camp Luck, the children were allowed to catch a Kabuto Mushi (a Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle).  Although keeping these things as pets is part of the Japanese culture, I absolutely objected to letting Haru bringing one home and keeping it as a pet. For one thing, they are absolutely disgusting looking.  To me, they are nothing more than a large cock roach with horns, and I despise ALL insects.  Secondly I KNOW that Haru is not responsible enough to keep a pet on her own.  It would be me or my wife who would have to ultimately care for this thing.  And since I am absolutely disgusted by these grotesque insects, it would have to be my wife.

 

Last month, despite my objections to bringing home any kind of wild animals, bugs, fish, etc., my wife had bought Haru an infant jelly fish to keep as a pet.  Yes, it was very adorable but I was very upset over the fact she did this without asking me first.  I have a strict policy of not keeping wild animals or insects as pets, because I am a strong believer that all living creatures are the most happiest living in their natural habitat and not in a cage or a jar.  Suffice it to say, the jelly fish didn’t live long.  None of us knew how to take care of the poor thing despite my efforts researching how to care for it.  My wife had changed its water (which is of course is suppose to be sea water) with artificial “sea water mix” that she had bought at a pet store,  and it died the next day.  She most likely got the water to salt ratio wrong.  What really irritated me the most about this whole incident was not that fact that I was never asked if they could bring this creature home, but the “oh well, too bad” attitude both my wife and Haru had when it died.  I also didn’t like the fact that I was the only one who really cared enough to try to find out how to care for it, while no one else really cared.   Of course, I can’t really expect Haru to do the research since she’s only five years old.  But I really wanted to her to understand the preciousness of life and that the jelly fish would have been much happier living in the ocean rather a tiny plastic jar full of poorly mixed artificial sea water.  After that, I reiterated my stance on my no wild pets policy, and I thought they would understand after the jelly fish died, but they didn’t.  Before Haru went off to Camp Luck, I told her point blank that she is allowed to catch the rhinoceros beetle and keep it while she was at camp, but she MUST let it go before she came home.  It took a few tries to explain to her the reason for this, but eventually she agreed.

As the kids loaded onto the bus for the long trip out to Yamanashi, emotions flared and some kids cried and even refused to get on the bus.  But Haru happily and excitedly boarded the bus, but not without saying “You are now free for two days” to my wife.  We knew she wouldn’t have any homesickness issues while she was away.  As a matter of fact, she probably would be more upset when the whole thing is over.

The next two days were very peaceful.   For the first time in a very long time, my wife and I were able to have an adult conversation at the dinner table without someone interrupting us every 5 seconds.  I was able to watch TV and catch up with other things in peace.  But although things were very peaceful and quiet, I really missed Haru.  I tried not to think about her too much, because my imagination would start to run away from me, and I would start think that that something bad might happen to her and worry.

After two of the most peaceful days in 5 years 8 months and 5 days, it was time for her to return.  I returned from work to find Haru in the living room with a huge grin on her face.  My wife had a more concerned look on her face, so I knew something was up.  Haru apparently had a very good time at Camp Luck and talked non-stop about it.  She then dragged out a clear plastic box with not one, but TWO rhinoceros beetles inside, a male and a female.  Almost immediately, I imagined a room full of rhinoceros beetle larvae oozing around the living room leaving a trail of mucus everywhere.

Outside! I said in a loud booming voice.  My wife immediately confiscated the box of bugs from Haru and placed it on the outside patio on the side of the house.   I demanded an explanation and my wife said that the bugs weren’t staying, and that they would be given to my wife’s cousin’s kids as soon as possible.  Although I objected to the fact that they were even brought home and not let loose as Haru had promised, at least they wouldn’t be my problem.

At dinner, Haru asked if she could keep one of the cockroaches rhinoceros beetles to which I immediately objected.  But I will take really good care of it, she protested.  I explained to her that beetles don’t make good pets because they don’t live long and that we should let them live outside where they belong.  My wife also brought up that we have Princess and Jenna, but Haru didn’t consider Princess and Jenna her pets because they’re taken care of by my wife and me.  She considers them to be more like her siblings and she really wanted a pet to take care of by herself.

Despite all of the protests and arguments from her, I continued to object to her keeping these insects as pets.  They belong outdoors in their natural habitat, not caged up in a tiny plastic box on the patio.  Realizing that she was losing the argument, her eyes began to well up with tears.  I felt bad for her, but I was not going to give in.

I really do want to teach Haru the responsibility of caring for a pet, but I know that she would neglect these bugs as soon as she got bored with them.  Contrary to Haru’s belief, they were neither cute nor adorable, so I had no motivation for caring for them myself when Haru eventually got bored with them, and I know my wife would eventually neglect them too.    But just saying no without anything to offer as an alternative wasn’t good either.  I decided to take a gamble, and offered her a choice in the hopes that she would make the right choice.   I told here that she had the choice of keeping ONE of the bugs, or getting something better like a goldfish or a hamster when the weather cools down out bit.   Being impatient, she didn’t like the idea of having to wait until the weather cool down.  She wanted a pet NOW.  I told her that its too hot and the pet might die if we get one now, so she decided that she wanted to keep the bugs instead.  My gamble backfired on me!

I had to find a way to get her to change her mind because I was not going to have these things in my house.  I know that she would eventually try to sneak them into the house, they’ll get loose, and the next I know I will have a house full the beetles flying all over the place.  So I decided to give her an ultimatum.  I told her that she could keep these bugs, but if they die because of neglect, she would NEVER be able to have another pet as long as she is living in this house.  No dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, fish…NOTHING.  She’ll have to take REALLY good care of them, all by herself with no help from me or her mother, until they die naturally.

The tears that had welled up in her eyes had swelled up into drops until they broke loose and streamed down her cheeks.  She tried to fight the overwhelming urge to cry until she could no longer fight the sadness that engulfed her.  I think she new that without our help, the task of caring for the rhinoceros beetles would be too much her.  But Haru isn’t the type to give up so easily.  She accepted the  challenge and decided to keep the beetles…ugh, disaster!

The next day was a Saturday, so Haru had gymnastics practice in the afternoon.  It was expected to get very hot and humid in the afternoon, so Haru and my wife moved the beetles from the downstairs patio to the upstairs balcony.  I was puzzled as to why they did this because the beetles where in the nice cool shade downstairs.  The upstairs balcony gets a nice large shadow from the overhangs on the house during the morning hours which makes things a bit cooler, but I wasn’t sure how hot it gets in the afternoon.

After our usual Saturday routine or going to practice and grocery shopping etc, we came home a fairly warm house.  The dogs were asleep on the floor on the concrete tile floor near the front door where there was a nice breeze from the opened windows.  After changing out of her gym clothes, Haru rushed upstairs to check on her pets.  I did what I normally do on Saturday afternoons;  I prepared my lunch and sat down in front of the TV and relaxed.  A minute or two later, there was a very faint sound of someone weeping.  At first, I thought it was either the TV or some kid outside, but the weeping escalated into crying, and it was coming from upstairs.

A few minutes later, my wife came down the stairs with a very sad looking Haru in her arms.  She was still crying.  I asked my wife what was going on and she mouthed the words they’re dead!  Apparently, the upstairs balcony gets full sunlight in the afternoon and the beetles had baked in the hot midday summer sun, right in their clear plastic box.  I was almost about to give the I told you so speech, but unlike when her pet jelly fish died, Haru was genuinely distraught by the death of her pet beetles, and showed true remorse.  I think for the for the first time in her life, she felt responsible for the death of her pets.

I said nothing to her, and gave her a big hug instead.  For me, this was a valuable lesson that I hope she learned something from.  I wanted her to realize that all life is precious, and that the beetles were not toys.  They were living creatures that she had accepted responsibility for caring for, and that this was the consequence of neglect.  But to be completely fair, it wasn’t completely her fault since my wife had also but the beetles out in the hot sun.  She broke her ultimatum, but I probably won’t hold her to it.  She’ll eventually need to learn responsibility and a nice, easy-to-care-for pet is the best way to teach it.

Perhaps when things cool down a bit, I might consider getting Haru something that she could consider he own, like a hamster, hermit crab or a gold fish (any but ugly disgusting insects).

 

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