01 December 2014


December has come around, and for the first time in two years, the Pihlajas are not packing everything away to send to a new country. In 2012, I was standing, this week, in the garage, as two Malaysian men loaded up a lorry with 14 boxes — it was snowing that day in Milton Keynes, or it had snowed the night before, and they were taking photos of it and throwing snowballs. Snow, could you believe it. The house emptied and was emptied throughout the month until that last day when we all hugged and said goodbye and I told a lie at the time: Don't cry, we will be back in a year.

And then last year, we were doing it again, in Kajang, outside of Kuala Lumpur. I wanted, that time, to just leave it all and chalk it up as a complete failure. All the broken and cheap furniture, the plans I had for making something. I wanted to leave behind Yoko's burning skin and all the tension of a bank account with this currency I didn't trust. The car, the house, the whole thing: I wanted to just walk away, back to Milton Keynes and the snow and pretend it never happened. When we got on the plane, at the end of the month, our Malaysian experience behind us, the stress was like a residue on my hands that I couldn't wash off for months and months. If I apologise more and work harder, maybe then it will go away.

Of course, it did work out — it wasn't a loss. It's hard to say how much better I feel this 1 December, the first first of December that I have, in 6 or 7 years, felt like I am standing on two feet. The financial news is optimistic — it has always been fine, but now it is optimistic. The girls are healthy and happy, even though they have always been, but I, for once, am also happy and healthy too, on a first of December. Not waiting for the implosion or snapping again at my wife for saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question.

We took the bus into the city centre yesterday: walked through the Christmas market and had coffee and I looked at Yoko and thought, For some reason, we have made it more than nine years. We have three kids, and a pension now, and a place that feels like home. We both are wearing the same coats we wore in Niigata City in 2005. When I say now, I love you, I mean it. I meant it, in 2005, when I said it for the first time. But now, I mean it.