Home > Family, Japan, Music, Parenting > The Return of Deborah-Sensei

The Return of Deborah-Sensei

I moved to Japan to teach English a week after graduating from law school.

I enjoyed meaningless videos like this.

OTOH, I enjoyed making meaningless videos like this

One of the very first things I did in Japan was to learn a verb song to open up my little kid classes. By the time I’d sung the song 100 times, I never wanted to hear it again. I kept right on singing it, though. The kids loved it!

When I moved back to the United States, I never wanted or expected to sing it again. Occasionally little bits of it would flit through my head before I swatted them away and thought, “Never again!”

But this morning, my toddler saw his older brother marching and said, “Marching!” I immediately started humming the song.

“Something about that reminds me of a song I taught in Japan,” I told my boys before demonstrating it for them.

Littler J was tickled, so I sang and acted it out a couple of times while he and Li’l D acted along.

Their attention shifted away quickly, so that I thought that was it for the song.

Instead, just before bedtime, Littler J came up to me and said, “March!”

“March?” I asked him, puzzled.

“March!” he said again, more emphatically, his gaze imploring me.

“Oh, you want the song!” I exclaimed. I rose from the couch and started simultaneously marching and singing. Both Littler J and Li’l D giggled and ran circles around the living room with me as I sang:

Marching, marching.
Marching, marching.
Hop, hop, hop!
Hop, hop, hop!
Running, running, running.
Running, running, running.
Now let’s stop!
Now let’s stop!

My husband, Anthony, watched with a grin from the dining room as Li’l D joined in singing during our next round. On the round after that, Littler J shouted “march” and “hop” here and there as the three of us rampaged around the living room.

Each time we stopped, Littler shouted “yay!” and clapped. Both Anthony and our dog joined in the merriment by the fifth or sixth round, so that there was barely room for us all to perform the song’s actions. There was plenty of room for giggling and cheering, which Li’l and Littler both did their best to fill. Thrillingly, Littler J was singing along to most of the song by the time we wrapped up.

Earlier in the day, I’d told someone how Littler J was born on the ten-year anniversary of meeting my husband. “I’d never have believed it,” I said, “if you told me I’d marry and have kids with this guy I met right before moving to Japan!”

As I tucked my boys in soon afterward, I thought again of these little surprises: how something that seems so insignificant–even, in the song’s case, irritating!–at one point can become so joyous at another.

or even

Or even “awesomely beautiful,” like this ol’ Japan video

And I smiled, as I sat down to type, to realize how everything I’ve been is still part of everything I am. Old songs and old adventures aren’t just relics of who I was in another life. They’re living pieces of how I got to this “here” that so challenges and delights me.

They’re rhythms that still beat in my heart.

Wait. Did I say beat?

I meant march.

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  1. February 27, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I love how life ends up being poetry if you are patient

    • February 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      Hear, hear.

      Also, I am still thinking of your post about your uncle and what I’ll write when I’m ready … which will, I think, be soon.

      • February 27, 2016 at 8:03 pm

        Did you see the part where I found his bully? Life is beauty so don’t wait!

  2. February 27, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Great bedtime post💜

  3. February 27, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Your post made me all warm and fuzzy inside!

  4. February 27, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Love this! And what fun lol

  5. February 28, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Aww lovely. It sounds like you had a blast too.

  6. February 28, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Such a sweet post!

  7. February 28, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    This post so made me smile.

    • March 5, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      I’m glad to hear it! Thinking of this had made me happy so many times since that evening, especially when Littler acts out one of the song’s motions and sings the words. (I dig that it’s so adaptable, so that one verb can be swapped out for another in the right context.)

  8. February 29, 2016 at 4:30 am

    As I play catch up (which these days feel like always) I am so glad there are some I mark to always read (you being one). I either learn from you or am lifted up by you. This one could send me off to bed with a smile or send me out to the world with one.

    March indeed. ❤

    • March 6, 2016 at 5:46 am

      Thank you for saying this. Somehow, revisiting your words this morning takes away a little bit of gloom creeping up around me this morning. Big, big hugs. ♥

  9. February 29, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Thanks for sharing this! Whenever you remember this, I’m right along with you, “to realize how everything I’ve been is still part of everything I am.” That’s such a sweet realization every single time it happens; and somehow, it always comes as a pleasant surprise! ❤ Much joy to you! I love picturing the dog sharing in the amusement and pleasure of this once-irritating song turned into a sweet wine of memory renewed.

    • March 6, 2016 at 5:48 am

      I like how you call it a sweet realization! Sometimes I get frustrated when I realize I’ve had a revelation before … again and again and again. I ask myself, “How did I not internalize this the first eighteen times?” The joy of rediscovery is sweet, though, and the good thing about forgetting this kind of thing is getting to relearn it. 🙂

      • March 6, 2016 at 10:00 am

        I can definitely relate to you in the sense that occasionally frustration occurs. I think we are constantly internalizing and forgetting and yet every time it’s different somehow, deeper, richer perhaps. A process of uncovering and/or better yet, layering our reality – either way – the content becomes more full-bodied and fuller tasting upon reflection. Perhaps we build new sense organs to witness more of it all.

  10. February 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Making connections and reviving the past with in present! Love it. Very well said.

  11. March 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

    How smart you are to march, hop, leap and dance for joy at these ordinary/extraordinary little gifts of everyday life.

    • March 6, 2016 at 5:50 am

      As J nears his second birthday, I’m finding myself more and more into the groove of parenting two and more fully appreciating moments like these without worrying about what all I’ve left undone! I savor such moments, and ones like this where Littler J watched truck music videos from my lap while I type. This little curly head of hair under my chin = ♥

  12. March 2, 2016 at 12:11 am


  13. March 3, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I love Japan! I went there when I was 16 on a band trip and have always wanted to go back… One day it will happen!

    • March 6, 2016 at 5:50 am

      That’s what I tell myself, too, when I get to missing it! I’ll get back there. It won’t necessarily be soon, but someday my guys will see this place that’s also home in my heart. The thought makes me giddy.

  1. February 29, 2016 at 5:20 am

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