Take the Long Way Home

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All my life, my secret wish is to attend the Olympic Games. It started in 1972 when I watched Mark Spitz swim his way to seven gold medals, and I’ve been a true fan ever since. I collect Olympic pins and own a few historic posters, including a good 1936 Berlin reproduction. I was almost able to attend the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. But my dream of seeing the games in person have long eluded me – until now.

Next year, I will be attending the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan. For me, the trip is not just the culmination of four years of planning and goal-setting, but it also is a return home. I lived in Japan as a military kid between 1965 and 1967, and my memories are both vivid and, sometimes, mysteriously foggy.

I can remember the first time I saw a Japanese beetle— coal black and so big I had to catch it in a tennis-ball can. I once watched a long, human-powered, dragon dance so eloquently across a field I still question if it was real. On a clear morning, I could climb to the top of my slide and spy Mount Fugi in the distance, snow-capped and strong. My Japanese American teacher taught me the ancient art of origami, and I can still sing a song in Japanese strangely well.

Back in those days, the Japanese were not always welcoming to Americans. Signs saying “Yankee Go Home” are etched in my mind, but I understand now why they were opposed to our military base. The Americans acquired the land after World War II and used it as a base for operations during the Vietnam War. I was so young; I did not understand why they did not like me.

As an adult, I see the world and Japan in a different light. I am anxious to return and turn my dreams into a reality. I am bringing my children with me, so they can start some dreams of their own. They will get to experience Olympic history in the making and see Mount Fugi from their own perspective. The base I once lived on is now gone, and I know I can never go home. But who knows? We may still see a dragon.


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