How wonderful is sunshine in November. Its warmth can soften any harsh reality. Open windows of the orphanage let in the golden heat and fresh air. In the background hums a vacuum over tatami. Taking advantage of all the children outside, a woman is cleaning with urgency. Tatami rooms are open spaces, void of furniture. This room is half tatami, half wood floor. A crib is in the corner, big enough to hold more than one baby.
The play yard seems overly full with children today. There are more new faces, or have they just grown. I really can’t be sure. Immediately two toddler boys run up and grab me by the finger. They lead me to the other side of the yard telling me something in Japanese. I pass the adults, bowing a greeting. One lady has two babies on her lap and one on each arm as they practice standing. There are squeals of delight, evidence that the bubbles and balloons are being unpacked. My escorts quickly let go and join the mini mob.
One little girl proudly shows me her plate full of pine cones. I use to make mud pies as a child. The people in my group have all found their niche and go about doing what they do here. Mine is low tech and low volume. I provide comfort, whether that be to wipe noses or provide a lap to snuggle. In being still, being quiet, I am able to really see.
The woman in the clean sunny room is now laying out toddler size futons. Japanese Futon These have also been out in the sun and aired out. Now she is placing them around the room. I watch her as she thoughtfully wraps the blanket around each futon, like wrapping a present, like a prayer. The care feels me with gratitude.
Out comes a worker with a tray. The Japanese give their children tea from a very early age. Batting away my judgment, I watch. She walks to groups of toddlers. Some eagerly reach for a cup; others are too enthralled with the visitors. Again I recognize the care being given. This is not only about thirst; this is about culture. These workers are tying the children to their history, their community through tea.
The story in my head is changing. The story is no longer “these poor abandon children”. That is one story. But now I see another story. These children are safe. They are cared for and cared about. Only because I sit quietly, observing, keeping judgment at bay, that I know this story. Before I realize, the toddler in my lap is asleep. I guess I make a good futon.
It is time to wash feet and head inside. The process begins. I pick up toys while the workers gather the children. I have found this is a better use of my time and theirs. The crying begins. But I know that a lovely lunch and a nap on a fresh futon await them and that is all I need to know.