Anyone Can Pick Out a House
March 31, 2013
"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
My father received word of my birth by telegram as he lay in a foxhole in Vietnam. My mother, a young bride from a small Southern town, then prepared to leave her family who had accompanied her through her pregnancy to join her husband across the world.
Back when she thought she could not have children, she had signed up for Saigon. But after she became a mother, she renegotiated the marital contract. Now, my father was to be the new UPI bureau chief of Tokyo. From there, he would fly back and forth to Vietnam, to write about the war that had the whole world's attention.
So when I was a six-month old baby, my mother boarded a plane to Tokyo to begin our new life as a family. I would love to ask her today what she was thinking. If she was frightened, what gave her courage? If she was not frightened, why wasn't she?
Upon arriving, she learned that none of the neighbors spoke English, so she began to study Japanese. She made her first married home in a tiny suburban Japanese house with paper walls, tatami floors and a stand-up bathtub. She collected furnishings for a strange house that her busy husband had casually picked out in an afternoon.
As I recall, that was the last house my father was allowed to pick out. And my mother, who was very good at that sort of thing, realized that her South Carolina hospitality skill set would work in Southeast Asia as well. From then on, my mother was in charge of all such arrangements. Anyone can pick out a house. What my mother did was make each one a home.
She went on to find houses for us in seven different countries. And remarkably, I remember each one of them as home.
Bless this house, this apartment, this condo, this sleeping bag, this airport layover, this loneliness, this family visit, this hotel room and this new adventure with a sense of home. Amen.
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Ms. Christina Villa
Acting Director of Publishing, Identity & Communication
700 Prospect Ave.