Skip to main content

By Mrs. Bassy Pekar

When we first we first moved into our house in Okinawa, Japan, it was the windows that bothered me most; the bare windows seemed to taunt me, reminding me that we moved across the ocean and have to begin the daunting task of starting over. It made me wonder if this strange place would ever reflect the warm and cozy comfort of home. I was determined to make the windows my first home improvement project and dress them with decorative and practical curtains, yet the odd build of the windows left me floundering and undecided for weeks. I was conscious of our bare windows and the knowledge that every neighbor and passerby could see right into our unfurnished rooms and still unpacked suitcases littering our floors. I worried that when people would look into our windows they would see a haphazard family posing as adults, pretending to live this military life they were clearly unaccustomed to. I worried that when people would look into our windows they would recognize that we were simply playing house, clearly not up to the task. So I worried and I hemmed and I hawed, and all the while the windows remained bare and I began the arduous journey of building our home.

It snuck up on me quietly, subtly, with no fuss or commotion. It happened in stages; stages so minute I didn’t pay attention. It occurred to me as I was driving to the market that I no longer need the GPS to navigate the narrow winding roads that have become my home. I was struck with the starling realization that this once foreign place is no longer strange and unfamiliar. I developed the automatic habit of stopping wherever I am on base at 5:00pm to stand for the Japanese and American National Anthems. I have come to find comfort in Taps being played nightly to signal the beginning of the quiet night. My daughter learned the word ‘airplane’ from waving to the F-15s flying over our home at all hours of the day, and she bounces with excitement each time she hears the familiar roar. I gave up on meal planning and now base my menus solely on the produce and food items available in the markets that week. The small everyday considerations of living on base and living in Japan have become second nature and are now done without thought.

Without my realizing, six months have passed, Wand I now know the roads, the markets, the etiquette; this strange and unfamiliar country has become my home. Without realizing it, the curtains have gone up, the bookshelves filled with books, and our kitchen cabinets once again held our pots and pans. It made me think of time, how time moves swiftly, softly, tip-toeing by unless I catch it in motion. It made me think of time, how time moves quickly, at its own pace, heedless of the speed I wish it to take. It made me think of time, of how much can change when it seems like no time has passed at all. Now, when I look through our windows I see the mess of children’s toys and the empty dishes of another beautiful Shabbos dinner enjoyed. Now, when I look through our windows I see joy beaming from the happy family inside, and I know that I am home.

Originally published the Passover 2020 Jewish-American Warrior