Among my relatives, a happy, lasting marriage is a rare gem. Those who have succeeded thus far have followed a common pattern: they have all moved away from the bulk of the “horde” (a.k.a. the family). So when my husband and I got married just less than a year and a half ago now, we moved to the other side of the planet.
Now, this was by no means the only reason we moved to Japan. Nor does this mean we don’t love our families. But there is something to spending the beginning of our marriage in a sort of forced seclusion from the familiar. Kind of like an extended honeymoon, but with jobs to do and bills to pay and the ever-present challenge of being a cultural/social/linguistic retard. The suffocating attention we endured in the run-up and immediate aftermath of our wedding is behind us. We have been thrust into a new and exciting, yet very unfamiliar and at times incredibly stressful environment. Many new couples, under stress, may take out their frustration on one another, and turn to family and friends to seek vindication. But in this foreign land we have quickly realized we are each other’s only and best ally. Our mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical survival necessitates sticking together.
After nine months in Japan, we had become quite well accustomed, if not to Japan itself, at least to the married life in our modest apartment in the little town of Sakura.
Enter the in-laws.
My husband’s parents arrived at the end of April, to stay with us for just less than a month. I don’t want to make it sound too ominous: we were very excited to see them, and very excited for an excuse to travel around Japan. They were the first visitors we’ve had from “home” since we moved here, and they brought us wonderful things such as suntan lotion (without whitening!), Easter chocolates, and socks for Western feet.
But I would be lying if I didn’t confess their arrival into our lives was a veritable shock to the system. Suddenly, our cozy Japanese apartment felt quite crowded. Our fridge was once again too small; our personal space bubbles, which have expanded to adjust to Japanese social boundaries, violated. We were no longer responsible for only our own actions, our own socio-cultural crimes, and our own survival, but now had two other human beings to worry about. We were launched from the naive freedom of rookie status to the duty of expert status, relatively. Our honeymoon seemed to be, if not over, at least temporarily suspended.
What will happen to genkiduck’s marriage? Will her in-laws survive Japan, and will she survive her in-laws? Will this story end in melodramatic tragedy, or will there be a happy and enlightening ending? Stay tuned for the next episode of “The Parental Visitation” to find out!