Kim oh-no

The Next Family

By:  Tosha Woronov


It’s 4am on a Wednesday night – err, Thursday morning, and I am up studying –cramming -for my BIG KIMONO presentation tomorrow at Leo’s preschool.

Yeah, that’s right. I am freaking out about having to speak before 4 and 5-year olds.
My insecurity has fallen to a new low.

Leo goes to a Montessori where the kids take yoga, cooking, French, music, drama, etc., all as part of the daily curriculum (music and Spanish on Mondays, art and gymnastics on Tuesdays…). And because it’s so sweet and done with such joy, it isn’t the kind of pretentious place that would normally make me gag or roll my eyes.

The annual Multicultural Fair is next week, and it’s a BIG DEAL. For a whole “semester”, the kids learn about the continents while incorporating a particular country or region into the normal curriculum (make quesadilla, paint a Frida Khalo). All season long, parents are invited to give mini presentations on various cultural traditions. One mom henna’d the teachers’ hands, another passed out dreidels. The whole celebration culminates in a multicultural potluck and gallery showing of the children’s artwork.

This is our 3rd and final year with the school, and I had yet to sign up for multicultural month. Don’t get the wrong idea. I volunteer like crazy, but it’s always behind-the-scenes stuff: going to the flower market, painting the backdrop for the winter show, bringing juice boxes for harvest festival lunch, donating Leo’s new-ish basketball hoop and a few soccer balls, etc. I will not be the head of any Winter Show committee; I’m more comfortable at the minion level.

So to give an ACTUAL presentation? Me? Not so much. I get nervous. I sweat. If I know I’m to be around a group of people, for any type of reason, I will choose to wear a tank top in January because of the fear of lip sweat. I also talk fast. Really really really reallyreallyannoyingly fast, even though in my head, I sound perfectly articulate and well-spoken. I will be at a birthday party, and watch in amazement as other moms –each wearing some combination of a sweater, jacket, scarf, and a woolen beanie–not only enunciate their words, but do so while completely sweat-free.

But this is the year of the Tiger (go get ‘em and all that); I’m too old to be such a freak (I mean really, Tosha, pull it together); life is fun and worth every nervous butterfly; it’ll be great; it’s for Leo and …THEY ARE ONLY 5 YEARS OLD!

So I volunteered. My grandmother was Japanese, which makes me ¼ Japanese, but more importantly, Leo 1/8th. Grandma shared with me as much of her Japanese culture as she could, and apparently, I am one of the few grandchildren who really cared about that stuff while she was alive.  Once she passed, well, we ALL miss her, and we ALL want her egg rolls, and sushi; we miss her so much we might even be willing to try the Mega-Japanese funky food she made just for herself. We, her ½ and ¼-only Japanese progeny, could not believe the stuff she “cooked”. Live octopus and peacock eggs and I don’t know what else. She even had a separate refrigerator in the kitchen! It was right across from Grandpa’s / Everyone Else’s, which was stocked with bacon and whole milk and ketchup and grape jelly, and all the other stuff an old Iowa farm boy would have loved (different mustards. He loved different types of mustards). Grandma’s fridge held- Get out glandma’s flidge!

She was the best. She was creative, and funny, and kind of grumpy in a way that wasn’t really grumpy at all.  She would stuff a $20 bill in my pocket during a hug. She stayed up all night making beautiful (and sometimes weird) Japanese crafts – paper flowers, beaded ornaments.

When I was a teenager she gave me 2 kimonos and an elaborate and gorgeous brocade obi, and funny white “Tabi” socks, which have a big toe in them and about 15 metal snaps. I thought it would be nice to show the kids how to properly put on the kimono (“Kitsuke” – noun. The study of wearing kimono), and so I tossed off an email to the school a few weeks’ ago:

“Hi there! I would love to do a presentation on how to put on a kimono. Is that something that might interest the kids for the multicultural celebration? I am a kimono expert. I am wearing one right now! So is Peter! So is Leo! I am a certified kitsuke teacher. Or Master. Or Mastress. Please let me know what dates work for the school. Domo Arigato, Tosha (Leo’s Mom), Room 2.”

You saw this coming: I don’t know how to put on an f-ing kimono!! I never have! Grandma, pleeeeeease help me remember! All I can recall is me at 16, standing very still for a very very long time (I started to faint, and sweat), as you knotted and tied -rigorously tied -and pulled, and molded, and shaped into artwork this wicked long piece of fabric (“Obi” –noun. The long belt used to fasten and decorate a kimono. Japan.) around and around and around my body. Aunt Gracie and I just giggling! over your cute accent (“Wha?! Wa’s so funny?”).

And now I’m 37 years old grandma, and I have a baby – he’s 5, I wish you could have met him (you missed each other by about 6 months), and he needs me to NOT be a total freak tomorrow. He is excited about it – still young enough to be happy that I’m coming to his school, rather than mortified by the thought. He gets to help pass out the little take-home gifts I got for each child – gorgeous kimono bookmarks ordered straight from Japan.

Thanks to the internet, and YouTube in particular, I have been able to pull together a pretty shoddy idea of how to do this. I also learned some interesting facts to tell the kids (There are more than 400 ways to tie an obi! And Leo’s mommy cannot do…ONE!).

But I wish more than anything you were here, Grandma. So we could go out there, you and me, me as your sweaty dummy-model, and you with your perfect skin, and tiny frame, and grace, and adorable-ness, and together we could teach these kids a little somethin’.

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