Dear Ophelia… Morning beautiful! Miss Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, I wonder if you and mother went to Mister Donuts this morning… I wonder if you remember heading to Mr. Donuts over in Mishima just about every weekend when we lived in Numazu. We would jump in the big orange car and head off at about 9.15am. Usually we had to wait a minute or two for them to open up shop, right on 9.30am they would open (a full 30 minutes before everything else including the home centre & supermarket would open). We’d skip around waiting for them to open, enjoy a piggy-back, or a quick running race… you’d win every time!
Then we’d enter the Mister Donuts and you would take the tongs, and Dad would do his job of holding the tray. You’d ask me what I’d like, and you’d stand on your tippy toes and reach for the chosen donut. Most weeks you’d choose a cold kids’ milk, but sometimes you’d opt for hot milk. You would choose a table by the window and Dad would carry the tray over. Usually I had the blend coffee, in which case you would kindly pour in one sugar, and one cream. Then we’d eat our donuts, count our points and talk about what we might buy with our points. Oh, fun times Phi… what I would give to have just one more Saturday morning like that… just the two of us… happy & chatting, smiling & so comfortable with each other’s company.
You were always very cute, very helpful, and always smiling. I felt very proud to be your Dad, and I knew many people looked upon our relationship with envy.
At 10am the main shopping centre opened so we’d race in to beat the rush and do our grocery shopping. Sometimes Brenda & Allen and the family came, sometimes Pat, and if Nandee & Pa were in Japan, of course Pa wouldn’t miss a chance at a donut! But usually it was just you and me… such a special time.
After the shopping we’d often go to the home centre and check out the dogs, other times we’d go to Swen, the camping store and play around with the tents, hammocks, etc., and other times we’d go across the road to the park, especially in summer. I forget the name of the park, but it was where the spring water originating from Mount Fuji flowed to the surface. There were artificial streams for kids to splash around in, but the water was always the same temperature, COLD!
- In the summer of 2005 the two of us went to Hokkaido for 15 days. We put the big red car on the ferry from Niigata to Otaru and then camped our way around. Did you know that no part of Japan is more than 163km from the ocean? Did you know that we never had a car-navi… Dad was happy with his 100 yen map of Hokkaido!
- Favourite memory: looking after you when you were sick
Saturday, April 16th 2011
G’day Bella! Can you believe it, it’s 25 degrees, a beautiful Spring day at last! It’s been a long cruel winter, especially for the poor people suffering from the triple disaster up north in Tohoku. I’m sitting in a Starbucks by Yokohama Station drinking their terrible coffee. C should arrive shortly from her French class and then we’ll take lunch together, perhaps some Chinese. After lunch we’re planning on looking at apartments somewhere a little closer to Tokyo for C. At the moment she commutes 70 – 90 minutes door to door, depending on her connection; it’s too far and she arrives home exhausted, and late. Often it’s 8pm, but many times it’s later.
So, April 16th… 2011… by now you’re a third grader… I can’t believe it! Can you? It seems like last month I made the trip to Akitsu to watch your opening ceremony. It seems like only last year I would wake you & ready you for school… alas it’s not. Already you know your times table, division facts, number facts to 10,000 and a good deal of measurement based around the metric system… I just wish we spent more time with one another… gotta go, C is calling.
Love Dad… XoXo…
- Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now. Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time. So whatever you do, hold on to hope… I do… XoXo…
Tuesday, April 19th 2011
Dear Phi, I’ve just finished Skyping with Pat… oh, how she misses you. You were like a grandchild to her. Now she’s teaching in Cambodia, we Skype every few weeks. Each time we do, we chat about you. Sometimes I’m happy to reminisce, but sometimes I’m left feeling depressed because I inevitably begin thinking what might have been if we were still living together.
I hope your Mum realizes how lucky she is to be with you day and night, every day. Does she read to you? Does anyone read to you…
I look at your old favourites like The Cat in the Hat, Hairy MacLary, and The Fox & the Badger. What I would give to be able to read to you after your bath, to sing together, to tell you a story and talk about your day at school, your friends, your life…
The good news is that I talked with your Mum tonight and after some calm and gentle persuading, she seemed to think I could come out to Tokorozawa to have lunch with you on Saturday. I haven’t seen you since February 13th … too long to not see your beautiful smile! It’s time to tell you about C. I’ll bring some photos and hopefully, I can get you two together soon.
- Carpe deum… seize the day! (Dead Poets Society)
Friday, April 23rd 2011
Hey Phi, tomorrow we’re scheduled to meet at 11am in Tokorozawa. It’s Easter, so before lunch I propose an Easter egg hunt for the best little third grader on the planet! What do you think? Sounds like a plan, hey!? Last year we had so much fun, again we enjoyed our hunt in Tokorozawa at Koku Koen.
I’ve chosen three of your favourite books, so hopefully we’ll have time for a story. The weather forecast says rain, so keep your fingers’ crossed we’ll be able to hop around outside like bunnies!
Yesterday at school we had a group known as the Tokyo Austrian Ballet Company perform. Each year they put on their show in our auditorium for YIS and St. Maur. Yesterday’s performance was Nantoka no Taro. It’s the story of a boy who saves the life of a turtle. Like any good fable, the turtle becomes a woman, but it finishes rather tragically. Do you know the story? In any case, even the grade 5 boys gave it the thumbs up by virtue of the fact that they sat through the entire performance in silence! Wow! I know you and your friends would have loved it. I just wish you were sitting alongside the third graders at Saint Maur International School.
Love Dad… XoXo…
- As a man is, so is his enemy (unknown)
Saturday, April 23rd 2011
1.40pm… we’ve just said our goodbyes at Tokorozawa Station. Jiji came to pick you up. We shook hands and my eyes became a little teary as I walked away from you once again. It was good to see Jiji. Something inside me felt like he understood my pain.
I met you at Tokorozawa Station at 11am, but it was pouring down rain. Of course Dad had no umbrella, so we sheltered at the station for a moment brainstorming ideas for fun together. Quickly we decided we’d go bowling, so we jumped in a taxi and were at the lanes in just a few minutes. We played two games and you scored a 74 and an 85! Yes, you beat Dad… but that’s not hard.
After bowling, fortunately the rain had mostly disappeared, so we wandered for a bit, hopeful of finding a park for an Easter egg hunt. Finally we found a little corner park to hunt for choco eggs. The wind was howling and the rain never really stopped but we didn’t mind. We even had a laugh when your umbrella went for a fly of its own up with the birds. We raced after it and caught up with it some 50 metres away. Your umbrella was a little worse for wear, but we had a laugh anyway.
After hunting for eggs we found a nice little Italian restaurant and settled down to the lunch set. I was ever so proud of you and your manners. While waiting for our meal we watched Dad’s i-Movie featuring loads of video clips of you when you were younger. There are photos too and the i-Movie is played your favourite songs as background music. It’s the second time you’ve seen it and you seem to enjoy it.
It wasn’t long before our ren de vous with Jiji beckoned and we had to race back to the station. It was ever so nice to wander back to the station hand in hand with you, but it was all over so quickly… Fortunately Jiji was a little late so we had time for two stories: Never Ride an Elephant to School and Hairy Charlie and the Frog.
Thank you Phi for being my life, thank you for being my daughter, thank you for being you… you’re one of a kind!
Tonight Carlton play Adelaide in the footy. I told you and you asked are the Kiwis playing too. It was a great moment because we were both suddenly thinking of the evening we went to watch Australia vs. New Zealand in the rugby with Pat and Ms. Rawnsley (Sonia). Wish we could watch it together…XoXo…
Love Dad… Go Phi… Go Blues!
- Do you remember me being strict about routine? Getting into bed by 8pm even on weekends, brushing your teeth & hair every morning & evening… routines are good young lady… I hope you’re keeping them.
Friday, April 29th 2011
Good evening Phi. How’s trix in Tokorozawa? Today was Japanese Day at Saint Maur International School. I couldn’t help but think of you as you’re now a big third grader. Had you had started with me as planned at Saint Maur, you would have been finishing up in second grade with Evan & Tomoe, two very dedicated and inspiring teachers. Evan is new, around 30 and a real breath of fresh air. The kids love him and Tomoe’s gentleness & spunk bring a lot to Saint Maur. They would have made terrific teachers for you. If only… if only we could cycle to school together… I watched their class as they paraded around the gym in their Japanese costume. The students sang a song together, and as it was officially a public holiday in Japan, there were many parents in attendance.
Even Dad had a go on the microphone. I took the opportunity to thank the parents and students for their generosity in their support of our Tohoku Relief Fund. I told them about some of the activities and fundraisers happening around the school, and the news that Nakahama ES will feature on NHK the evening of Tuesday, May 10th. Will you be watching?
After morning recess, the parents of my students joined us and we made dango & soba together. I had never made dango before and I was surprised to see that the ingredients were just tofu and some rocky powder. We had a lovely time mashing it together, creating small balls, then boiling them for a couple of minutes.
For lunch we joined David and the other 4th grade class setting up our tables banquet style outside in the sunshine. It was another feel good day with so many nationalities embracing Japanese culture.
Wish you were with us Phi… take care, and love always… Dad.
- How healthy is healthy? I’ve made a few trips to health food stores, but I have always left empty handed, not because of any defect in the supplies, but in the customers. Did you ever see the people who shop in these places? They are pale, skinny people who shuffle around. They may live forever, but they look half dead (Bill Cosby)
Sunday, May 8th 2011
G’day Ophelia. How goes it in sunny Saitama??? It’s Mother’s Day today. I wonder if you made a card for Mum… I hope you all have a lovely day. The weather is perfect, perhaps 22 – 24 degrees Celsius and not a cloud in the sky. C & Dad are off to Chiba to see C’s Mum, buy her flowers, eat lunch together, and wish her well.
It’s been another busy week at school, writing reports, and organizing the Tohoku Relief Fund. We’re up to 4.6 million yen… the generosity from the community that is Saint Maur is amazing, don’t you think?
I called Nandee this morning to wish her Happy Mother’s Day. Richie and the gang were going to join them for lunch and last night Sean & Cate & the kids visited Nandee. Wish we could both be their with my mum… she misses you Phi… more than your know…
Anyway Bella, I’m thinking of you… XoXo.
Hey BTW, what about we rent a car this summer and head down to Shimoda! We used to go down there all the time from Numazu. We were a part of big family groups from Katoh, Troy & Aya, Pat, Bailey & Grace, Geoff and the gals… it was so much fun, and they were such HAPPY, happy days. Most of the day we’d skip through the shallow waves, build sandcastles, search for shells, grab an ice cream after lunch, and on the way home, we’d drop in for fish & chips at the East café (oh, they had the best fish), before taking the long winding road back to Numazu.
My beautiful, beautiful Phi, they were wonderful days, delightful memories… I will never give up on you… I miss you! Xoxo… Dad
- Do not educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy. That way when you get older you’ll know the value of things, not the price. In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile
Monday, May 16th 2011
Phew, what a week. Well now, where do I begin? Yesterday C & Dad moved into a new apartment. It’s a 10 minute walk from Myorenji Station on the Toyoku Line. It’s bigger, 75 square metres compared to 67, it’s newer, nicer, more open living area, and it’s miraculously cheaper, 120,000 yen compared to over 140,000 yen. The main reason it’s cheaper is because the owner is sure to be back in 2 years, so we’ll have to pack up and move on. But that doesn’t worry us at all, because we’re not too sure about where we’d like to live. We’re even thinking of moving overseas if things don’t work out well with your mother & the Family Court… would you visit us in Paris, Geneva, or London?
As much as I love to see you, your Mum makes the arrangements very difficult. If she kept her end of the agreement, and I saw you twice a month as the Family Court suggested, there is no way I would leave Japan and your side.
I miss my family, especially uncles Rich & Sean, and of course Kerry & Deirdre aren’t getting any younger. In fact Pa will be 70 next month, June 8th. So Australia is an option, but it’s important C has a job, so it’s more likely we’ll head for the excitement & adventure of Europe. C speaks French as well as English, and of course Japanese, so one of the big JP car or electrical manufacturers is a possibility for employment for her.
Back to Pa’s b’day. I would love your Mum to commit to you staying a week with me over the summer (as she agreed to in court), so I could fly Pa & Nandee here as a birthday present. We could go to Shimoda together, drop in on our friends in Numazu, and Nandee & Pa have never been to Disneyland. Wouldn’t you love to take Pa & Nandee to Disneyland??? There is nothing more in the world Pa wants than for his first and favourite grandchild to sit happily on his knee… and of course it would make Nandee so very, very happy too.
Love you Bella… XoXo… Dad.
- In times of prosperity, friends will be plenty; in times of adversity not one in twenty (unknown)
Saturday, May 21st 2011
Morning BEAUTIFUL! What a beautiful day you have for your Sports Festival. The news aboard the train stated it would be 26 in Yokohama and 28 in Saitama. I still can’t quite believe you’re in Grade 3.
Yesterday we had our Spring Concert. Again it was amazing, with the Second Graders stealing the show. They played a delightful percussion piece and sang two songs. There were two solo parts, and both students shone with voices like angels. Once again they looked the perfect fit for you. A smiling happy group of children from all over the world, with probably a third of them being kids from mixed marriages. Each time I see this class, I can’t help but think you were enrolled to learn beside them.
Gotta change trains, will write after your big day running, jumping & skipping…
…Well, Princess, I’m on the lonely road back to Yokohama. The morning started nicely as Yoko, then Yuta and I exchanged greetings. A few minutes later, Noribaba and I had a little chat, but your Mum just walked by ignoring me. I’m sorry Phi, I know it hurts you to read this, but I cannot understand your Mother’s cool & bitter manner toward me.
Today I watched delighted as you and your fellow Third Graders ran your three-legged race, then just before lunch you ran in the huge dice race. I took some video footage of you from afar, but that’s as close your Dad came to you today. I was hopeful your Mum might bring you over for a two-minute chat with me during the lunch break, but alas, I waited in vain. Why is she so cruel to me? We were once lovers, once married, once we shared dreams and secrets, we comforted each other, but now I sense something overwhelms the goodness inside her. I understand her taking me to Family Court to wrestle custody from me; it’s natural for a true mother to always be with her child. It’s also natural for a loving father to want to raise his only daughter. I don’t understand why she wishes to shut me out, her cruelty in continually preventing me from seeing you, and her formal cool letters addressed to someone she now refers to as “Morice.” It’s almost comical, if it didn’t hurt so much.
The most important thing is that you seemed to be enjoying yourself. From a distance I could see you flashing your Hollywood smile, jumping and frolicking like you would if you were jumping waves. I’m glad you’re happy, I truly am.
I miss you so much… when will we meet again? Dad… XoXo…
- Do you have a best friend Phi? A friend knows how to allow for mere quantity in your talk, and only replies to the quality (W.D. Howells)
Wednesday, May 25th 2011
Hi Phi. Less than a week to Dad’s 43rd birthday. Do you know what would be the best b’day present? A weekend with you would do the trick, the cream on the cake!
I’m still at school… Nandee & Pa have just mailed me with news that Japan has said it will sign the Hague Convention on cross-border custody disputes between parents. Japan is the only industrial nation that hasn’t joined the Hague pact which expedites access and custody. What this means is that I could have taken you back to Australia when I still had legal custody of you here in Japan. Having legal custody in Japan, would mean that Australia (as a signature to the Hague convention on child rights) recognizes that custody, as such legal custody would have carried over to Australia too. Even if your mother had gone to Australia and kidnapped you, under the Hague Convention on cross-border disputes, she would have had no legal standing in Australia or Japan (if Japan actually signs). But as it still stands, i.e., Japan is yet to sign, your Mum could have taken you from me, come back to Japan and started legal proceedings here, and I wouldn’t have had a chance, because the courts here always favour the Japanese guardian, in particular the mother.
At the time we were in court, my lawyer said that one of my options while I still had custody, was to take you back to Australia. But I would have been forever fearful that your mother would have one day walked up to the school gate and abducted you. The biggest loser in such a scenario would have been you, so I never entertained the idea. It was never an option. Even if I were to lose, which I naturally did, I relied and believed in the goodwill of your mother and the Family Court… how wrong I was…
Instead I placed my faith in the Japanese legal system, and my belief that your mother wanted what was best for you. Of course she was determined to take custody, but I believed she would never try and cut me from your life. How wrong I have been. I’ve lost so much faith & confidence in myself, in love, and in officialdom.
I’ve asked your mother about our time together this summer, 7 days as the court specified, but already she has started with the excuses for why this cannot happen. Each month I am supposed to see you twice, once for a sleepover, once a lunch (short visit). Thus far this year you’ve slept over once… one night in five long months.
Shouldn’t it be me who is bitter, shifty, and unable to communicate? Why is she so twisted and cool in her communication with me?
I wish you could have seen us when we were happy. There weren’t many happy times, but we did share some happier moments.
Your loving Dad,
- You love fish ‘n’ chips. When we celebrated Christmas in Oz we had fish ‘n’ chips down at Barwon Heads with your cousins. You were quite concerned that Allie & Luca wouldn’t eat any salad
- People say I have blue eyes; I think they’re more gray than blue. They’re as big as your own beautiful eyes, but not as big as the record eye diameter of the Atlantic giant squid: 50cm
Friday, June 17th 2011
Hey Phi, ready to be embarrassed by your Dad dancing on stage again??? AKB48 video, revive the memories! Go on, click the link! It’s worth a laugh… and yes, Dad can still do a decent handstand!
Hey beautiful. I spoke with your Mother tonight, but she hung up on me when I insisted I wanted to see you tomorrow. It’s almost 2 months since we’ve had any time together (April 23rd), so I was bolder, and more persistent, and I guess a little less patient than I normally try to be with your Mother. I questioned her about her non-support of our father-daughter relationship, and begged her to imagine what it was like to be separated from your blood, your soul, your daughter.
She told me to ask you about whether you want to see me, but she wouldn’t let me talk to you. I told her that it was ridiculous to ask you such a question, because it only placed you under enormous pressure to side with one of us. You should never have to side with anybody, especially one parent over another. We both love you, it’s simple, you should be showered in unconditional love. But I’m afraid your Mother, with all her insecurities will try and frame an answer in your head when I ask about a movie on the couch with popcorn and Dad, a day at the beach frolicking in the waves, or shouting for joy together on a rollercoaster.
Anyway Beautiful, one day, you’ll be old enough to come to Dad’s house alone, and nobody will be able to pressure you into saying something that pains your heart, and tortures your soul late at night. I hope you’re okay. I love you, no matter what happens… I always will love you, no matter what happens… LOVE Dad… XoXo…
- If I had the choice of betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country (E. M. Forster)
Tuesday, June 21st 2011
Evening my innocent, beautiful daughter. I just spoke with you. It’s been at least 2 weeks since we’ve spoken. You seemed happy, and though our conversation was short and sweet, your English seemed surprisingly good. I told you that Ralph had arrived from Australia, and that he was keen to see you. You seemed genuinely excited as I spoke about a gourmet curry of Dad’s, a splash at the pool, but then you said, “I’ll think about it.” I almost giggled, because I teach kids day in and day out, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a kid saying, I’ll think about it. It sounds a like an adult’s aversion to a question, a lot like your Mother might say.
BTW, your Mother emailed me on June 6th. She hinted that it would be increasingly difficult for me to see you…
I’ll let you read it:
It would be a delight to host Ophelia the final weekend in June, the 25th & 26th.
Yes, I’ll ask Ophelia if she would like to join me in Yokohama, go to the pool, visit our friends in Numazu, etc. As a parent and as Ophelia’s Mother, you surely realise how special our daughter is, and of course you must empathise with my feelings of loss. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I could read her a story, eat dinner with her and chat about her day at school, or at a friend’s place. I know you’ll do all you can to ensure Ophelia feels comfortable and at peace with both her parents, and is extended the chance & gift of bilingualism.
I’m not sure why you didn’t receive my email detailing my holiday dates, so I’ve copied and pasted the message I sent to you on May 29, 2011. As you can see, just like the past two years I return to school on Monday, August 22nd. I understand you have plans to enjoy a summer break during August, but I’m not asking for much, just a few days to spend some quality time with my daughter.
Thanking you in anticipation,
|Frm:||Gerard Morice (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Sent:||Sunday, May 29, 2011 11:11:20 AM|
I’ll be gone from Japan from Saturday, July 2nd to Sunday July 31st. I return to school Monday, August 22nd.
Could Ophelia PLEASE stay over one night in June before I depart, and then as the court recommended could I PLEASE look after her for a few days in August before I go back to school.
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2011 14:17:44 +0900
I’m okay… I just hope you’re not hurting. I don’t know how old you are as you read these letters. You take care, I’m going to have a glass of wine and cook some dinner… would you like some?
- If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins them (Francis Bacon)
Sunday, June 26th 2011
Hello, hello, hello,
We’ll what a cracker weekend! Ralph arrived Saturday, June 25th, 2011 midday and we raced into Tokyo to meet C for French crepes in Omotesando… delicious! After lunch we did a little tourist shopping with Ralph, visiting Harajuku and Meiji Shrine, then headed to Ikebukuro to meet you, yes, YOU at 5.30pm! I couldn’t quite believe I was seeing you! It’s been so long since I twirled you around!
A few butterflies for Dad, as it was to be the inaugural meeting of Princess Ophelia and my Parisian Geisha, C.
Once again you were amazing! Your politeness, friendliness & warmth is gorgeous. It was hot in the kitchen, and Ralph & C were cooking up a storm. Kindly you maneuvered the fan so as it would push cool air through to the kitchen. It was a moment of pride for Dad. You wriggled yourself into the kitchen and made yourself useful transporting dishes and cups to the dinner table. Oh, I’m ever so proud of you… XXXX…
After dinner we sat in the Sky Lounge and watched Mulan, C’s and your choice. Ice cream and pudding in your favourite spot, the bean bag, and you seemed as happy as a pig in mud. Before lights out, we had 2 books in bed.
In the morning you helped me make waffles with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, banana and even some mango… mMmM!!! C did the dishes and we emptied all the duplo lego over the rug and created a zoo. Loads of imaginary play and all in English. Time flew, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Ikebukuro to meet your Mother at 1pm.
Thank you for being you Ms. Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice. I’m ever so proud of you!
Dad… XoXo… until we meet again…