speed limit, originally uploaded by icecream ivy.


Last July, my mother flew to Okinawa to hold my hand through Henry’s newborn days. Meals were prepared. Messes were cleaned. Laundry folded. Diapers changed. Pep talks given. Sleep granted.
It was magical.

But it was even more magical for Maltsby, our dog. My mother walks in a serious fashion. Like for hours. And Maltsby had the pleasure of joining her. His allegiance and love quickly shifted to her. Fickle beast.

One day she had been gone for two hours and it occurred to me that she did not have my address, my phone number, money or a cell phone. And it was hot. And much time had passed. So I nursed and cleaned spit-up and attended to the rigors of newborn life. I probably worried for a minute or two.

So, yes, AT LONG LAST, she returned unharmed and sweaty with a hand-drawn map from a Japanese policeman. She had gotten lost because Route 30 never led her back to my house as she had planned.

Because there is no Route 30. Because that sign she followed is a speed limit.

Every one of those signs reminds me how out of sorts and illiterate and foreign and upside down life can be here or anywhere new. And how it all ends and everywhere becomes home eventually.

This July brings me to almost two years on Okinawa and I’m finally at home here. Not forever, but for now.


  1. Meredith – Can I tell you that when we lived in Germany and my daughter was just six months old, my mom came over to visit. She and I got into an argument and my mom decided to take a walk to cool down, taking our dog with her. Two hours later she still hadn’t returned and it was getting dark. I’m not a worrier but it occurred to me, too, that she hadn’t the slightest idea what our phone number was, what the name of our small village was, and couldn’t have begun to pronounce our street name (Lutzmannsteinerstrasse. Nummer fier.) Nor did she speak a lick of passable German. Eventually she returned, explaining that she walked until she was tired, and only then remembered that she had to walk the entire way back to my house. I could have communicated and gotten home, because that WAS my home, but my mom was a complete foreigner. Funny how we adapt, huh?

  2. Mere! This really brings back memories of Ryan’s newborn days too. My last July was eerily similar to yours except that my mom didn’t really do diapers. I can’t say I blame her! But otherwise it was like having an elf in the house! I would go to sleep with piles of unfolded laundry strewn all over the couch. A little bit of shuteye later and POOF! everything was miraculously folded.