Communications have been reduced to spotty, secondhand updates. However, my family – the former Nakashima quartet – has been friends with the Matsumoto tribe forever. There are seven children in that clan, all smart and decent with good senses of humor. The youngest is exactly my age. We were playmates as 3-year-olds, classmates through the 12th grade.
Thirty-plus years ago, I was a high school senior ready for college. My father was apprehensive; and by apprehensive, I mean panic-stricken. The university I had chosen to attend was too far, too expensive, too out of range on a number of fronts to be suitable for consideration. He hadn’t finished high school himself, and had never taken out a loan in his entire life – not for a home, not for a car, not even for small, personal use.
My father ruled his roost with complete and explicit authority but had ironically raised a somewhat stubborn and persistent daughter. With neither side willing to cave on the issue, we quickly arrived at an impasse, sending my father to consult with the Matsumotos. They lived in the same neighborhood, shared similar values and had already sent six off to college to various institutions throughout the state. On this matter in particular, they embodied an authenticity and credibility my father could trust.
Long story short, it was Mrs. Matsumoto who convinced my father to let me go. Since then, I have credited her with helping me obtain my education and one of the most joyful, useful, game-changing experiences of my life. Truthfully, I probably would have gotten there anyway – rebellious and headstrong with gallons of bad blood trailing behind me. But when I arrived on campus in my freshman year that fall, I arrived with permission and blessing. And that made all the difference.
I doubt Mrs. Matsumoto knew at the time that she would have this kind of impact on my life. I’m sure she was just trying to be reasonable and helpful when called upon. And though I didn’t have the wisdom to recognize it before he died, I can now see that my father was the conduit – not the stumbling block – to my ambitions. After all, he could have easily sat in the comfort of his own home with a big, fat “No” tattooed across his face, and the family wouldn’t have done a thing about it. But he chose to venture outside his ken, I believe searching for a “Yes” – consent he couldn’t offer without guidance on just how to do that.
Mrs. Matsumoto passed away last month. In her honor, during the normally frenetic year-end holiday delirium, I slowed down a bit to feel gratitude for serendipity and small kindnesses. Life is such a wonder: A person who contributes in even the smallest way can still manage to plant some pretty miraculous seeds.
This year, I really hope I’ve dropped a few myself, somewhere, sometime, in whatever way I was called upon to do so. Turnabout is, after all, fair play.
Thank you, Mrs. Matsumoto, forever.
Thanks to Daddy, too.