TITLE: Home Base
GENRE: Contemporary YA
As soon as the plane touches down at Awa Dance Airport, I feel my shoulders relax. Up until now, I hadn’t even realized that they were tense. Twenty-four hours ago, I was all bummed out about leaving my teammates – my “homies” – in Atlanta, disappointed that I wouldn’t be hanging out with Rico and Jamal anymore, and that I wouldn’t be third batter in the season opener.
But now, after three years in America, I’m back in Tokushima. I’m home. And even though I’ve never been to this brand-new airport before, everything looks familiar – the islands off in the distance, the palm trees waving “hello,” the flight attendants bowing as Okaasan, my sister, and I gather up our stuff and get off the plane.
I stride down the gangway, my duffel bag bouncing against my hip. I should be tired, what with the fourteen hour time difference and not sleeping on the plane, but I’m not. I could sprint to Baggage Claim, if I wanted to. I could hit a ball clear across the runway.
Momoko stumbles along behind me. She made a lot of friends in America, so she was really sad about leaving – maybe the saddest of all of us. Nobody ever tried to beat her up over there. She cried during half the flight. During the other half, she was writing in her polka dot-covered diary, or flipping through photos in this little album she had, no doubt reliving her glory days as Elementary School Science Fair Winner.
Just ahead, there’s a guy in a navy suit, chattering into his cell phone. To my left, a young mother talks to her little girl. And then there’s some sort of high school sports team, everyone in matching jackets, coming back to Tokushima from a tournament in Tokyo, I guess, and they’re all jabbering away in the local dialect. The weird thing is that I understand what they’re saying. Every single word.
I learned to speak English pretty well in America – better than Okaasan, almost as well as my brainiac sister and Otosan – but I still missed a lot of words. Even when people spoke loudly, as if I was deaf, or super slow, I only understood about seventy percent. I kinda got used to not understanding, so this is nice, for a change.
We go down the escalator to get our suitcases, and then through sliding glass doors, into the Arrivals lobby, where there’s a huge mural of festival dancers in pink summer kimono on the wall.
“Okaerinasai!” Welcome home! Otosan is right there to greet us. He doesn’t hug us or anything. Nobody hugs in Japan. But he smiles, and reaches out for Okaasan’s bags.
He came back a couple weeks ahead of us. Momoko and I wanted to stay in American school until spring break. That means we’ve already missed the entrance ceremonies at our new schools here in Japan. But it’s no big deal. Everybody’s Japanese here, so we’ll fit right in.
“Where’s Ojiisan?” I ask, looking around for my grandfather. I figured he’d be all anxious to see us. We live in the same house, so it’s not like my dad would have had to go out of his way to pick him up.