They arrived at my door bowing and removing their shoes, the cameraman filming the greeting from the steps. The interviewer looked around the kitchen, exclaiming “Very beautiful home” in a stilted Japanese accent. The cameraman, his accent more American, put his camera down. “Can we do that again? I messed up. So sorry!” The welcome scene was repeated, awkward now, the interviewer unable to capture quite the same tone in his “very beautiful home!” I offered water, tea, but was politely turned down as they went about setting up their cameras and lights in the living room. The interviewer asked me if my daughter was home. He would like to interview her. I found her in her bedroom, still in pajamas. “No, I don’t want to. I’m not in the mood.” The Japanese crew kept asking, until I found myself begging her, strangely wanting to give the crew what they wanted. But she stood firm. I couldn’t blame her. We had already been through a long photo shoot for a magazine. Holding poses awkwardly, the kids rolling their eyes at each request for all of us to walk “naturally” down the path toward the camera. In the end, I reluctantly respected her wishes.
I don’t know why I accepted this interview request. I suppose I have been in the habit of accepting these media requests in an effort to get a positive message out there â€“ that grief isn’t all terrible if you make the choice to lean into its awakening properties. I hope to inspire with these interviews, to grasp one person by the hand and show them some light at the end of the tunnel. Japan offers a whole new audience, particularly after the country has suffered such incredible loss. I hoped that my tiny voice might offer solace.
My interview proceeded in the living room, the interviewer sometimes having to repeat his questions because he was difficult to understand. I wondered if they would dub my voice and how ridiculous I might sound. I mentioned that I taught at the Recovery cafe, and I was asked to call to see if we might be able to film there. I was embarrassed to make the call. I had no classes to teach until January, but the program director graciously accepted our last-minute request and an hour later I found myself in the midst of people who did not appreciate the cameras, who had to be assured that their faces would be blurred. An impromptu class was arranged and I found myself in a room with a group of people who until 5 minutes before had been trying to enjoy their lunch. I made the 30 minutes worth their while I hope, inspiring, without really setting out to do so. I spoke of loss, and how loss and addiction were strange bedfellows and could see lights turning on in their eyes. It was a pleasing moment amid a strange day.
Despite mentioning they rarely ate lunch I was treated to a sit down lunch at a restaurant, and we chatted a little about families and living in the US vs. Japan. I learned that the cameraman had lived in Seattle for 30 years.
What I thought would be a 2 hour interview was turning into a day-long event. It was nearing time to pick Carter up from Crew camp where he was enjoying his last day of rowing, a sport he has taken an interest in – a first. We arrived a little early and I suggested that perhaps they could take a shot of Carter’s boat coming into the dock. We asked permission from the counselors who suggested the crew go out in a launch to film. “No, no, I don’t think that is necessary I said to them. They can just film him as he arrives.” The counselor began telling me how much she enjoyed Carter and I didn’t see the Japanese crew get into the launch and speed away. They were gone for 45 minutes while I stood on the balcony trying to catch a glimpse and fretting that Carter would find the intrusion humiliating. I wasn’t wrong. I watched as his boat of eight got near enough to see and then saw Carter catch a crab, his oar sticking into the water so that every other rower was forced out of sync. How could he not be distracted?
Back on the dock, the camera crew waited as Carter’s boat arrived, standing behind me, hoping to catch some bizarre welcome when he saw me standing on the dock â€“ a hug or a wink, I have no idea what kind of delusion they were under. Carter wouldn’t even look at me. I knew he was humiliated and I chastised myself for letting this get too far. He was caught off guard, as was I. The happy Japanese-desired reunion between mother and son was not to be. Carter got to the car and slammed the door. I told the crew they wouldn’t be getting an interview with him. “I talk to him!” This was the producer, the one calling these intrusive shots. The Seattle cameraman slunked away, embarrassed as the producer knocked on the car door. “Just 3 minutes!” I heard him say.
On the drive home, Carter sobbed as the Japanese crew followed us in their van. “I hate your book! I hate you!” Who could blame him. “I am NOT talking to them again!” Carter dashed into the house the second we arrived, slamming his bedroom door so hard I could hear it from outside. I walked over to the van and told them that Carter wouldn’t be doing an interview, assuming they would leave. “We have just one more shot in the house” producer said. My body physically deflated. Perhaps I should have sent them on their way, but I didn’t. Instead, I found myself at my dining room table as they filmed me over my shoulder looking at a photo album, something I never do in my natural habitat. They made one Hail Mary request for Olivia and were refused. I was able to coax her down to meet them once the camera had been put away. Soon they were bowing deep before me, putting their shoes back on at the door and I was left to repair the invisible damage.
I am learning that sometimes offering a lifeline to others has its consequences.