The year was 2003. Bob and I had just fully renovated a perfect “empty nester” house in Southwest Connecticut where we expected to spend our retirement years Four of our kids were married and we had six adorable grandchildren scattered around the USA. Our youngest daughter was in her sophomore year at Boston College, happily living the college dream. I had resigned from an incredibly stressful and demanding job, managing two large real estate offices with more than 70 independent real estate agents. Things were really looking great – I had returned to sales with a very low-key approach and finally had time to resume serious work at the piano. My first career had been devoted to early childhood music education, so I was at last getting back to what I had trained to do. Time to practice every day – Yay hurray!
And then – Bob came home from work and said, “The Company (Steinway & Sons) wants me to move to Tokyo to help establish Steinway & Sons, Far East”. Oh really, says me. I had certainly heard hints of this before, but honestly didn’t believe it would happen. My immediate thoughts were, “what on earth will I be able to do in Tokyo?” Self-centered, I admit, but after 36 years of motherhood and 25 years establishing a successful career in real estate, the title of “Trailing Spouse” didn’t resonate with me! I needn’t explain here that my protest movement was short-lived. Did I mention that Bob has a history in sales and marketing?
We arrived Tokyo in July 2003, found a wonderful apartment convenient to Tokyo American Club, returned to the USA to wrap up some business matters, and went back to Tokyo in September 2003. It was now time to try and answer the question you see in the previous paragraph. What on earth would I do now? Any experienced expat wife could have told me that Tokyo is the very best place for a bewildered trailing spouse. Meet just one neighbor who will take your hand, introduce you to her friends, tell you about the wonderful possibilities to be found in College Women’s Association of Japan, and you’re off and running! My instincts were to say “Yes!” when any opportunity came along, so I wound up at a CWAJ event in the Fall of 2003, surveyed the displays of the SIGs, Print Show and VVI, and quickly identified the Reading Group as my starting point. The rest, you might say, was predictable. One thing led to another and a friend who was repatriating asked if I would complete her term on the Board as VP, Member Activities (I think that was the then-title). The next year I was nominated to be Parliamentarian, and then in 2007 and 2008 I was honored to serve as President.
It is no exaggeration to say that CWAJ really defined my experience in Japan. The learning opportunities never ended and I remain staggered by the patience, generosity and tolerance of my Japanese colleagues. We tackled some big projects and made some major changes, driven by the emergence of technology. I’m delighted to be writing 15 years later for the online newsletter, which now features CWAJ’s Overseas Members. I was there at its birth!
The best part of all is the continuing connection to friends from my Tokyo years. I now know that it was only through working on committees and the Board that these relationships developed. I’ve had some wonderful connections emerge, thanks to CWAJ.
Soon after our arrival in our new hometown, (Sarasota, Florida), we took a trolley tour of historical sites around town. As we waited for the excursion to begin, a gentleman in the next seat turned and asked where we came from. As usual, we said, “well, it’s complicated,” and then went on to list our recent addresses. When we mentioned Tokyo, he spun around and said – “we lived in Tokyo!” At the end of the trolley tour, of course we stopped to visit with this couple, and wouldn’t you know – she had been Print Show co-chair in the late ‘80s and I promptly recruited her to sign up as an Overseas Member. Nancy and Guy DiCicco have become good friends! Another great connection has been meeting the first curator of the Asian Art Museum (part of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota) and learning that her career launched after going to Japan as a teacher of English and becoming interested in Japanese arts. After returning to Sydney, Australia, she received a PhD in Japanese Art History. When I asked Rhiannon if she knew of our Print Show, the answer was – “Of course! Everyone interested in Japanese art knows about the Print Show!” I have happily donated all of my Print Show catalogues to her and she looks forward to receiving the latest one each year.
CWAJ is the gift that keeps on giving. Keep up the great work, dear ladies!!