When The Daily Post‘s prompt asked me to dig around and look at the date on the first coin I came across, then write about what I was doing in that year, I figured I’d get around to it eventually. However, I was cleaning out the backpack I’d used over the weekend and buried deep in the front pocket I found a Japanese five-yen piece. I’d forgotten the coin was in there, a remnant of my climb up Mt. Fuji three years ago–it had come into my possession as change when I purchased my climbing stick at the base station. Later, I learned that five-yen coins are considered lucky because the Japanese pronunciation of the coin’s denomination “go en” is the same as the pronunciation of one of the numerous phrases that mean good luck. Considering the coin had seen me through the arduous climb up Mt. Fuji and the even more harrowing descent, I decided maybe there was some truth to its lucky powers and left it in the backpack for future travels. The thing is, when I pulled it out today, I couldn’t find a date. That’s because the go en is the only Japanese coin that doesn’t use an Arabic date–it is still stamped with the nengo dating system, consisting of the name of the reigning emperor and the year within his reign that the coin was minted. After a Google search and a bit of decoding, I discovered my coin was struck in the Heisei period, in the second year of Emperor Akihito’s reign–1990.
The inaugural year of the 90s was an important one for me. The beginning of the year saw me in the middle of my senior year of high school, flying high after receiving the acceptance letter from my first (and only) college choice. I was editing the high school newspaper, forging through AP classes, perfecting my driving skills, spending hours on the phone (remember how we communicated in the days before the internet?), hanging out with friends…typical teenage pursuits. Things weren’t all sunshine and roses though, as my grandfather in Virginia was fighting a losing battle with lung cancer. He passed away on June 1, my first experience with death coming just days before my graduation. In the midst of my family’s sorrow, we found out that my dad’s job in New Hampshire was at its end, and his company would be relocating us before the fall. Whenever I wasn’t at work that summer, I was sorting out which of my possessions would go with me to college in Virginia and which would go on the moving van to the new house in Texas. All of my college-bound junk was loaded into the family car in early August, along with the vacation gear we’d need for a week-long family reunion in the Outer Banks, NC, in the same spacious house that we’d shared with my grandfather the previous summer. While sixteen of us tried to enjoy our time together, I felt sadness for our family’s loss warring with nervousness about my upcoming boot from the nest, and under it all, a sense of mourning for the impending demise of my childhood.
The first semester of my freshman year passed in a flurry, marked by bonding with roommates (easier than expected for a girl who’d never shared a room before), making new friends, avoiding the freshman fifteen in the buffet lines of the dining hall, truly studying for the first time in my school career, taking sole responsibility for my own laundry, shopping, budget, and curfew, and counting down the days until Christmas break, when I’d be able to fly to my new, as yet unseen, home in Texas. On the ride from the airport, across the dark flat plains outside Fort Worth, I shared with my parents the pride I felt at having successfully navigated the first four months of my independence. In my new bedroom I found a small stuffed panda sporting a sign hand-written in my dad’s block letters, “Welcome home, Michelle. We have missed you!” A flood of love and relief overwhelmed me as I was accepted back into the family fold.