I was lucky to have my obachan, my Japanese grandmother, live with us for extended stretches of time while I was growing up. We sang Japanese nursery rhymes, rolled sushi for lunch, played cat’s cradle and folded sheet after sheet of paper into origami frogs, balloons and cranes.
Those origami cranes became my trademark. They decorated my bedroom in multiple colors and sizes, the ultimate “cool” when you’re 10 years old. A decade later, they were a silly party trick I performed to impress new friends.
One of those new friends was so impressed that he ended up sticking around—and I folded one thousand of those cranes for our wedding. This tradition, senbazuru, brings one thousand years of love and prosperity to the couple. Folding one thousand cranes also supposedly grants one wish to the person who toiled over each fold.
While I was pregnant with our daughter, Leila, I folded two dozen more cranes. Each fold was accompanied by a kick inside my growing belly. I crafted a mobile out of the cranes and hung it over the rocking chair in her room.
From the first few days of her life, I held that sweet baby girl in my arms, rocking and nursing her. Ever alert, Leila gazed at the birds as they circled and swirled above her. At bedtime, I sang her the same nursery rhymes I learned from my grandmother.
Our family made an unexpected move not long after Leila was born. We had to abandon the nursery we had so diligently worked on before her arrival and her room in the new house never got much attention.
A few months ago, I convinced my husband that Leila—nearing her third birthday—needed to be moved out of her crib. I wanted to give her a “big-girl” bed and her own space. While she was away at Grandma’s one weekend, we tackled the project of redoing Leila’s room.
At Leila’s insistence, we painted the walls pink. I struggled with bedding, attempting to strike a balance between mother’s and daughter’s tastes. I dusted off my sewing machine and created the drapes I envisioned but couldn’t find in stores. We moved the rocking chair out of the bedroom.
Moments before we opened the door for the big reveal, I hung the crane mobile above her new bed.
As Leila lies in her new bed, the cranes float above her as she drifts off to sleep. She may not know that these birds represent all of the hopes and dreams I have for her future—the same hopes and dreams my obachan had for me. But as Leila grows up, I can only wish she has hopes and dreams for herself.