- Yurina Yoshikawa holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University and teaches fiction and non-fiction writing at The Porch Writers’ Collective.
A few weeks ago, my husband found a fancy travel crib online that folded up into a backpack and met the airlines’ carry-on restrictions. We have two sons, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and we were planning on traveling to Tokyo for Christmas.
Our youngest son was born in May 2020, and he has never set foot outside of Nashville due to the pandemic. This baby is a good sleeper—but his older brother is not.
Although we have tried every trick in the book, our three-year-old can only fall asleep sandwiched between me and my husband on what used to be the parents-only queen-size bed. I wake up most mornings with his feet on my face.
So when I imagined what it would be like to travel internationally with these two children, I knew we had to invest in this travel crib.
Around the time the travel crib arrived, the Omicron variant was discovered and the Japanese government closed its borders to non-citizens—including my Japanese-American husband.
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COVID-19’s impact on my family’s travel plans to Japan
I am a Japanese citizen, and our boys have dual citizenship— which meant that the three of us could still use our tickets and go to Tokyo. Again, I tried to imagine the trip: the travel crib on my back and the boys on the double-stroller. The three of us squeezing into an Economy Class bathroom. It was possible—but unfathomable.
The last time I was in Tokyo, I was pregnant with our second son around Christmas-time in 2019. We spent most of our time with my parents in their little apartment with their two Yorkshire terriers.
We were noisy and happy. My mother, who had been battling breast cancer for years, pressed her hand on my belly and said, “I can’t wait to meet you soon.”
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My mother watched my belly grow bigger through photos posted on our shared Google Album. We video-chatted almost every day on our smartphones.
After the baby was born, we continued to be in each other’s lives using every digital possibility, all the way up to her quiet death in December 2020. She lay on the couch where we’d sat side by side just the year before. I said goodbye as my father held his smartphone to her face.
As I contemplated what this trip would mean for me this year, I thought about hugging my father for the first time since my mother passed, and the ways her old clothes would feel on my fingers. I also thought about what I would leave behind, and what my mother would have done in my shoes.
In the summer of 2020, I insisted that I visit my mother, and she firmly but compassionately told me not to. The trip would have been risky with a newborn even before the pandemic.
“Plus,” she said, “we know how to do this.” We knew how to love each other across the globe. So, I stayed put here in Nashville with my family.
My father was supportive and I was going to try again whenever the travel ban is lifted in Japan. By then, who knows what the world will look like. The baby will continue to grow. Still, I hesitate to return the travel crib—just in case.
Yurina Yoshikawa holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University and teaches fiction and non-fiction writing at The Porch Writers’ Collective. Her writing has appeared in The Pinch, The New Inquiry, Hyphen Magazine, and elsewhere. She was the winner of the 2020 Tennessee True Stories Contest and a 2021 recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission. She lives in Nashville with her husband and two sons.