It’s the Christmas season and it’s impossible to turn around in Tokyo without bumping into another Santa Claus or holiday light display. The Japanese, the most famous consumers on Earth, embrace this holiday like no one else. They don’t pretend that it’s a religious holiday. Not for a minute. Tis the season to SHOP. And boy do they ever. We kicked off the holiday celebration with Annie’s Tokyo stage debut in Mrs. Bob Cratchitt’s Wild Christmas Binge. The theater group is the longest English language theater group in Japan (having been around for over 100 years). This season’s choice of play was a parody on A Christmas Carol and it was definitely a twisted version of the Dickens classic. Annie spent the last two months at rehearsals Friday – Monday, racking up hours upon hours in the theater. By the end, I have to admit she’d about had it. The play was actually a bit anti-climatic for her. But, she stuck with it and I was very happy to see the end result. She was terrific. Absolutely NO stage fright which was amazing to me. A few days later Thomas Jr. turned 18. That is a very small statement that had a very big impact. I spent the day in a state of amazement. It was like winning a gold medal. I successfully raised my first child to adulthood. Woohoo! It was a big relief that lasted for about a day and then the college applications beckoned. However, for that one day, we celebrated together by eating teppanyaki in Tom’s favorite restaurant and gorging on a big fat chocolate cake that the American Club made for him. It had buttercream frosting and tasted like a real cake you would find in a bakery back home (this is a big deal – good desserts are very hard to find in Japan). We ate every bit of it. I hosted an “Office Ladies (OL)” holiday party for my girlfriends, bringing a holiday favorite from back home to Japan. There were 12 of us at my dining room table and we ate, drank and laughed from noon until the last guests left around 10 at night. It was a real treat. This past weekend, the last Saturday night before everyone takes off for places far and farther, my friends and I dressed in our best 80’s garb and danced until dawn (well, 11:45) inside a hip clothing store in Tokyo Midtown. The sounds of Michael, Madonna, Wham and Donna Summer brought us back to our earlier days and we hardly left the dance floor (except to refill our glasses with Veuve – the only thing they had to drink besides water). The end of this week brings us to the deadline for Thomas’ college application and Tom, Thomas and I have been spending a good deal of time going over all of them with an eagle eye. No matter where he gets in, I’m sure he’ll be happy. How could he not, 9 out of the 10 schools are in Southern California. On Friday evening, we leave for the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand); a trip many months in the planning. I am trying not to have too many expectations but it’s hard not to. Everyone whose been, raves about it. I will keep my expectations to myself but I am very excited. I wish all my friends and family near and far the very best that the holiday season can bring and please know that you are all in our hearts and our thoughts. We miss you. See you in 2010.