435. Yushi


Many years ago, let’s see, eleven? maybe, my daughter Grace came home from high school in the beginning of her senior year, like October or early November. She talked about this adorable Japanese exchange student at her school who was living with an old bachelor. The old guy didn’t do much for the boy, named Yushi. Grace made her case like the lawyer she would go on to become. She laid out the fact that we had room to spare since our oldest daughter was in her senior year of college in Philadelphia. It would not cost us anything, and he’d be easy to manage. “He’s so cute and shy.” Overall her description fit that of a fuzzy puppy, the cuddly, snuggly, no maintenance breed, you know, like a stuffed animal. My youngest daughter was okay with having a boy live with us, so we opened our home and family to Yushi.

I met him for the first time in early November. Our church was doing its annual Christmas cantata/play. Somehow I was asked to be the narrator, so I wore a deep red shirt with a Christmas tie with three kings and a pair of aces on it. After the 7 pm show, I was introduced to Yushi. He immediately assumed that I was the senior pastor, because, well, who else would narrate the Christmas cantata/play? “Harro, Missa Burrito. Nicesa meet you.”

Yush was lonely. There were no other Japanese in the school and very few Asians. Eventually he hooked up with Jay, a Korean exchange student from another school. Jay’s English was demonstrably better than Yushi’s, and he was not as inhibited as Yush.  Yush had an English/Japanese translator gadget that he often turned to; however, most of the time he would simply smile as he fumbled for an English word and then surrender with his out pitch, “Sumsing”. Yush quit sentences with “sumsing” so many times that our family began to use the term jokingly. 

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  • Franklin- Spq109 Collins Pocket Speller




For instance, in simple questions, “Did you finish cleaning your bathroom, Grace?”

“Uh, I uh, so, um, ‘sumsing'”.  It never failed to bring a grin or a laugh.

Anyone in the family to anyone else, “What are you thinking?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I am sinking of sumsing.”

We did find a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town. Yush was tickled to see other Japanese and order his meal (eel) in his native tongue. Alas, he did not run into any other Japanese kids until  his spring break group trip to New York City, which reminded him of another megacity, Sweet Home Tokyo. His upwardly mobile parents had high expectations for Yush and low tolerance for his desultory attitude.

I am not sure what his parents expected. I know we just wanted to have some international influence that might wash out the yucky taste of our last semi exchange student we halfway hosted, Nina from Germany. Her favorite word was “horreeble”. “American chocolate is horreeble.” “American television is horreeble.” “Only Italian shoes are not horreeble.” She is another post of her own. Anyway, Yush would wait for me to get home from work. He wanted to watch sports on t.v. or play basketball, back when my body worked somewhat. He also hit tennis balls against our garage doors while our now long dead border collie Nick ran down any misses. Dogs speak all human languages, if you did not know already.

Yush seemed very familiar with American sports, including NFL football. We watched all the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl. We also played chess regularly. I gave him white and I played black while spotting him several pieces. He was not very good, but he did funny things like lining up all his pieces against mine to declare victory without even moving a piece. I persuaded him to move back one space to allow some movement. Then I beat him.

I drove him to school many mornings and had oddly impressionistic conversations along the way. One morning in the playoff season he asked me, “Missa Burrito, why blacks always wins?”

‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘tread lightly and be politically and racially sensitive.’ I paused and then delivered what I thought was a sound, unbiased answer. “Well, Yush, there are Blacks on both sides of the football, you know?  So no matter which team wins, since they have Black players on them, Blacks always win.”

He let that sink in for a moment and retorted, “No, I mean in chess.”


Yush snickered like a guinea pig sneezing.”Heee,hhhheeeee, heee.”

Another time, after a sweaty game of paintball, we were driving to a picnic on a 90 degree June day. His English had advanced to reading road signs by then. As we crossed a small bridge, Yush asked me, “Missa Burrito, do you sink bridge will be icy?”

“No, Yush, but I think I might smack you.”

“Heee, heeee, heeee,” he sneezed.

The ultimate Yush story, however, occurred over a simple meal of chicken, rice and green beans after I got home from work. We were passing the dishes around the dining room table when Yush asked me, “Missa Burrito, you got ricense?”

“Uh, do you need more rice, Yush?”

“No. Do you got ricense?”

“I’m not following you, Yush. Do you want something like aromatic basmati rice?”

“No. In counsewing office. You got ricense?”

Of course that was a keeper and a keystone in the legend of Yush. In fact, after I told my buddy Dave about the ricense caper, he invited us over for one of the playoff games. On his front door he had a poster that said, “WE GOT RICENSE!”

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