Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day Twenty-one - 1997 - 2000

In 1997, we moved to Alabama with my husband's job. I was still a stay-at-home mom with kids in school, out of school, wanting to be in school and wanting to not be in school. Our kids were 15, 13, 4 and 2. Because of the space between our kids, my husband would often introduce the older two as the kids from his first wife. This caused much confusion to any one who we met because I was his first wife. Ha, ha!!

We moved into our new home that my husband purchased without me even seeing it!! Wow, a lot of people thought that was weird. But, he really did a good job in picking a house for our large family.

A lot of stuff happened that year. My father-in-law was very sick. When my husband went on the interview for the new job, my father-in-law anticipated his success. That week, my husband called to tell his dad that he was offered the job and by Saturday, my father-in-law died. It was as if he was waiting to see his son promoted. It was quite moving.

As soon as we knew we were moving, we put our house on the market. We had it listed for maybe a day and we received an offer. We sold our house for $1000 less than our asking price in about a week. It really did seem as though God had planned our move.

Because of the move and the new job, I didn't have time to keep up with email and what was going on in the world beyond us. We moved into our new home. When the movers unloaded the computer, I quickly set it up on the floor in the kitchen so I could reconnect with family, friends and the outside world.

As I started catching up on emails, I started following emails sent to my dad and forwarded on to his kids (us) regarding our house at Nojiri Lake in Nagano, Japan.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Japan, Nojiri Lake is a lake surrounded by mountains, located in Nagano Prefecture north of Tokyo. Many missionaries and few business families owned or leased property and homes on the slopes of the mountain surrounding the lake. Every year we spent our vacation time at Nojiri. It was an incredible experience. We learned how to swim, sail and kiss at Nojiri. Many wonderful memories abound from that time. Our house, 49A, sat on the side of the mountain, overlooking the beautiful lake. At times, when the winds were still and the sun was out I could see a perfect reflection of the mountains and sky in the lake. It was spectacular. During the summer we would celebrate "Obon" or the remembrance of the ancestors. The people in the Japanese village across from us would place boats lit up with candles on the lake and they would float across the water, lighting up the lake in the night for a spectacular display of remembrance. Also, similar to the forth of July in the States, they would set off fire works, for what seemed like, hours and hours. It was a wonderful celebration.

Another thing that is significant about Nojiri is that for a long time there was no water or electricity connected to the homes. We had to hall water down to the house from a local spring and in order to heat up the water we used gas stoves and heaters. During the winter we used a pot bellied stove with wood. We also did not have flush toilets. We had a septic tank in the ground that was emptied once a year by the local "honey bucket truck". We bathed in the ofuro which consisted of a wooden tub capable of holding a 200 pound person without over flowing.

Before electricity, in order to keep food cold, we put it in a snow pit. The snow pit was a pit dug out of the side of the mountain next to the cabin. Every year during the winter, snow was shoveled into the pit with the expectation that the snow would last through-out the summer providing  natural refrigeration for homes on the mountain. I remember storing milk and other things in the snow pit. We would have to climb down a ladder into the pit and retrieve milk or other food from the pit. Later, when electricity was introduced and installed into the homes, the snow pit was no longer needed.

Evidently, this particular summer, the summer of 1997, the family that was leasing the house decided to use the old snow pit for a fire pit. They gathered up all the leaves and limbs lost during the winter and threw them into the snow pit. The dad proceeded to light the leaves and limbs on fire and burn them to get rid of the debris. After all the leaves and limbs were burned they closed the door to the snow pit, thinking that the fire was out. According to my memory, the leaves were still smoldering and the combustion from the closed door caused the snow pit to explode, catching the house on fire. Everyone except their little girl and their dog survived. She was sleeping in my bedroom closest to the snow pit. This family lost their little girl in the fire.

As I read the email describing the fire and loss of child, I began to sob. How devastating that was. Not to lose a house, but to lose a life! This loss impacted me without description. I didn't even know the young girl but felt as though I lost a sister. That memory still pierces my soul.

I thought I could get to 2000 and the volcano tonight but sleep has entered my weary eyes. I shall go forth tomorrow. Until then........

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.


  1. Janet, I visited Lake Nojiri one summer with Jimmy Caroll. It was beautiful there!

  2. I would love to go back sometime!

  3. for me nojiri was my saving grace. a swain79'