At 11:59 Chihiro was not in the room, which was a little strange for her. I don't think she has ever, EVER, been late, by which I mean, not early and warming up. And then the doors opened and there was Chihiro with several other HPAC friends to make an audience. They pulled up chairs and we had the pleasure of a surprise audience without the stress of preparing for a performance. An informed reading, a true sharing of the pleasure of experiencing this incredible piece without worrying too much.
And that was the end, except not quite. Chihiro and Yulia got up and got two thick envelopes for me and Keita and presented these gifts to us They had taken all our quartet photos and turned them into a bound book, with title pages for each piece and performance, personalized, including additional pictures that they had taken that morning at the beginning of rehearsal and had a friend develop at the convenient store across the street while we rehearsed (or so I assume). It was such a touching surprise. Such a surprise, so touching. I'm so happy to now have this very special memento of the time together. It has been such a privilege. I feel very, very lucky.
After this emotional start to the day, I enjoyed the opera for the penultimate time. Afterwards I wasn't in a particular hurry to get home and as I lounged on the 5th floor, looking through some music, our facilities manager, Frank, stretched out his evening to spend some time with me, just sitting and chatting about my time in Japan and his time in America, 15 years ago.
Japan is so far away from America. Not just in distance. The language makes it far away as well. There have been few other times in my life when goodbyes were so final. I am so grateful for these people that have made life in Japan so rich and wonderful. Can I get through the last ten days without some hope that it will not be so final?