Her treasured gold-rimmed glasses

I was raised by my grandmother on my father’s side. She was a very strict and unsociable woman. She led a secluded life and spent most of the time retreating into her room. She would take a trip or go to the theater with my grandfather only once or twice a year. On those rare occasions, she always wore glasses that she usually didn’t at home. A pair of glasses was a must for her to dress up. She had only one pair with gold rims. Although they were an essential item of her best clothes, she looked terrible with them. She had a stern face by nature but the pair made her look fearsome. Everyone in my family knew that she looked much better without them, and yet, none of us had the courage to say so to her. Consequently, on every important, memorable event in her later life, she had an awful look by putting them on. She did it not just outside. When there was a guest or I took my friends from school to our house, she always greeted with the glasses on. She had great confidence in glasses. Shortly before her death, she even urged my father to wear glasses because she believed they would help him look grand and dignified. Her treasured gold-rimmed glasses were put into her casket when she passed away. The unpopular pair went to heaven with her. I know she’s wearing them up there still…

they may have simply avoided me

I had a dream about my grandparents last night and couldn’t go back to sleep because I missed them so badly. Both of them have passed away, but they raised me when I was a child in place of my parents who were too busy working out in the field as farmers. When I lived with my grandparents, I didn’t appreciate being with them, as they were strict, quiet and boring, and I constantly missed my parents. But after I grew up and left my hometown, I realized how my grandparents regarded me and felt about me. Until they passed away, I had returned home once or twice a year. My grandfather would wait for me with an envelope that had some money for me inside, and my grandmother with my favorite food that she would have prepared and cooked from morning. She would wear particularly for the day something I had given to her before, to show me her gratitude. Those things were what I could never expect from my parents. My parents would be seldom at home when I returned although my homecoming was only yearly and informed well beforehand. That was not because they were working. They would be out for shopping or, at one time, they were even gone on a trip to Hawaii. They seemed to lack the sense of pining for and anticipating someone. Or, they may have simply avoided me. Parental affection doesn’t necessarily come from parents. In my case, it was my grandparents who gave it to me…

‘Bon’ Festival in Japan

In mid-August, Japanese people get a few days’ holiday for the ‘Bon’ Festival that is a Buddhist event to ease the suffering of their ancestors in the life after death. It’s believed that their ancestors’ spirits return to their home during ‘Bon’ and the family and relatives get together to hold a memorial service and have a feast. When I was little, I used to go to pick up my family’s ancestors with my grandmother at the beginning of the ‘Bon’ period. The pick-up spot was a small, ordinary vacant lot on the edge of the hamlet. Our neighbors would also pick up their ancestors there. At dusk, we lit incense sticks there and carried them home, on which smoke our ancestors were supposed to ride to our house. Once we arrived home, the incense sticks were put on the Buddhist altar, and that meant our ancestors came in there. We welcomed them with many plates of food on the altar. Although it had been an annual sacred event for my grandmother and me, it was stopped abruptly one year for good. When I asked what happened to the pick-up, my grandmother said that our ancestors had decided to come home by themselves from now on. In hindsight, I assume the real reason was because my grandmother’s bad leg had gotten worse and she became unwilling to walk to the pick-up spot, or simply the vacant lot was replaced with a new house and there was no pick-up spot available. But back then, it didn’t make sense even to a child that our ancestors suddenly considered their descendants’ convenience and stopped requiring a pick-up. What about an old custom we had observed for a long time…?