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I'm laptop-free for the next week, since an orange demon (a stray cat we took in) ate my laptop screen.  I'll try to join these bears for some outings.

Several years ago, Mom and I visited Japan during cherry blossom season.  While there, Mom found out that her mom had cancer and was awaiting surgery in the hospital.

That night, Mom lay on the bed in our room at the ryokan.  “Emmie, my mom is sick . . . what if I lose her?” she asked.

I tried to think of something kind and comforting to say.

“Well, she is 86,” I said.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2017.
I could use a nice hot tub soak.
Do you like onsen?  Me too.
During the holidays, Mom made plain cookies with her assortment of red plastic and tin cookie cutters.  I liked them because they weren’t too sweet.  

My favorite cookie shape was the pear - the stem part got browned and crisp.

In Kansas, my parents liked to save energy by minimizing heat usage during the winter.  We wore parkas around the house.  If you poured yourself a cup of water, it was icy cold a whilelater.

On December 13th, our Norwegian teacher (who also loved gnomes) selected a girl in our second grade class to be Santa Lucia.  She dressed Kerry in a white gown and arranged a candlelit wreath on her head.  We gathered around and sang "Santa Lucia" as Kerry walked down the school hallway carrying Christmas cookies for the other classrooms. I liked the visual.

In grade school, I tried to figure out how women got pregnant.  

I told Petra my theory one afternoon, when we had ventured upstairs to our parent’s room.  We weren’t allowed there, but went occasionally anyway.  I liked to bring a book because it was sunny and warm in winter, and light bounced off the yellow walls.

“I think that when the man puts the ring on the woman’s finger, there are chemicals in the ring that go into her body, and signify that she’s married, and then she becomes pregnant.  But . . . some couples are married and they don’t have children . . . ”

“Emmie,” Petra said impatiently, “Dad put his penis into Mom’s vagina, and that’s how babies are made.”  

She turned her back and headed downstairs.

"May I?"  Mom asked impishly.  She plucked the stick of butter off the table and smashed/spread it directly onto her toast like she was crushing ants and shoveling a sidewalk at the same time.  

"No!" I said.  

"But . . . this way . . . I don't waste . . . " she protested.

Open butter sticks in the fridge were always studded with wheat toast crumbs, but this was the first time I'd seen her in action.  It took me a while to realize that she meant to save water by not washing a knife. 

The squirrels in our yard take a bite of each of our unripe pomegranates and throw them on the ground.  This seems like taking the first bite of a hundred triangles of unbaked pizza.

"Am I more like you, or like Dad?"

Mom thought for a while, stirring her tea eggs.

"You are from outer space," she answered.

"How about Petra and Claire?"

"They are from outer space too.  That's why you are sisters."

Every Saturday morning, Mom drove Petra and I to ballet.  Petra’s class started first, so I sat in a small waiting room downstairs on a hard bench covered in a rectangle of cheap beige carpet.  

One day, a brown-haired boy with a slightly rat-like face passed by in his ballet clothes.  He glanced into the room and went on his way.  

After a minute, he returned and stared me down from the doorway.  Then he walked into the room, picked up the trash can and emptied its contents over my head.  He 
seemed satisfied with his decision, so he repeated it every week.  

This didn't bother me, since it was early in the morning and there was never anything in the trash can besides a Brach's Sparkles candy wrapper and maybe a crushed Juicy Fruit foil.

I went to high school with this kid (we both ran track).  He also danced ballet for many years with Petra.  I doubt he remembers these special heartwarming moments, but you never know.

My parents kept small amounts of snack food in the house, but it never felt like enough.  Since I always craved it, I ate all art projects with edible parts.  In kindergarten, we made owls on burlap with pretzel heads, Cheerio eyes, peanut beaks, walnut shell bodies and pretzel stick feet.  I gnawed everything off except for the walnut shells.  

For Lincoln’s birthday, we glued pretzel stick log cabins to construction paper and drew chimneys, smoke, and Abes.  I'll let you guess what happened to the cabin.

We had a plastic container in the yellow bathroom that contained a chunk of rock salt from “The Great Salt Lake.”  Whenever I felt a snack craving, I’d take the plastic container out from the cupboard (where it was stored along with hairtastic hairbrushes, unused blow dryer parts, dried and cracked soap bars, bobby pins, blue plastic hair curlers and random objects that should have been somewhere else in the house) and lick the rock several times.  It was horribly salty, but mildly satisfying.  

Mom sailed into the room and went straight to my closet.  

“Why are you hiding wine in your closet?!”

“I’m not hiding it; I buy bottles in case I need wine for parties.”

She groped a purple dress on its hanger.  “What’s this?!?”

“A dress.”  

“What’s this??”

“A shirt.  Why are you poking around in my closet?”

She turned to me.  “I had a dream that you were hiding our checkbook in your closet.  We order checkbook.  They haven’t come in the mail yet.”  


“Are you hiding them in your closet?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Why would I hide your checkbooks in my closet?”

“It was in my dream,” she replied.

Petra arrived home, pissed off.  Ballet rehearsals often upset her.

I hopped into the shower when I heard the garage door closing and Petra snapping at Mom, so that I could shower first.  

When I came out of the bathroom, Petra was stretched out on her lavender carpet, glowering at me.

“How come you don't shower before I get back?" she said furiously.  "Why do you wait until after I come home?  You take forever!”

“Sorry,” I said.  She was right.  But I felt nice and clean.

I collect Japanese “mooks” (magazine-books) that feature home decor, design, architecture, craft, lifestyle, etc.  They're my favorite possessions.  We were burglarized last year, so they're pretty much my only possessions now.  Just so you know, I plan to steal these from your house.

I scanned a few pages from Casa Brutus magazine (please pardon the sub-excellent scan job).

[click image for more] 

“It’s for his birthday,” I said.

“You’re giving your dad compost starter for his birthday??” the Home Depot guy exclaimed.  “I would disown my daughter if she gave me this for a present!”

“My dad doesn’t want us to give him gifts, so I only give him practical things.  He needs compost starter.”

“I woulddisown her," he said emphatically.

On the MRT to my next destination, I opened my new Chinese seal and tried it out.  It wasn’t my name.  I studied it for a minute, since I sometimes forget my name.

I got off at the next stop and hopped on the train heading back towards the 30-square-foot shop.

“Excuse me, but . . . this isn’t my name.”

“That’s your name,” the stamp guy said, puzzled.

“Sorry, but it isn't."

He shuffled through a messy stack of papers, finding the one with my information on it.  “Here - this is what your mom wrote!”

I recognized her handwriting and remembered Mom scribbling on the pink scratch paper.  We had spent the afternoon doing errands.

“Oh, you're right.  Sorry!  I guess she doesn’t know my name.”

We laughed and I ordered another seal.

Later I asked Mom about it.

“Sorry,” she said sheepishly.  “Aiyah, why do you need your name on a seal anyway?”

“It’s for painting.”

“Aiyah, so particular.  Not necessary.”

Dad’s parents had seven children and two cats - a scruffy orange tabby brother and a beautiful calico sister.

Dad’s father and his friends sat around drinking one day, discussing how great the female was - always catching mice - and how lazy the male cat was.  During the conversation, the male cat slipped outside.  

He returned several times, each time with a fresh dead mouse.  He lined them up in a row in front of the group.

“Guess what my favorite word is,” my niece, Calliope, said at dinner.

“Pink,” Mom said.




“Flower," I suggested. 

“Yes."  She didn't seem surprised that it only took three guesses, and went back to her noodles.

My aunt shared her secret for making perfect Japanese food.  It's her method for perfect food in general, but since she's in denial that she's not Japanese, she only makes Japanese food.

"I make every recipe 100 times in a row," she told me.

As a result, her dishes (including onigiri) are impeccable and mouthwatering.

My aunt also makes you shower the second you enter her house, immediately launders your clothes (made filthy from the outside world), and directs you to change into a different pair of slippers for each part of the house.  She once refused to let my friends (who were dropping me off after dinner) into her house to use the bathroom, for fear of their germs.

Why didn't I buy one of these?  Now I'm curious.

“What did you do to the avocado?” Mom grumbled.

“It got mushy when I mixed it with the cucumber and tomatoes," I replied.  "I guess it's like guacamole.  But it's not too bad, right?"  


“It's not poisonous,” she said begrudgingly.

Rummaging Region