Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic.
Images and memories and emotions from long ago in Japan swirl around in my head and my heart, tugging at tears of bittersweet gratitude and longing:
· Foggy steam rising off pools of hot springs, lit by the full moon hanging low in the sky.
· Misty clouds wafting off our shimmering golden red skin, deep sighs of complete satisfaction and comfort shared with friends.
· Pounding rice in large stone bowls, pounding them into a sticky dough, formed into balls, then grilled over an open fire, dipped into a sweet soy sauce, and slurped down, echoes of friendly cajoling and laughter, the background music.
· The clanging of bells, the hot, sweet, red bean soup, the eerie wailing of year-end songs.
I missed my mom terribly when I visited little Kai.
· She would have loved to see him, hold him, and talk with me about the magical beauty of innocent babies.
· She would have shared a new piece of her own story, something I never got to hear, something about her first grandchild, her first realization of her own transition from mother to grandmother.
· And she would have lingered in thought and in loving awe together with me.
Natsukashii, a Japanese word meaning nostalgic, actually means “to keep close and be fond of”. This word cannot mean only longing; it is a balanced combination of longing and deep gratitude. In fact, I’m willing to bet that no one can speak the word Natsukashii without a smile on their face.
And this is the nostalgia that I’ve been feeling.
· It’s not a desire to return to what once was, or an emptiness because something beautiful and joyful no longer exists.
· Rather, it is with fondness that I recall, and a profound awareness of blessing from what I’ve lived and experienced fills me.
· It is that smile across my face when I allow my mind to take me back to precious moments that marked transitions: one year ending and another one beginning, from role of mother to role of grandmother,
· the longing for one more hot gooey rice cake at the Shrine at midnight, one more moment with my momma to feel her presence and know that she knows what I sense and feel in the presence of my sweet little grandbaby.
I am truly grateful for what was. I pause to recall, remanence, and long for that faded memory to return, knowing, of course that it will not return. I linger in that longing, waiting for the joy to rise again in my heart, filling me with renewed gratitude, a whole new version of past lived experiences.
Natsukashii invites us to the attic and directs us to one specific chest. Natsukashii opens the lid and makes us lose track of time as we take out the items, one by one. Natsukashii illuminates the heart, holds the items up in the diffused light of own smiles, sings a dirge and transforms it into a song of celebration and gladness.
Baa-chan, Auntie Hiromi and Oji-chan, Kyoko and Erika-chan, Keiko and Keisuke and Jin-kun, Takeshi and Sachie and Tetsuya, for all those onsens and rice cakes, thank you.
Momma, for all those conversations at the kitchen table, thank you.
Time morphs from was to is as predictably as the ocean waves come and go, and so it is now as well.
These are my thoughts at the end of 2022 as this year morphs into the next.