Grandma, I’m home! おばあちゃん、ただいま!

At the end of last October, I returned to Japan for the first time in three years and stayed there for three weeks. 

Three flights after I left Maui, I landed in Matsuyama, where my parents live. Then I drove for an hour to grandma's straight from the airport. 

The sun was setting behind me as I entered the mountains. My jet-lagged mind was still groping with the fact I was finally in Japan, and as surreal as it was, I could tell my whole being was slowly coming to ease and breathing deeper. 

"Ahhh, I am home." 

I remembered the mountain road like I was there yesterday, parked my dad's car, carried my suitcase to the entrance, and opened the door with the key. It was the first time opening grandma's house with a key because she was always there when I went there. 

I searched for the light switch in the pitch dark with my open hand. The earthen floor of the house lit up. Accessing olfactory memory, I inhaled the air as much as possible and announced, "Grandma, I'm home!" as I always did. 

No one answered, but the 130-year-old home embraced me. 

I closed the door behind me, climbed to the raised tatami floor, found more light switches, and approached the traditional Buddhist altar where the memorial tablets for ancestors are kept. I bow to the altar, light an incense, ring the singing bowl, and put my hands together to report that I am finally back and thank them for my safe travel. 

For me, who had not been able to return to Japan for a while since my grandma’s death in the summer of 2020, seeing the house without her helped my mind and heart fully come to terms with the fact that she was no longer there. 

I found myself sobbing, but I was not sad anymore; I cried enough when she passed. The relief and comfort provided upon my long-desired return to her home located the last bit of tears that I had not been able to access until then. 

After I let her physical absence sink in, while feeling her love surrounding me, I looked up at the altar with a smile and said to her and the ancestors, "And I'm hungry!" 

Then I washed my hands and started eating a beautiful and nutritious bento dinner my mother had prepared (she had left it in the car for me). 

I sang a made-up song as I boiled water to make an instant miso soup, "I'm home, yay yay yay. I'm hungry, yay yay yay. I'm alive, yay yay yay. I'm grateful, yay, yay, yay!" hoping it would amuse the ancestors. 

I didn’t know the night at grandma's would be that dark and that quiet. It was the first time I had stayed there by myself. 

I took a hot bath and went to bed. Feeling securely nestled in the home built by my great grandpa, it did not take long to fall asleep. 

And I woke up to this view, filled with light. (See the photo above)

You can listen to this article's podcast episode at the following link.

The episode number is #10 for Japanese Language Learners and #11 for English Language Learners.












































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