A New Rucksack
Dear Family and Friends,
Most often I embrace my age. I am content watching my mind, emotions, and spiritual self evolving. But my body can be rather uncooperative at times, especially in my joints. To counter that, I wear thick soled shoes and carry less weight. Even so, when I travel I need a backpack. I take a small bag on wheels, of course. But touring during the day and obligatory gift-buying make a rucksack essential. But the ones I have are not comfortable at all. They pull on my shoulders and neck, causing problems for weeks after the trip is over.
Since I will be going on a trip soon, my travel agent suggested I get a pack made for mountain climbing, designed especially for women. Its weight is on the hips, not the shoulders. I tried hers on and it felt great. So, off I went to get one for myself.
The young man who helped me came from Yokohama. He spoke standard Japanese, which was easy to understand. In this region, Tohoku, a lot of people speak local dialects with mumbled pronunciation. So, much of the time I catch half of what is said, at most. But people are kind, so we usually communicate with no problem.
The sales person and I jabbered happily. He explained the intricacies of the backpacks, while I asked questions to learn more. Since the conversation was friendly, we found out that we lived close to each other and went to the same supermarket. He asked how long I had been in Japan. I returned by asking him how old he was. I like to surprise people that often I have been here longer than they have been alive.
When I found out his age, he asked mine. I told him to guess. He politely knocked many years off what he really thought. So, we both laughed again. But after that, he felt he should be more differential. After all, this is a hierarchal society. So, he started calling me Okaasan, which means Mother. That was the first time anyone called me that. I found it hilarious. We laughed a lot more.
As I was leaving, he gave me a huge paper bag to carry my new purchase. He also told me that my Japanese was fine. If he were my teacher, he would give me 70%. I laughed in humiliation. I am not proud of my Japanese.
When I got close to home, a neighbor called out to me, “What’ve you got there. Let me see.” She is an adorable old woman, well into her 90s. Her house is on a street corner, so she knows everyone that passes and all the news of the area. You don’t keep any secrets from her.
I showed her what was in the bag . “Well, that means you won’t be using your old one, doesn’t it? You can just give it to me.” I laughed yet again. Japanese are not usually so bold. But with age, they often become very direct and say exactly what is on their mind.
Tomorrow when I head down the hill, I will take my old backpack to give to my friend. I will get as much pleasure, if not more, watching her use it as I will with my own, very comfortable, new traveling companion.