Give from the Heart

It was a rainy day. I was outside cleaning the front porch of the dojo. The clouds were getting thicker. The sky changed to a dark grey colour and the rain drops were getting bigger. It did not always come down straight – sometimes it would go around you and sometimes it would go side ways, but eventually it would all end up on you and on the ground.I like the rain. I would usually walk slower when it is raining. I would put down the umbrella, remove the hood of my rain coat, and look up at the sky and let the rain drops fall on my face and eyes. I like that feeling. Refreshing! Even today, when there is no one around me! I also love to see how other people react to the rain. Some would speed up their pace, others would lower their heads and running for cover! Some would even do silly dances just to avoid getting wet! Is quite entertaining to watch, especially when the rain is coupled with the action of the wind. Yamamoto Sensei's home is in Nara, the small dojo is part of the house. When it would rain in this area, it would rain suddenly. The rainfall would be short and would be followed by sunshine. "Don't have to sweep today! Is raining! Come in quickly!" Sensei calling me in a hyper tone - “Go and help Akiko take the laundry inside, (Akiko is sensei's wife.) Your hair is all wet! Go dry yourself first; you are going to catch cold!" "You won't catch cold like that! Cold is from viruses!" Sensei waved his hand, "Just go dry yourself up and don't talk too much! Hurry! The rain is coming.” "Hai" I replied. Who is talking too much, I only said a few words, and it is Sensei himself who was doing most of the talking. Now you see what a little rain can do to people, it even makes sensei restless. I heard Mrs. Yoshida's voice talking to Akiko at the door. I hadn’t seen her since last summer, so I went out to see what was happening. Mrs. Yoshida was an elderly lady in her seventies. She rode a very old and rusted three wheel bicycle, carrying two heavy boxes packed with ice and fish. I heard from Akiko that her husband was injured in the war and lost both legs. They had only one son that died in an accident while working on a fishing boat. Before sunrise each morning, Mrs. Yoshida would go to the fish market and would pickup seafood to sell to the local restaurants. At night she would make waraji (Japanese shoes make with straw) and try to sell them to the locals. She was poor but seemed to be happy. The Japanese government provided them with very little social assistance. She worked very hard into her golden years just making enough money to support her husband and herself. When I got to the door, I saw a familiar face, a little old lady, hunch down and turning up to look at me. The wrinkles on her face looked like the lines on an old map, which told me that she had walked through many endless, long and hard roads. As she started to smile, and her wrinkles even get deeper. “You are here again! Summer holidays? How are you? Are your parents here too? I haven't seen them a few years!" Mrs. Yoshida likes to talk and would have many questions before you had a chance to answer. "You are not much taller than last year!" As she touched my head and looking at Akiko, said "you should feed him more! He is still so skinny! Feed him a few more bowls of rice!" "He doesn't eat much, telling him to eat is more difficult than telling him to climb a mountain" replied Akiko. "Make him some natto (fermented soya beans) mixed with rice! It's good for kids, make them grow taller! " Akiko was laughing and looked at me, "maybe I should make you some for supper tonight!” Ya, right! It will give me an upset stomach and never mine making me taller! Some people do like natto, even for breakfast. I would lose my appetite for a week just smelling it! But if you are on a weight loss program, do give it a try! While bowing down even lower and looking at Sensei and Akiko, Mrs. Yoshida said, "I heard we have a storm coming, all the restaurants are closing early this evening. I have a lot of fish left over! These are good fish! I will give you two for the price of one if you can help me a little and buy one or two more? Or please ask you neighbors if they want to buy some too?" She went to the back of the bicycle, uncover the plastic sheet and open the boxes with her stiff, arthritic, half frozen fingers. "Please let me help!" said Sensei. I went over and try to help but Sensei told me not get too close or I would get my cloths wet! "Please look, those are very fresh; I just picked them this morning! But don't buy this two fish heads. The fish market vendor gave it to me for free, it is yesterday's stock. I put this on the side, they are not as fresh! We will eat it for supper tonight." Sensei looking at the fish said "actually I like to buy those fish heads too! It is good for shabu-shabu (Japanese hotpot) or deep fried. I will buy all these and you keep these two fresh fish for supper." Sensei taught me how to tell when fish are fresh by looking at the eyes; the two fish heads Sensei chose for shabu-shabu were definitely not fresh! Sensei opened his wallet "Please take this and go home early – the wind is picking up! Don't give me a discount – I want to pay in full price! Those are good fish! I have guests coming tonight and lucky you are here with extra fish. If not, I would have had to rush to the market in this weather. Thank you very much. Be careful when you are going back!" I watched Mrs. Yoshida riding her bicycle, in the cold rain with the wind beating on her back. She slowly disappeared in the rain! She reminded me my grandmother, but with much of a different life! For some reason this uncomfortable feeling made my eyes water. Luckily it was raining! It hid it well. Sensei told me before "Samurai don't cry!" I am sure it was not tears, it was just the rain! Sensei helped Akiko divide the fish in a few plastic bags, and hands over his umbrella and gives me some of the fish. "Careful! Is heavy! Please help Akiko bring these fish to the neighbors, go now and come back early. We may have a bad storm tonight! Leave these two fish heads for me; I will cut them up as bait for fishing tomorrow! After the storm, it is usually is good time for fishing! No training tomorrow. We will go fishing in the morning and go to Nara Park to see the deer afterwards!" Sensei smiled. "Don't worry, Mrs. Yoshida will be fine." Akiko gave most of the fish away that afternoon and only kept two for ourselves. We did not have shabu-shabu for dinner nor did Sensei have any guests joining us that evening. After dinner, Sensei was drinking his tea and reading newspaper, Akiko was doing her housekeeping. I was reading my comic books and watching TV. It's just another normal evening in Yamamoto's house. We did not talk about it afterwards. I think we all understood in our hearts that there was no need for an explanation. That night before I fell asleep, I wrote down the last sentence in my little daily in big letter "I LIKE YAMAMOTO SAN".


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