Last night, under foreboding skies, we walked. Umbrellas almost poked passer-by eyes; feet slogged slowly and stomped. We were a rainy bunch journeying from hoikuen, my daughter’s preschool.
I didn’t want to cook. I needed some point B before home, before washing hands for dinner. The soba shop’s light beckoned, flashing to us goofy ships at sea. My girl’s hair was wet where her hat didn’t cover. She was, I decided, a cute, pink n punky version of that captain on the throat lozenge commercial. Ahoy, soba. Ahoy, through dark, sloshy sidewalks and intersections. Boom crack. I showed her how to step under the awning & prep our umbrellas for going inside, which is a very adult thing. Boom crack. Our smiles guided us in.
We were the only guests inside. The fake goldfish swam in the fountain. We stashed our umbrellas, took off shoes, and entered our private tatami room to suck up noodles. “This is so wonderful”, she said, uncovering small lids from small bowls of rice, pickled cucumber, daikon, and ginger. I remembered the joy that is mugi-cha, as I threw back my first iced barley tea of the season.
She dished out soba for her little brother without me asking. She brought those buckwheat noodles to her lips, and after chewing, smiled. She pushed her drying hair off of her brow and announced, “I feel like a real princess, Mom!” What elegance! What a darling I’ve raised! Boy, I can take this young lady anywhere, I mused.
“POOOOOOOP!” She called out, throwing down her kiddie fork. I quickly touched her arm and squashed any next shouts with a look that must have been horror.
“Oh sorry”, she apologized playfully, putting back on her shoes. “I should say, “I have to go to the bathroom, right?”
That was more like it. I snapped her brother in the carrier and slid my own shoes on. She slid open the track door.
“ONARA SHITAAAA!” Her voice rang out loud and pleased. O, gosh. Somehow she makes,”I farted” sound cute and esteemed, like a little bell. Sigh. She is unfazed joy and crinkles of laughter. “My young lady, what can you say instead?” I can make my voice so stern. “Yes, excuse me.” We moved through the restaurant, clumsy from just standing up, away from our zabutan and tatami.
The teenage son to the cook and hostess shared a snicker with me. Good thing it was just him. Good thing he’s a boy. They love this pooping and farting stuff.
“Sumi-masen” to the hostess-owner. “Sumi-masen” to the boy.
We went back to our soba and tempura eggplant, kabocha, & mushroom without incident, while the rain and thunder cracked and winds whooshed. The fake little fish gurgled in their pot. Thunder can be quite elegant. In fact, my little pearl of a girl taught me the word for “thunder” just last night, on our walk home.
Kaminari 雷 is thunder. It is a boom, a pow, a gorgeous peal of rolling sound. It wakes sleeping moms. It is loud. My three -and-a-half year-old sends messages to heaven. Her words can piece my chest and invite me to sing at the top of my shower singing lungs. Her prayers are good ones. She signals light and stomps around. It all clicks– she is my elegant thunder, a princess in heavy boots.