As summer times get close, my twisted childhood memories with my grandmother came back to life. All around the year, the summer is the longest season and the Japanese school have one-month vacations. During this gifted time, I always enjoyed the company of my grandmother, Oba-chan from who a learnt a lot as she knows about humans and life. This is a tribute to my granny who is going to be 93 years old this year.
When I am asked about Japanese traditional dance, I show and dance Bon Odori. Ideally, it is a dance to worship or commemorate the loved ones who passed away, usually your ancestors, who are believed to come back in Bon time, around July to August. My first Bon Odori experience was when I was 4 years old at the pre-school. We wore Yukata, a cotton made Kimono-like clothes, and went outside as the night came, where we danced in a circle with a famous Bon music singing – ‘The moon has come out, oh the moon is out yoi yoi.’ Watching my first dance, my grandma complimented me with a cheerful smile. I kept on dancing along with other adults, who showed us how to dance Bon Odori, until I couldn’t feel my feet anymore on Geta, a Japanese wooden sandal. All I wanted to see was her big smile on me. So, I danced and danced until I became the only child who was in the dancing circle.
On the way home, she complimented me again and told me, pointing out the moon above us, that I would be never alone because the moon would be always there following me and making sure that I would reach home safe. She knew my competing personality, the tendency to act hard to draw attention from my parents. Back then, my mother was pregnant, her second baby, my future brother, and I had less time with her. This moon talk embraced my vulnerable heart in my little body, calming down my suppressed desire for wanting more love from parents. Since then, no matter how far I went away from Japan, I felt that my grandma is always with me, watching over me like the moon we saw together on the way back home in my first Bon festival.
Believe it or not, my grandma can see the ghosts! She rarely mentions it in front of people, the moment she encounters the bodiless souls because she prefers tranquil state rather than making people shocked or showing off her unique ability. There was a time, however, she shared her extraordinary experience with us, from the deepest care upon us. One day, she asked my mother if there were something going on among our family. According to my grandma, she saw my grandfather, my father’s father who had passed away few years ago, standing right beside her Futon bed, saying ‘please take care of my wife.’ At that time, we had family issues relating to my father’s side, especially with my father’s mother, and my dead grandpa appeared to seek for help to my grandma.
After hearing this story, I decided to talk to my grandma about my sleep paralysis. I had been suffering from this syndrome, especially in the summer times, since I was 10 or so, and I was aware that this is called ‘Kanashibari’. Some people say that this might be an old hag attack, so I was very anxious about what I was going through and even couldn’t talk about it because I was too scared. On the contrary to my fear, my grandma gave me a simple but practical advice. She said, sleep on my side, not completely on my flat back when I sense the paralysis kicks in because it adds the chance of getting numb. At first, I thought this is crazy. However, it meticulously worked! Being practical is very effective when I’m overwhelmed of negative thinking. On top of that, my family found a solution for the family issues through honest discussions. Thanks to my grandma’s open heart, my family and I restored peace of mind and loving bond in my family.
Looking back my childhood, there was always a charming presence of my grandma who showed and gave me unconditional love. There is no need of gadget to connect my grandma. It has been always authentic and it continues to be that way.