Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

I'm not sure whether or not any of you celebrate Christmas, but I thought I'd take a moment before clearing off my bed and sleeping to talk about something that happened to me.

It was a busy Christmas Eve. I spent most of the day editing one of my friend's fanfictions she had written about Final Fantasy VI. I hadn't done any editing work before, but my friend insisted on treating me to lunch at a local coffee shop while I helped make her story more like one written in native English. This work wasn't difficult or boring in the least, in fact, I rather enjoy creative writing, but it took a little longer than expected to edit fourteen pages. I won't go into detail about any of that, though. We each said our thank yous and goodbyes, and went our own way.

I also received a Christmas package from my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and grandparents. I received multiple sets of warm clothes--hoodies, jammie pants, tights, socks, and thermal wear--some food from home, a cute snowman blanket, and some movies I wanted to see, but hadn't had time to watch. I am very thankful for these things. It's very cold in Kyoto, and I hadn't had the time or financial means to buy clothes for the upcoming winter weather. I feel that these gifts were perfect for this year, and that I didn't need anything extravagant. It's humbling, and I like it.

However, after going to Laura's house to celebrate Christmas Eve, she and Cornelius walked me back to my apartment. We had all eaten quite a lot, and we wanted fresh air. Laura carried my new snowman blanket as a bundle in one arm and suddenly, a woman--whom we've never met--wearing a Santa hat asked us in Japanese, "Is that a baby?" We kept walking, not knowing she was talking to us, as she had been talking to a man moments before, but she continued, "Is that a baby?" Finally, she ran to us and gently took Laura's hand, "Oh! I thought that was a baby!" The woman sounded relieved. (All of this is in Japanese, by the way.) Laura laughed and said, "No, no! It's a blanket! Just a blanket!" All three of us laughed and the woman smiled. "Oh! I really thought it was a baby! Oh! Silly me!" She took the blanket and rocked it and kissed it. I'm sure all three of us were thinking she was just a drunk, silly woman, but she gave the blanket back to Laura, then did something unexpected. She gave each of us a sincere hug and said, "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" We hugged her back and laughed, saying the same greeting to her. She walked us to the intersection and told us to enjoy ourselves. We went our separate ways, and laughed about the experience on the way to my apartment building.

Yet, for some reason, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic at this. I looked at my computer clock, and the time read 12:05 a.m., which would put the meeting with this woman at exactly midnight on Christmas Day. I'm not sure if I'll ever see that woman again, or if I had even seen her before tonight, but I feel like meeting her was not chance. I feel as though I were four years old, sitting with my brother in our dining room looking at the gifts Santa had brought us with wonder, not knowing how fortunate we were. I realized how selfish I had been many Christmases before, never taking the time to try and understand the importance of family and a brief encounter with a friend. To me, this woman was Santa Claus, and our meeting will stick with my thoughts forever.

I think this Christmas, although it has nearly twenty-four more hours to fill, will stick with me because it is not the usual. It's imperfect.

Even if I'm not meeting my own goals in exactly the same way I'd like to, I feel as though I'm learning so much from my stay in Japan. I'm seeing a side of humanity that I never thought existed, or perhaps, it was just a side I had given up on somewhere down the line. If I were to see that woman again, I would look her in the eyes and say thank you with all of my heart. And I hope that someone, somewhere, and someday can repay her the kindness she gave me on this cold night in December in a land very far from home.

I'm sure she would laugh and smile saying, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night."

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