Tokyo Weekender’s series TW Creatives feature various works by Japan-based writers, photographers, videographers, illustrators and other creatives in a bid to provide one additional platform for them to exhibit their talent. The works submitted here belong entirely to the creators — Tokyo Weekender only takes pride in being one of their most passionate supporters!
For our last entry for December, we present a short fiction work of Kyoto-based author and professor Kevin Ramsden that reminds us that a mother’s love stands above all others.
Counting the Days til Summer
This is not the first time she’s packed a suitcase for him. But it may well be the last. Previous contents would have most often included a colorful combination of shorts, T-shirts and socks for 7th or 8th grade soccer camps. Now it is a far more eclectic mix of wear-a-day items for the young adult male about town. All freshly washed, ironed and folded, most of these clothes were not chosen or bought by her, yet they are as familiar as her own, as they have passed through her hands on a weekly basis, from laundry basket or bedroom floor, to washing machine and clothes line, to wardrobe and chest-of-drawers. She suddenly starts to feel the inexplicable first pangs of loss, as she realizes she will not be seeing, touching or smelling them again for some time, if ever. Tears start to form then in the corners of her eyes. Not sobbing or wailing tears, but a gentle, moist, prickly reminder of why she is performing this act of motherly duty for her soon to be absent son. Her darling boy.
She pops the last few bits and pieces into the case before closing it. Some of his favorite snacks (easily available all over Japan), his favorite stuffed animal from childhood (probably destined to remain in the case), and a family photo from a not so recent overseas holiday (that she hopes will be displayed in plain sight – though she’s not holding her breath). Then, hearing him yell out, from the living room below a familiar demand for his lunch to be prepared, she wipes her eyes softly on the sleeve of her blouse, puts on a cheery face, and skips down the stairs to attend to her little prince.
(Stay and eat my omelet rice forever!)
It is usually only a 30-minute drive to Kyoto Station door-to-door, but today she is grateful for every red light and set of minor road works on the way. Anything to delay the final farewell that awaits them on arrival. She babbles away with small talk on obvious matters, going over the same material that has been discussed day in, day out in recent weeks. What classes he is going to take. The new friends he’ll make in Tokyo. How close his apartment is to the university. Extracting of promises that he will cook at least some of his own meals, and not rely on instant ramen and convenience stores to keep him alive. And then the large station building looms into view. The car is parked with relative ease. The bags removed from the trunk with a minor squabble over who will carry which. The not long enough walk to the ticket barriers completed. No more excuses for delaying the inevitable. The time has come. And yet, she still manages to keep it together. But only just. Hugs that are not, for once, resisted. Waves and mouthed goodbyes. And with only one backward glance, he’s gone.
(He looks so lost!)
The return journey is largely silent. Neither she nor her husband has the words. Brave faces put on. Attempts at conversation include dinner plans and the weather. Pointless but necessary to avoid discussing their feelings about what has just taken place. Back at the family home, he gives her the briefest peck on the cheek before snatching up his clubs and heading for the range. He will try to relieve the pressure of the enormous weight on his heart by thrashing at small round balls, sending them into space. If he is distanced enough from his fellow rangers, he may allow himself a brief sob or two, when he really feels like howling at the dark and cloudy sky. Back at the house, she is desperately busying herself with the most mundane of tasks, stopping every couple of minutes to check her LINE messages. Hopeful. Zero.
(Have you forgotten me already?)
Finally, when she can put it off no longer, she enters his bedroom. As expected, he has left his phone charger cable behind and a pair of socks are hanging off the end of the bed. And then she sees it. One sheet of folded A4 white paper on the pillow, weighed down by an old, chewed eraser. Scooping it up, she unfolds it to read:
Thank you for being my mum
Thank you for looking after me all these years
I will try to make you proud XX
Slumping down on the bed, she flops onto her back, the paper clutched tightly to her chest, and the floodgates open. The tears flow from a sense of loss at first, a deep, deep emotional realization that the object of 18 years of her joyful devotion has now moved on and will no longer see her in the same way again. And then come the tears of joy, interspersed with little gasps of laughter as she reacts to the contents of the note, and her love for the child she had raised and released. Plucking her cellphone from her apron pocket, she wipes way the remains of the sobfest from her cheeks and sends him a LINE message:
Are you there yet? Let me know when you are settled. Don’t forget to take your medicine. Thanks for the note. It was lovely. Counting the days til summer. Mum xx
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