On our way out of security in San Francisco, I paused by the baggage conveyor to zip up my boots. I looked up to see a familiar face. Have you ever seen someone so out of context that you couldn’t discern why his face was familiar? Since we made eye contact, standing face to face across the conveyor belt, I instinctively said ‘hello.’ He returned the greeting and we both moved on. A minute later, I realized that he was the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
“Mom, that was Jesse Jackson,” I said a minute later.
“What?” she asked.
“Never mind. That was Jesse Jackson. I’m sure of it,” I said again. The man next to me agreed.
We shrugged our shoulders and sought out breakfast. I had honestly forgotten about it until I wrote this episode.
Our first stop in Japan was with Kawa-san and his family. I knew I would be welcome in his home. I have known him for 20 years and remember when his college-aged son was carried on his mother’s back. Kawa-san’s children are as wonderful now as they were the day that I met them. His oldest is a handsome father, with a beautiful wife. His daughter has outgrown cute and has become a lovely and confident young woman. And his youngest son is now a chemistry student and rock star. Okay, a budding “rock star,” but if you knew him, you would know what I mean.
I realized I felt at home when I returned to Kawa-san’s home at the end of our trip and went straight to the sink to “freshen up” before giving proper regards. I apologized, of course, but the transgression was taken for what it was.
I forgot to be nervous. I was home.
On the way out of Kyoto (our first time), Kawa-san’s youngest son was pressed into service. The young man had been convinced to carry our baggage as far as Osaka, at which point he was free to continue to his university in Hyogo prefecture. He is a polite young man and appeared to have no hesitation in fulfilling his duty. Of course, my mother and I suspected that at his age he probably had better things to do. We would arrive at Osaka before noon.
My mother is especially clever.
On our train ride to Osaka, we spoke English to Ryo-chan. I would have translated if he needed, but he didn’t require my help. I was twenty years old when I met him (he was just a baby) and we were busy convincing him to come to America, because, after all, he was already twenty. My mother asked him some key questions.
“Have you ever tried American food? Have you ever had a hamburger?” she asked.
“No, no,” he replied, “never tried hamburger.”
“You must come to America and try a hamburger,” my mother explained.
There was a pause. My mother leaned to me and asked me.
“Do you remember when we were in Osaka in 1994? You and your father required that we eat at the Hard Rock Café Osaka. Do you remember that?”
“I wouldn’t have remembered if you hadn’t mentioned it.”
“Well, I remember it because I came all the way to Japan and there I was with you, who had been living here for six months and your father who had been living in India for over a year and you both wanted a hamburger. I come all the way to Japan and I have to eat a hamburger!”
“Sorry,” I replied (and probably rolled my eyes too).
“We are taking Ryo-chan to Hard Rock Café. He is a rock star and has never had American food. It is perfect!” my mother exclaimed.
We briefly explained the plan to our Japanese friend and he began researching it on his Internet phone. He studied his phone carefully. After awhile, I couldn’t help but ask.
“So, do you think we can get there, Ryo-chan?”
“Oh, yes, we can get there,” he replied with great certainty. “We can get there. No problem.”
“Great. Then you know where it is.”
“No, I have no idea.”
He didn’t have any idea. He had never heard of it. But, he could tell by the description that it was an American oasis. It would be very cool. He found it. My mother fed him like any mother would feed a starving child. It is the international language of love. She fed him like she knew Kawa-san had taken care of me so many years ago.
I think it was after 3:30pm when we finally left lunch.
Those are the lunches that count.
And, those are the people that count. Of course, we managed to spend several days in Kyoto and never see anything famous. Well, except a budding rock star, and what is better than that?