- What's New?
- An untraditional holiday, in an untraditional sense.
The house smells of turkey, and dressing, and gravy… and potatoes! It’s great. I sit down on the couch, out in the middle of the living room: My uncle’s house is… extremely western. But it’s so nice! The furniture is all so comfy, I could fall asleep in this fluffy wonderland.
Natsume slowly lowers herself into the couch next to me, in a fresh change of clothes. We came together, to my uncle’s house for my family’s dinner. We ended up finding a really cheap train ticket, but it was for last night… So we came early, and stayed the night! She’s wearing a long skirt, with a vertical stripe up and down the sides. I told her it looked like a racing stripe, and she slapped me across the side.
It still looks like a racing stripe, but… Well, I’ll pretend. Sure.
She’s also got a really baggy sweater on, so it’s pretty casual. I’ve got a pair of jeans and a button up shirt on, and glasses. Oh! And Natsume has her glasses on. We usually don't both wear them, but she didn't want to play around with contacts today.
"Why are you so-" She starts.
I interrupt, poking her in the side, "I'm just thinking, Natsume, sheesh."
"Well there's no need to zone out so early in the morning, you'll fall right back to sleep, Naomi."
I shrug, plucking a strand of hair from my face. I should really get it cut soon, but I'll live for now, "You know I don't fall asleep so easy, you get… Medicated for your sleep!" I stick my tongue out, and she slowly sighs.
"Right, right, fine." She leans back into the couch, "So, this happens yearly?"
"Oh, yeah, it's a tradition back in America. Uncle Minoru does this because he and his family, the American half, did it from the time he was a baby till the time he came to Japan. It's pretty fun! We've done it for a few years now, he and Aunt Aneko do all the cooking, the rest of us just handle the cleaning and organizing."
As if on cue, Minoru steps through the doorway, apron draped across his shoulder. He flips the spatula towards us, and raises his meek voice, "I require AID!" His theatre voice comes into play, for mere moments, before dropping back to its normal tone, "I, ah, I forgot the cheddar. You two mind running to go grab a bag for me?" he looks towards us with pleading eyes, and then lowers his gaze to the table. He sees a fleck of potato, sitting on the edge of the table, and he slowly drops down to the floor to pick up the potato, a low, solid groan rolling out, followed by, assumedly, English muttering. Probably cursing!
"Well, I'm dead! Stupid potato! How does that even happen!" He pulls it from the side, putting it atop the spatula and standing back up, "As for money...Well, I've got... Enough! It's out on the table next to the door, just take it and buy some cheddar! Shredded or blocked, preferably a block!" He floats back into the kitchen, looking dead as a ghost.
Natsume slowly shifts her stare to me, "He does realize..."
"It's good for you! Come on~!" I reach a hand down to her, "We did bring your crutches for a reason, you know."
"But I don't wanna." She crosses her arms and winces, "I don't wanna~..."
"Well, too bad!" I hook her under the arm, and lift up slowly. She eventually caves in, a low groan reverberating throughout the room.
She stands up, slapping me weakly on the arm, "You suck."
"I know I do~!" I stick my tongue out, picking up her crutches from the corner by the door. She slumps over, attaching them around her arms and tapping them against the wood flooring a few times to test them.
"I still hate these things so much."
"But they're helpful~!"
"Unlike some people I know." She slowly wobbles her way to the door, "Let's get going, I don't wanna be out all morning."
I pull on my flats, looking at the little ribbon over the toes and smiling; I look good today. So does Natsume, and I suppose Minoru. But I look... gooooooooood. I turn to Natsume, popping my back, "I'm coming!" I open the door for Natsume, holding it until she slowly lumbers her way down the small, but oh so cumbersome steps, and out onto the sidewalk leading off of the estate and out into the road leading into town.
I pull my phone from my pocket, unlocking it and slowly making my way through the interface to find my music. I turn it on, and slowly turn it up, Natsume's head turning ever so slightly as I do.
"I am~!" I hit the volume button one more time, and turn on "What's New Pussycat," also known as the song that literally kills Natsume to the core. Because she actually likes it. And it's terrible. Absolutely terrible. It's some really old song, in English, and she absolutely loves it.
"I can't stop~!" I bubble forth in a fit of laughter, almost having to hunch over to stop myself from falling over. I stop, and Natsume meekly turns herself around on her crutches, staring at me with the eyes of death incarnate.
"You love it, and it's so, so, so bad!"
"But it's so catchy!" She turns on her crutches, stepping back up the road until she reaches the gate, "Open it! Let's just get the stupid cheese and get back for dinner."
"Not just ANY cheese, Natsume... Cheeeddar. It's not just normal cheese."
"Cheddar is basically the default cheese, you jackass." She rolls her eyes and turns back up the road, stilt walking her way to victory with the crutches.
"Well, I'm no cheese master, sheesh. Tell me more, Maestro of Munster, Connoisseur of Colby, Grandmaster of Gouda!" I prod her in the side, nearly tripping her up.
She continues hobbling to the pace of "What's New Pussycat," all the way to the city center.
We make it to the store at around noon. I step inside first, letting Natsume step inside.
We find the cheddar at the edge of one of the aisles, and toss it into a basket, then turning to each other and slowly nodding.
Stepping to the farthest right aisle, we both pick out a small tub of ice cream and find a plastic pouch of spoons. We buy all of our stuff, and leave the store at fifteen after. Outside of the store, we immediately sit down on a bench and crack open the tubs of ice cream and rip open the spoon package.
"Best decision of my life." Natsume sighs wistfully, tossing the lid of her rocky road ice cream into the trashcan "Splendid."
I rip into the ice cream without a word, I ended up picking mint chocolate. Halfway through the top of the small tub, I swipe over to Natsume's tub and pull out a bite of the rocky road from under her nose. She turns to me very slowly and groans, "You know I hate mint chocolate, you ass."
"Well, I don't~!" I giggle, scarfing down more of the ice cream, "It's great stuff!"
"To you, maybe. To me it tastes like gritty chocolate and dried out toothpaste."
I toss the empty tub of ice cream into the plastic bag, "But it tastes like... Greatness!"
"To you." She taps the spoon against the bottom of the tub and groans again, tossing the tub into the wastebasket with a strained movement.
I help her stand up, and we make our way back to Uncle Minoru's house. Even if she doesn't notice, she's still hobbling to the pace of "What's New Pussycat."
Which still has me in pain from stifling such intense laughter.
The door is ajar when we arrive, and the house is filled with even more intense scents, and the raucous sounds of tableware shifting and being moved about, "Minoru! We're home! With the cheddar!"
We make our way into the kitchen, and the entire room smells absolutely great; turkey, potatoes, gravy, all sorts of western cuisine line the counters, filling my nostrils with the intense scents.
My mouth watering, I sit the large container of plastic down on the table and glance up to Minoru, who is hunched over the sink with a whisk, "Hello?"
He jolts upright, "Oh! So you got it, then?"
I nod my head, "Yep! Natsume and I did indeed!"
"That's great, great, hand it here~!" He bounces on the balls of his feet, almost like people say I do, and I hand him the cheddar, "Thanks a ton, I'll toss these in the potatoes and we'll be golden. And they'll be yellow. It'll be great! By the way, Ooe, was it?"
"Ah, just Natsume is fine."
"Well, Natsume, Ooe, same things. How are you liking it here?"
"I like it here, very much." She nods, giving her normal, formal bow to him, "I think the dinner smells great, as well. I don't have much western food, so this should be a trip, I'd say." She chuckles slightly, a much different laugh than her real one.
"That's good, then. I hope you enjoy your time here." He turns on his heel to the counter behind him, dumping the cheese on it and pulling a grater from the wall. He hums rhythmically as he rubs the blade against the cheese, and the conversation is, naturally, over.
I tug Natsume by the shoulder out of the back door, and onto the patio. Overlooking a substantial pond, with one of those fancy little fountains in the middle, as well as complete with intricate landscaping and bushes; all sorts of... bourgeois! Lots of it! It's really neat.
Natsume pops out of the back door and immediately seeks the first chair she can find.
Plopping down into it, she unhooks the crutches from her arms and slides into it casually, overlooking the whole complex, "Nice."
"Isn't it, though? I love the place."
"Must be nice, having all these weird family members to hop along with."
"Not really. It's nice sometimes, but a lot of the time it makes me feel really small." I shrug into my chair as well, across from Natsume, "But it's still nice to come around."
"It makes me feel small too.” She slips her arms behind her head, leaning back and glancing to her left, “It’s just… All this, all this stuff. It’s so… Foreign, and not in the sense that it’s all English. It’s just weird.” She fidgets in the chair, tenting her hands in her lap.
“Yeah, but it’s nice, a lot different than the stuff at school, a lot different. Intriguing.”
“I guess it’s all just a big metaphor.” She glances over to me, laughing under her breath, “Weird, I know. But we’re the people who explain what it means, what’s happening around the school. Sure, it’s not all that serious, but I can take it seriously. This house basically is how everyone else feels before we explain the situation.”
“So our news is a rich Japanese American man’s house?” I smirk, receiving a glare at me over the frame of her glasses.
“You know what I mean, sheesh.” She rolls her eyes, “Seriously though, think about it.”
“I know what you mean, I know what you mean, don’t get violent on me.” I giggle under my breath, turning my head to the sky. The back door slides open, and Minoru slips out of it.
“The food’s all done, you two~.” He steps back in, leaving the door open: A suggestion to hurry up.
I stand up, and walk over to Natsume, “Here, let’s head on in.” I tug her up from the chair, drawing out a pained grunt as her feet make contact with the floor again.
“I don’t wanna.” She slowly sighs, wobbling over to the door and making her way in. I follow behind, tugging the buttons of the shirt away at the top and fluffing it up.
I take a seat at the table, and pat the chair next to me, “Here, table’s set~.” She slowly unhinges the crutches, sliding into the chair with a grin.
The table is set with sooooo much food. It’s great. There’s a massive, stuffed, turkey, practically a dozen different kinds of potatoes, salad… And, the gem, the rolls. Oh my god the rolls. The hidden gem is the apple butter though. The things I’d do for that apple butter and the rolls. I would kill. Blood would be spilled.
My plate is lined with all the food I can muster onto it. Natsume’s is the same, but somehow she managed to fit more. Cheater.
“So, everyone, I’d just like to thank you all for coming to share in this tradition with me once more this year; as they call it in America, this Thanksgiving means a good bit to me. I suppose I’m just giving thanks for all that I have in life, which is great!”
Aunt Aneko sits on Minoru’s knee, patting him on the back, “Eh, we all know you’re just here for the food, so dig in!” She cackles, sliding off of Minoru and into her own chair, stabbing at the turkey on her plate with a carnivorous glare.
I take the cue and start pulling into my own food, combining my least favorite and most, so I can choke some of the weird stuff down. I peel off the ham from my plate, and put it on top of a roll, slapping a bit of potato on top, humming to myself as I make my delicatessen.
When I peer over to Natsume, half her plate is already gone. She has a normal pace, but… It’s already half gone.
I toss the ham-roll-potato amalgamation down my throat, grinning happily as it goes. I move onto the coleslaw and slowly cringe at it. Uncle Minoru loves the stuff, but… Well. I slide a piece of turkey under it, and toss it down the back of my throat. The worst of it is over. I have to remind myself of this.
I give Uncle Minoru a grin and a thumb’s up, and he smiles from underneath a stack of ham and turkey. When I look over to Natsume, another half of her plate is gone. She smirks, pulling the piece of turkey forwards, slicing it with the edge of her fork and pulling it in her maw.
I finish off my plate before Minoru goes back in for seconds, and before Natsume goes in for ungodly thirds, settling on just nabbing all the rolls I can ethically nab. And apple butter. All of that. Unethically.
We all finish, and move onto the deserts. Minoru and Aneko sit back, as my parents casually stand up and clear the table for him. Mom grabs all the side dishes, and dad grabs the ham and turkey, weaving around the furniture into the kitchen.
The pair of them have left me alone, honestly. I think they’re coming to grips with my independence or something. Or they just don’t feel like it today. It’s a fine change from their normal, constantly doting behavior, never leaving me be. Checking in constantly. Never leaving me to live, sheesh.
Natsume dips back in the chair, laying her hands across her stomach and slowly sighing, content, “Thanks for having me along for this, I haven’t eaten so much since I started going to Yamaku. It’s great, all of it.” She grins, glancing across to Minoru, Aneko, and myself.
Minoru returns the smile, and Aneko laughs warmly. Minoru leans forwards in his chair, “Any friend of Naomi’s is a friend of ours, we’re glad to have you around.” Aneko nods, facing mom and dad as they bring in the deserts on a little cart thingy. Minoru helps them unload all the deserts across the table, working with a smile.
When they’re all down, Natsume slowly leans forwards in anticipation. Natsume attempts to hide her opinion under a casually flitting gaze. But, well. This is the same stare she gives me when she’s waiting for me to finish something. As if the crack of a starting gun, Natsume fires into action when Minoru and Aneko finish making their plate. She loads her plate with a fine hand, and then leans back to her formal position and cracks down onto the assorted plate. I pull off more of the bread and pull a piece of pie from the pan. I also grab a scoop of the assorted chocolate candies. Yes. This is why I love this dinner. Deserts and bread.
And, uh. Family. But the desserts and breads. Yes.
When we all finish our food, the table is silent save for one, low, groan. I glance to my left, and Natsume is leaned on her elbows, letting out her “leave me alone and let me die” groan.
My parents laugh, in that high class stoic way, more a guffaw than anything. Standing with a few nods and thanks to Minoru and Aneko, they step over to me.
“Be good, Naomi, we’ll be checking in on you, alright?” My mom places a hand on my shoulder, drooping down from her tall frame to give me a hug, I return it with a slow, internal, sigh.
“Right, mom.” I pull away and she smiles her thousand-meaning-smile, turning to dad and waving towards the door.
They courteously exit the house, driving off to their house, their world.
I turn to Natsume, who is smiling, a pity smile more than anything, and then to Minoru, “They mean well, in honesty dear.” Aneko begins gathering up the last of the leftovers, facing Minoru.
He has his arms crossed, “Well, they gave their thanks, that’s what matters.” He frowns slightly, picking up Natsume’s plate from next to her, his mouth zeroing out, “When do you two leave? I know you took the rest of the week off, but are you staying another day, night?”
“Well, our train tickets were cheaper for tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll just be going then~.” I help Natsume from her chair; she’s still letting out the “leave me alone and let me die” groan, but she can’t die on the kitchen table. Picking up her crutches from the side of the table, I strap them on to her wrists so we can make the way to the guest room.
She leans on me, even when she’s using the crutches, tripping her way alongside me so we can lie down in the room. Before I fully turn, Minoru smiles wistfully.
I drag her to the guest bedroom, and she slumps off of me and on the front of the bed, across it. She simply blurts out, “The piiiils~,” before dropping her face against the side of the bed. She laughs under her breath, as I hand her a pill from the container.
She uses a few different medications at night, usually, so she can sleep. Her arthritis doesn’t help sleep very much, considering it affects most of her body. But it’s really up and down, some days she’s able to flit around and enjoy life, where she could dance. And then there are the days where she barely wants to move, barely can move, and she feels like the weight of the world is upon her entire body.
She uses the crutches to get around when it gets bad, it distributes the weight of movement to her arms and her legs. Her arms are the least affected area of her arthritis, but she still has a massive amount of pain if she does anything crazy.
Natsume stays in her weird “n” position on the bed. I suppose she already knows she’ll be feeling like ass in the morning. I pull off the quilt from the top of the bed, throw it over Natsume, and then pull a blanket from the corner and slide into the bed diagonally so I don’t disturb the beauty of weird sleep positions. Before I fully get in the bed, I undo the buttons of my shirt and sit it next to me.
The sun pierces through the room, and I burrow into my blanket more, slithering under the pillow. The blanket is ripped from my frame, and my pillow is flung at the wall. I bury my face into the comforter, and groan. I attempted my own rendition of the “leave me alone and let me die” groan. It ends up coming out like a dying warble. I slowly slink upwards, and sigh, “Whyyyyy.”
“Because our train is coming in an hour, you dip.”
“And Minoru has breakfast in the dining room.”
Natsume flings my change of clothes for the day at me, and steps out of the room, slowly making her way out with the crutches.
In the attached bathroom, I get changed. I pull off the shirt and pants from yesterday, swapping for a striped t-shirt, cardigan, and scarf, as well as a pair of gray tights. Oh! And the flats. I love the flats. The little bow always gets me.
I run some water through my hair. I hate showering in other people’s places, it always feels weird. So I wash out my hair with the water, and brush it flat with the comb, and find my contact case. I hold my eye open, and slide the contact lens into place, then hold open my right eye and repeat the process, same as ever.
My attire finished, I step out to the dining room and take a seat next to Natsume, who already has a full course set in front of her, eating casually.
Since we had that massive meal last night, the Thanksgiving feast and all, we’re eating an early lunch for breakfast. I pull a piece of ham from the center, and slide it onto a piece of toast with some butter. I load it with a bit of the mashed potatoes from last night, and top it with another piece of buttered toast.
Aneko and Minoru are both sipping on their glasses, reading from different newspapers as they eat a totally normal breakfast of rolls and apple butter (which I am plotting to steal the second it’s not in use) alongside… cheesy potatoes. Perfectly normal.
Minoru slowly slides the tin of apple butter across the table. My mouth slowly droops, “This is the moment you, ah, give me your thanks.” He sticks his tongue out, as I reach out for the apple butter. Natsume has a hand covering her mouth in laughter.
“Why are you so tripped out over apple butter, Naomi?”
“Because it’s the nectar of the gods.” I say, straight faced.
She slowly nods her head, “…Right.”
I finish off my plate of assorted dinner foods, and pick up all the plates around the table; last person to finish always does dishes in this house.
Natsume follows me into the kitchen as I carry in the plates and glasses, hobbling behind.
I start the hot water and pump soap into the sink, the soap sliding against the lines of the granite lazily until it hits the torrential water and bubbles up.
I sit the plates down in the water and tap my hand against the counter as the dishes float under. Natsume hands me a rag, and sits on the edge of the island in the middle of the kitchen, tapping her hand to the same beat as mine, “What song is that?”
“Oh, only your absolute favorite.”
She stops drumming her hands, “You wouldn’t.”
“You suck. A lot. Die.”
“Ow. That hurts. I just wanted to know what’s new, my favorite kitten.”
“Stop.” She glares at the back of my head, I can see it even if I’m not actually seeing it.
I hum the tune of the song, “But I can never stop, my dear.”
I start slowly increasing the volume of my hum, “Sweet…”
“Pussycat.” She holds out the “ooooppp” until I say those words.
I drag a few of the dishes under the water, washing them thoroughly, before sliding them on the opposite side of the sink and letting them soak in the clean water. I’ll dry them later.
Natsume taps her feet lazily against the counter, holding the same beat even though she so obviously hates the song. Right.
By the time I finish, she’s went through about ten runs of “What’s New Pussycat” with just her legs and her hands.
“So your medicine still keeping you under it’s reigns?”
“Juuust enough to hate life casually.” She drops off after the final run of “What’s New Pussycat,” and droops against the island, “Why.”
“It’s because I love you, sheesh.”
“It’s because you have such glooooooooriious taste in music.”
“Right,” she pushes off of the counter and cringes as her back pops, “...Bad omen.”
“It doesn’t happen every time your back cracks.”
“Damn near.” She taps at the floor with her crutches, feeling at the texture, before popping over past me and to the door, “Come on, we don’t want to miss the train.”
“Thankfully it passes near, at least.” I follow behind her, facing towards Minoru, “Thank you so much for having us, but we have to go, so we can catch the train back. I didn’t have time to dry the dishes, either, so I’ll just follow up on that… Next time we visit!” I wrap him in a hug, pushing off.
“It was a pleasure, Naomi. Make sure to keep in touch, I don’t want the next time we talk to be another one of my little feasts~!” He laughs, turning to the kitchen and whipping a rag out to dry the dishes.
Natsume and I hail a taxi on the road to town. The driver smiles cordially, and helps me load the two bags into the back of the car. I help Natsume get in, and he crawls into the front seat, taking off up the street.
“To the train station, please.” I say, surveying the prices of the taxi. I count out another bill for each time the meter up front increases, ready to hand them over and leave for the train.
Natsume remains quiet, legs crossed as she stares out of her window.
When we reach the station, I hand the driver the money, and tug Natsume from the car and grab the two bags from the trunk, laying them down on the ground as the driver counts the money. He gives a thumbs up, and drives off, leaving us to wait the short period of time for our train to come.
Natsume sits down, stretching out on the bench and staring at the platform, lazily tapping her foot. Not to the beat of our favorite song, either. Just a one second tap.
Until the sound of the train screeches into our ears, I can hear nothing but that.
The train rolls up, and we both get on, slowly. We get on last to avoid any problems. Mostly myself falling, or Natsume getting trampled. Both of which being terrible things.
The train ride, thankfully, is uneventful. I read a section of my book for Japanese, and Natsume sleeps. She regretted it, though. Since all she felt for the next hour was her bones and joints wanting to go back to that position, that rigid ninety degree sleep.
When we make it back home, to Yamaku, we head on inside and decide to just head to our dorm, or, well, my dorm. Natsume ended up coming over and watching a movie with me.
All in all, it was a good end to a long week.
This Thanksgiving thing has always made me feel good. I don’t really know why it came to be, Uncle Minoru never bothered with that. But it’s nice. Nice to be with friends, family. Those friends who you’ve come to see as family.
“Naomi?” I turn to address her, and she clears her throat, “You look like you were about to fall asleep.”
“Just thinking, that’s all.”
“What about?” She pulls off her glasses, rubbing at her temples as she leans into the corner of the wall.
“Nothing much, just… Giving my thanks, I guess.” I smiles, leaning back next to her and turning up the volume of the movie. I turn to her, and close my eyes, head tapping the wall, "Thanks."