What impulse are we feeding?
A terrible moment of indecision:
Do I serve breakfast — which is neither Japanese nor pasta — in the blue and white Japanese pasta bowls that my wife insists are “small plates”, or the brown Japanese pasta bowls, about which she insists the same?
This is my life, now, in California; post-Missouri malaise, post-caregiving, post-homelessness, post-isolation.
I live in a three-year-old condo in one of Anaheim’s trendier neighborhoods. I have room to move, and breathe, and draw and write. I have a wonderful wife, an adorable dog, and neighbors whose names, faces, and personalities I know well. I have access to craft beer, wine, booze, coffee shops, pizza, Hawaiʻian food, Mexican food, Punjabi food, Japanese food, fancy burgers, fried chicken, seafood, subs and fast food, a grocery store and a pharmacy, an outdoor gym and a ping pong table and a saltwater pool — even a dog groomer and a comic book store — all within easy walking distance.
My life is good. My life is easy. Probably easier than it’s ever been.
Even if I’m permanently fractured.
Linda had the brown bowls before I met her. She initially had a set of four, but I broke one when we were still renters, before we left our cramped quarters on Sunkist Street for our owned place on Anaheim Boulevard, with its thick, quiet walls and eggshell paint.
The blue and white bowls, we picked and purchased together at a Japanese market in Costa Mesa. We bought two bowls because there are two of us.
Neither of them are broken.
Neither of them are cracked.
I cook eggs and cheese every morning that Linda works. Some days, I fry four of the eggs, then sprinkle the cheese on top. Other days, I scramble five, and stir the cheese — along with heavy whipping cream — into the sticky mixture in the pan. Frying five eggs is inconvenient, difficult to divvy up, but scrambling five feels just right.
We eat at the coffee table, but we don’t turn on the TV.
Not at breakfast. TV is for dinner. Or supper, if you’re so inclined.
We sit on the sofa — red, worn, and old — and I clap my hands together. “Itadakimasu.”
“Itadakimasu,” Linda repeats, and then we eat.
Like our food, neither of us is strictly Japanese. Linda was born on an United States Air Force base in Tokyo. Her maternal family comes from pre-statehood Hawaiʻi, and Japan before that, but she doesn’t speak the language.
Nor do I, despite having spent a year working with students from Japan who were attending college in the United States.
Culturally, we’re both very, very American. “Itadakimasu” is something we picked up from a subtitled Japanese reality show.
Both of us know that what we’re saying might come closer to “Bon appétit” or “Let’s eat” than to any sort of prayer. Maybe it’s an acknowledgement of humble reception. Maybe it’s a “Thank you”, and maybe it’s not.
Again, neither of us speak Japanese.
But “Itadakimasu” is our new ritual, a tradition we are creating for ourselves, a rite of gratitude with which we now start every day.
Gratitude to whom or what? It really doesn’t matter.
I feel a twinge of charity for my friends who have found Jesus only after finding parenthood. I wonder if there is this prodding we share, a tangible catalyst to seek out and assign meaning, even if we seek in different directions.
I wonder if it’s more than an awareness of our shared, forced crawl toward death.
This morning, I choose the blue and white bowls. I reach for the one nearest me, standing semi-upright in the bamboo drying rack. I note the marks centered on the bowl’s bottom.
The name of a Japanese city is painted there, along with the simple strokes of a leaf.
I pick it up and I turn it over.