1. Shopping with Oba-chan (a grandmother)
Recently, as I was about to enter my local supermarket I noticed a woman perhaps in her seventies, having trouble getting her left shoe back on her foot.
The problem was that she couldn’t find a good place to steady herself so she could bend over and adjust the shoe.
Without a moments thought, I slid up next to her and kneeled down as I asked, “Would you like some help with that?”
“Oh please.” she said “I took my shoe off because it had a small stone inside, and now I can’t get it back on.”
I suggested she place her left hand on my shoulder, as I took hold of the shoe and had her slide her foot in. It took just a moment and the task was done.
I motioned for her to enter the store before me, and she asked, “Is it OK if I go shopping with you?”
I wasn’t sure what her intention was, but I quickly said, “Sure, please join me.”
The lady introduced herself as Okada, and I told her my name was Charlie, and soon we were slowly on our way.
We hadn’t walked but a few feet when Okada-san said to me, “At my age I don’t get to meet many foreigners. You seem like a wonderful young man, and thus the thought occurred to me to buy whatever you buy today. It would be like getting to eat a meal in a foreign country, without needing to travel. Would this be OK? I wouldn’t want to be intrusive.”
I must say her proposal caught me off guard, and very much amused me at the same time. “Well sure!” I said. “I hope I buy things you won’t mind eating.”
Forgoing my initial reason for shopping, I quickly decided to buy food that would go together as a nice meal.
Some freshly cut basil, a head of garlic a small bottle of olive oil (even though I already had some at home), a package of spaghetti, some gorgonzola cheese, a jar of olives, and a loaf of French bread. With each item I bought I suggested what she should do to prepare and serve the meal we were constructing together.
To top it all off, and as a way of seeing just how playful Okada-san was, I put a bottle of Chianti in my cart.
“Oh” she said, “Is that wine?”
“Yes” I said, “It is wine. It’s Italian wine. But no need for you to buy any.”
“Is it necessary to drink the whole bottle at one time?” she asked.
“Oh no!” I said, “That would likely be way too much for you. You can have a glass and save the rest for later.”
“OK then” she said. “I’ll buy a bottle.”
“I’m eighty years old and I married very young” she said. “The only time I ever tasted alcohol was when I took a sip or two in the kitchen to see what it tasted like, when serving my husband and his guests. But then when he passed away ten years ago, I started to have a glass of beer once a week with dinner. After so many years of hard work it’s wonderful to treat myself to such a luxury. I set the table with my best silverware and a cloth napkin, and then I sit down making believe I’m at a fine restaurant. This is the first time in my life I’ll try wine, and I’m going to make believe I’m in Italy. Perhaps I’ll buy a phrase book so I’ll know what to say to the waiter!”
As she smiled warmly I thought to myself, “Isn’t it wonderful, to make friend’s with a lady that has such a lively imagination!”