The Ephemeral Cherry Trees

I breathed deeply. The soft spring air touched my cheek gently and tenderly. The rows of cherry trees were in full blossom. They made long arches like a tunnel. Ever since I was a little child, this had always been my favorite park. As an innocent little girl, cheerful and full of energy, I had played most every day until the skies took on a wine hue, and my mother came to take me home.

Nothing ever changed, always the same scene, the small red bridge, moss-colored ponds, the old jinjya (Shinto shrine), and round stone sitting chairs.  “If I could run fast enough, when I emerged from the tunnel of the sakura (cherry trees), maybe I would find myself all grown up, a mature adult, and I would be standing independently on my own two feet.” I wished it could be so.

◊ ◊ ◊

I haven’t seen my mother so excited since my father died. She even put on lipstick and wore a nice dark blue colored dress. She insisted that I should wear my best clothes, but I resisted. Instead, I chose my shabby old creamy colored blouse and jeans with big holes in my knees, displaying my defiant attitude. But my mom didn’t argue with me. We had to hurry to catch a bus to a Japanese restaurant.

“Please behave well,” my mom whispered to my brother and me. “Konnichiwa (Good to see you again). This is my daughter and son.” My mother introduced us to a man. “Hajimemashite” (Nice to meet you). He bowed his head and greeted us. My brother was too shy to look at the man, and I didn’t say anything.

He looked to be in his middle 50s, but his hair was black and thick. His voice was low. He was a muscular man. Everything was opposite from my father.

“Well, let’s order something delicious. Aren’t you both hungry? What do you like? You can order whatever you want.” The man showed the menu to my brother and me. This Japanese restaurant was a pricey place, so I decided to order the cheapest item on the menu, zarusoba (buckwheat noodle). But my brother ordered the most expensive dish, sukiyaki teishoku (beef meal). Hazukashii.  I felt so embarrassed. Why did my brother order the most expensive meal? It appeared as if we didn’t often have good food, as if this was his only opportunity to eat something special? I didn’t want the man to know that we were poor. My zarusoba was delicious anyway, and my brother didn’t leave any single grain of rice from his sukiyaki.

I knew that my mother didn’t bring my brother and me to the Japanese restaurant just to eat expensive Japanese food with this man. The stranger started to speak hesitantly with my brother and me. “Your mother and I will get married next month. I have purchased a house for all four of us to live together,” the man said. My mom was looking down at the table and didn’t look at my brother’s face or mine at all.

“What?” I shouted in my heart. “What is this old man talking about? My father died last summer, just eight months ago. What are you thinking, mom? You didn’t tell us anything about you getting remarried. Did you forget your husband, my father already?”  I didn’t know what kind of emotions I was fighting with. I only knew that I would have to move to a new house with my new “father” next month.

◊ ◊ ◊

I sat on the big stone chair, just looking at the cherry trees and remembering our last evening’s conversation at the Japanese restaurant. The cherry blossom petals were falling whenever the wind blew. The cherry petals, pale whitish pink, just like my mother’s lipstick. My unmei (destiny) is like the cherry blossom petals. When the wind comes, they cannot remain on the branches. They just blow and scatter wherever the wind leads. As the petals depend on the wind, so my life also depends on others.

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