Years ago, when we were living in Suginami, a small clipboard circulated through the block. This contained a list of the households in the area and the order in which it was to be passed from house to house. There is one that circulates here as well. It contains notices of what is going on in the larger neighborhood, like emergency training or meetings and the like. When one gets the notice, you would indicate you have seen it by putting your "hanko" (a stamp that often takes the place of a signature) in the space by your name. Then you deliver the board to the next house on the list.
In Suginami, the clipboard came with a one-month duty. That was to set out some small folding recycle bins on the particular day of each week... one to hold glass jars and bottles, and the other for tin cans ... or aluminum cans.
I remember taking that board to my neighbor to the northeast when my duty was finished. She looked at the next name on the list and said, "Morishita? Morishita? I don't know any Morishita!" I told her that they live just across the street to the west and she should get to know them as they are very nice people. I was rather shocked that though they had lived there much longer than I, (and even could speak Japanese a whole lot better) they dod not know who their neighbors were.
When we moved from that house back to this place where we had started out, we threw a sayonara-thank-you party for our neighbors at a local eatery. Everyone laughed and talked with people who they had only seen but never talked to before. At the end, many said they wished we had done that sooner. I have met apartment dwellers who don't even know the names of those living on the same floor or even in the neighboring apartment.
Now I come to my own community. Last Thursday when my daughter told me the trip to the states was booked from the end of the month, I began to worry. I have a big dog. I have a bird and some little fish. I have many plants. Norie has been looking around for a house sitter for over a month but the pressure was on to get things settled. I had mentioned this worry to a number of friends at school and church and even to my english student, and the pressure was getting more and more to the point I could not sleep at night., Wednesday I trudged sleepily off to school without even five minutes of sleep the night before.
Then Wednesday night, about dinner time, the doorbell rang. It was a neighbor... the very one who had rescued me from the anger of Mori-san in the weed lot, the mother-in-law of the english student. She had heard I would need a sitter for Nikko during the month of July. Not to worry, she and her son would take care of everything.
(This, by the way, is the same son who came to my rescue when Paul died and the internet was cut off, by letting me use his internet connection for around two months until the problem was solved.)
Last night I slept like a log but from now on I may be lying awake trying to figure out what I can do to repay these friends.
Anyway, I think that should move up to top priority to work on during my travel time ... maybe the food prints and the zodiac animals running around like the birthday table cloth I made for my son ...
As Nikko and I were returning from a walk to the cleaners ... finally my light down comforter can be taken off "stand-by" and sent for cleaning ... As usual, I check out the gardenia by the gate. This year it is full of more buds than ever before. I have to keep checking for caterpillars because just one will do incredible damage even over night.
The suckers are small and green and look like part of the plant and I see a few spots that seem to have been tasted.
Anyway, there, among the buds, was the first bloom! I am about to have a joyous explosion of sweet-smelling beauty. The genkan window is now open and inviting the smell inside.
A deep green fabric is sitting here beside me waiting to be measured and cut for the first inner border of the alphabet quilt. Busy day tomorrow with a teacher's end-of-the-year party and a cub pack meeting. And even as I run, tears come to my eyes when I think of the kindness of my own neighbors... a gift beyond measure.