It was a winter afternoon. My newish husband and I were at the grocery store near our Tokyo apartment. I was perusing what was probably spinach and heard Hitoshi’s voice from somewhere nearby, “Hilary, we’re out of rice.”
Continuing to examine the supposed spinach with eyes focused downward, “Uh huh” slipped out.
Hubby’s voice popped up again from the carrots. “Hilary. There is no rice in the container in the kitchen.”
While acknowledging Hitoshi’s presence and noting stress in his voice, tomatoes still won my attention.
“Hilary. There’s NO rice.” The stress had turned to strain.
Upon returning home, Hitoshi was barely. He had a headache and had to lie down.
Should the empty rice container be hidden under a large sheet? And why do I feel so guilty?
Do you have enough rice?
At every family visit, Hitoshi’s mom asked if he had enough rice. She never asked if he had rice. Hitoshi would invariably answer in the positive.
The one time he said, “No”, his mom dashed to fill a plastic grocery bag to bursting. The thin handles stretched from the weight of the nurturing load that seemed to symbolize his mother’s duty to feed her son. While it was partly this, I learned that lack of rice meant unhappiness and stress in my husband’s family.
The rice crisis incident at the grocery store was a turning point. From then on, the quantity of rice in our container was actively monitored. While the importance of rice to Hitoshi was understood, I still struggled with matching his depth of connection.
A friend from Singapore had another experience with rice. Her grandmother always told her that an empty rice container would bring bad luck or impending doom. Another friend from Hong Kong simply stated that her family never, ever ran out of rice!
What has been your experience with rice in your family? If rice is not part of your life, what takes its place?
PP Aug 17, 2010