Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Fabric of My Life

I remember there being a lot more 
fringe 40 years ago
"I've never been so cold in my life." That's what he told me as his shivering hands brought the cup of steaming hot tea closer to his lips. Originally from the northern wilds of icy Hokkaido, he was a recent transplant to Yokohama. I was helping him brush up on his English conversation skills before the company that employed us both sent him on to a warmer climate across the seas. 

He just wasn't prepared, that was his main problem. I don't mean for his English lessons. He knew more about the ins and out of English grammar than I ever hope to. He just wasn't prepared for his move to Yokohama, where perhaps unlike his former homeland, houses and apartment buildings generally lack central heating and insulation (as far as I've seen anyway). Warm here is a relative term and depends largely on your proximity to the space heater, whether it be wall mounted or portable; gas, electric, or kerosene powered. The house I live in tends to be colder inside than it is outside in winter and the reverse in summer (one of those mysteries of the orient). Sometimes the best way to warm up on a cold January afternoon is to get out of the house. The upside is that there is no chance of milk or other perishables spoiling since every room is essentially a walk-in refrigerator.

When I pulled up stakes and moved to Japan from the more frigid zones of America, I had everything I needed thanks in part to the spouse of a US ambassador who had lived in numerous countries across the world. She doled out some excellent advise on globe trotting and more. I chalk it up to kismet that I had my car radio tuned to the talk show station on which she was being interviewed just weeks before I was about to make my own big move. She let the host of the show in on a little secret something that was her rock of stability no matter how many times she and her family had to pack up and move on to the next new post. The secret was a four-poster bed, a family heirloom  passed down for generations. It had traveled with them from their  abode somewhere in the Virginia countryside to the four corners of the earth.

"That's exactly what I'm going to do!" I shouted and began to think of possessions that would serve as my anchor as I embarked on my journey into an unknown continent. I didn't have a four-poster bed nor the means to move it half way across the earth but I could bring a blanket I thought. Lacking independent thinking skills, I couldn't imagine anything beyond the bed but it turned out to be a stroke of genius in the end.    

Before shoving off from the Port of Baltimore, I stuffed an old woolen Foxford blanket into my olive green Sunny's surplus duffel bag. I had laid beneath the comfort of that blanket my entire life and while worn it was still quite warm.

Proudly bearing its label for well 
over half a century
My Irish immigrant grandmother had brought it to the distant shores of her new home in America decades before I was ever born. Now I would be taking it a little further as I continued to weave a thread that stretched back over countless years and miles from one island nation half way around the world to another.   

It's cold  as usual and I'm feeling a little under the weather but I'll rest well tonight, blanketed in a warmth shared by generations.


  1. I hope your cold gets better! I know what you mean about poor insulation here. My apartment in Chiba is super cold. I used to live in a newer place with a huge south-facing window in Shinagawa that stayed pretty warm in the winter. Where I am now is *freezing* though.

  2. Thanks for the warm wishes, etc.!