The Precious Gift

By Lettie • April 22, 2020

When I was in my 30's and newly married, I followed my husband to his native Japan. His mother lived in a small town where a son bringing home his American wife was unheard of. Japanese households were (in)famous for their myriad of rules. Not only what slippers were for which room - and in which rooms none were allowed - but also, at mealtime what foods to eat and in which order. But my elderly mother-in-law set me at ease at the very first meal, announcing warmly to everyone that I could do anything I wished because there were no expectations. She said it so cheerfully to everyone present, that they agreed! I never forgot this gift!

A few years later we moved to Los Angeles. In this new city I missed my family on the East Coast so much, and desperately tried to make friends to ease the loneliness. An elderly neighbor who lived in a cottage behind our apartment would often say hello to me, and one day he made a picnic and invited me and my child to join him! He said, "Don't worry, I decided I like you! You can make any mistake...it's OK." I never forgot this gift!

A few yew years later we moved to NYC. It was wonderful to have visits from my family after so many years! We settled down, our child in kindergarten and a new baby just born, when I experienced post-partum depression. It took a few months, very busy and somehow very sad, until a healthly balance returned. During one especially hard day I took the baby for a walk in the stroller to help him sleep - I knew I had a terribly unhappy expression, but couldn't pick myself up. Down the sidewalk came an elderly gentleman who saw me, beamed a bright warm smile, and passed on by. And I never forgot this gift!

This week I called my adult sons who are doing well in the new coronavirus circumstances. As I walked our dog down the street wearing my mask, hoping I did not appear silly, because others I met along the way chose to keep a safe distance but forego the mask...an elderly fellow rode a red bike down the road and sweetly nodded to me saying, "You look lovely dear!" And I will never forget the gift!

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