Somewhere in the muddled mind of youth, where I meandered from day to day clutching a withered hand-me-down school bag and wore white Oxford shoes that I carelessly painted in all directions with drying white polish, my perfect friend Grace would run ahead in her long pigtails and beautiful book bags.
I loved her book bag, a handmade piece created from her mother’s thriving imagination.
Grace always had something that I admired. Her mother made all the nice things she had, which were intricately sewn dolls or little patches, cute little faces on clothing and bags so lovingly stitched together, completed with a silky lining so that books could find a gentle place to lay.
Mrs. H’s mind seemed to be an animated universe of fascinating skies and mezmerizing creatures, and she was adept at bringing it to life. This was a gift she passed onto Grace, now an artist, who once drew Snoopy pictures with precision and spunk, and he took on animated poses that went beyond the scope of Schulz’s pen.
You could fall in love with such beauty and colors. This was pre-anime universe, where Disney and Mr. Hashimoto dominated. Most images were familiar and came with a jingle or product, but Mrs. H stepped ahead of this. Hers was a world she shared with her children, and then with me.
It was on my 7th birthday when Grace gave me a handmade book bag made by her mother. It was scarlet red and had beautiful miniature dolls sewn into the fabric, while the inside lining was white or pink. I held the bag up to the light and looked at every tiny stitch, caressed the character faces that were on the front of the bag and marveled at a singular beauty that could never be replicated. It was an overwhelming gesture that I could hardly interpret, but that bag would stay with me, sometimes hidden away from my mother so it would never enter that “too old to keep so throw it away” category.
This was all so long ago, and I have never forgotten each fine detail.
There are so many things for which I must say thank you, as Mrs. H’s generosity and kindness extended far beyond that little bag and a childhood BFF.
For today, thank you obasan.