I taught English on a tiny tiny tiny island in Japan for two years, and I invited several of the little old ladies who adopted me while I was there. I didn’t expect any of them to come, but three of them did! It was so special. The gifts they gave, however, were kind of hilarious. You see, in Japan, you only give cash at weddings, never actual objects. However, they had heard that you give objects in the US, and so that’s what they did… and they brought gifts from all their friends who couldn’t make it, too.
DH and I picked them up at the airport a few days before the wedding. When we got to their hotel, they invited us to their rooms, and they all opened up their suitcases to present us with the gifts right then. They pulled out a bunch of incredibly gorgeous pieces of pottery they had collected for us, and that was great. Then, however, the stranger items started coming out…
First, they pulled out a beautifully knotted piece of rope, and they handed it to me. I had no clue what it was, so they pulled out some very, very old photos of a ship leaving harbour. They then explained that when I am in labour with our first child, I am to hold the rope in my hand. That way, just as a ship sails smoothly out of the harbour on its maiden voyage once the ropes holding it back are cut, the baby will sail smoothly out of my vagina and into the world. That story was fun to translate for my husband.
…But it got better. Next, they pulled out this little beanbag thing that had a ceramic rat’s head attached to the front. They told me that I needed to display it somewhere in our bedroom. They explained that rats have tons and tons of babies, and so if we put the fake rat on display, we’d have all the babies just like the rat!
And then the best part. Finally, one of the ladies pulled out a pile of fabric. When she brought it closer for us to examine, we saw that it was a book made up of hand-stitched pages. She proudly announced that she and her craft group on the island had made it for us… or, more specifically, for our children on their third birthdays. It’s a child’s birthday book that has a bunch of cars and trucks carrying cupcakes, cookies, candies, etc. to a big table at the end that has a birthday cake. She was very insistent that this was for our children on their third birthdays.
…In other words, the Japanese grannies REALLY want me and DH to get on that baby-making.
Those presents weren’t bad – I actually think they’re really special – but they’re definitely a bit strange. It’s a good thing DH and I do actually want kids! That could have been awkward.