Say hi to Ojiichan first, says Mom
Outside her childhood home.
Ojiichan’s bowl of water sits by the door
Ready for his weary feet
On his return from his journey.
Doors are left open
To welcome all,
Attracted to the mix of savory and sweet
Fishy kamaboko, greasy tempura, and sugary sata andagi
But those must wait.
Say hi to grandfather first I remind myself.
And obaachan smiles in greeting
Then hands me a flat bunch of lit incense.
Views of my cousins through the open sliding doors
Their game of badminton in the backyard beckon.
Say hi to ojiichan, says mom.
The polished wooden batsudan,
in its prominent spot in the living room
Is decorated in honor of grandfather.
Pineapples, passion fruit and monkey bananas
next to candles and flowers and
The bowl of half burned incense at the center.
Carefully place my incense
Bow my head
The day for extended family
Visits to houses I see twice a year
Stuffed with oxtail soup, soba, goya champuru.
Boxed rice offerings pile to the side of every altar.
More incense and
Prayers and welcomes to ancestors I’ve never met.
Countless conversations fill the living room
As trails of my uncle’s cigarette smoke waft upwards
to mingle with the flowery smell of lit incense
And all the food.
Four generations of family
And above the noise,
Obaachan’s deep, throaty laugh embraces us all.
And with full bellies
We make our way into the street outside
Obaachan clutches a steel bowl
And more incense
Someone adds bits of goya and sata andagi.
Ojiichan’s favorite foods.
And on top of it all
Yellow uchikabi spirit money is set to fire
The sound of Eisa singing, whistling and cheerful drums
As we bid Ojiichan good journey.