I have said before that I never imagined I would use my degree in International Relations to become a Japanese housewife, but here I am, and now it seems I really should have taken Home Economics rather than French as an elective in high school because I certainly can't speak French. Who knew that my daughter would be embroidering her own place mat in kindergarten and that I, her mother, would be called upon to sew a simple hem around the rectangle of fabric sent home by the school? Homes without ovens in Japan? Not so surprising. Homes without sewing machines? SCANDALOUS! The in-laws are out of town and I can't sew. A button? Sure. Something with corners involved? Not a chance. It just so happens that my next door neighbor used to work in a fabric store. Her gorgeous quilts are on display whenever she airs them on sunny days. I have seen her sewing machine out on her table on numerous occasions
. I muster up my courage, have an imaginary conversation in my mind and head next door. She isn't home. Three different times I trek next door, ring the doorbell and she isn't home. I am in a panic. Mina came home from school and informed me that all the other girls returned their place mats
, neatly hemmed, the very next day. I have lined up a friend's mother-in-law as plan B or I can suffer the humiliation of taking my rectangle to the tailor. Finally! I catch her just before she is heading out for an evening run (yes, all housewives are perfect in Japan, excluding the foreign ones). I explain the situation to her, but rather than ask her directly to sew the damn thing for me, I ask her if she knows of a shop where I can take it to get it done. Now, if I can manage to be passive aggressive in Japanese, how lacking can my language skills be? On cue, she offers to do it for me, I protest saying she is so busy, she says she can do it in her sleep, I tell her how envious and embarrassed I am, kowtow, kiss her feet, etc., etc. Thank GOD! The next morning, the doorbell rings - here you go, Mina! I will have to make her some blueberry muffins to show my appreciation - with a mix from a box of course!