My grandmother passed away about five years ago. She was in her nineties and couldn’t stand or walk by herself anymore.
As she got old, I noticed that I became the brightest grandchild she had in her mind, and often repeated the same story to whoever was willing to listen.
The story of me when I was about three years old;
My brother was born two years after I was born, and my mom had a hard time caring for a newborn and a child.
My grandparents came to her rescue and took me with them.
It was a long journey on a train to reach their town. When the train stopped at some station, my grandmother bought us lunch in “Bento” boxes along with some hot green tea in plastic containers from a vendor. We ate our lunch, and after a nap and watching more towns and fields go by, we were finally there.
I stayed with them until somebody could take me back.
To adults’ surprise, I was fine and never cried missing my parents.
So, a year later, when my mom got pregnant again, I was back on a train with my grandmother.
We passed the same small towns and watched the same sceneries. It was before the high-speed train era and consumed most of the day. Every time we went through tunnels, black dust entered from the open windows and filled the cabin. The seats were hard and uncomfortable. But, I suppose, I never complained.
About halfway, when we stopped at a train station, I suddenly stood on the seat.
Then, through an open window I poked my head out and started looking around.
My grandmother was terrified and was about to grab me, when I jumped out of the seat, ran to the open door and scoured while standing in the doorway.
Bewildered grandmother watched me coming back to the seat.
I stuck my head out again and waved.
“Mr. Bento! Mr. Bento!”
Hearing my calling, the vendor came running, carrying a tray filled with “Bento” boxes.
My grandmother purchased one. On this trip, she had brought rice balls and tea for us, but couldn’t tell him to go away – after all, I summoned him.
She wasn’t upset but was impressed that I remembered where and how we got our lunch before, she said.
In her memories, things got prettier and prettier, and I got smarter and smarter. And, after hearing this story over and over, I began to believe I was that girl.