Tag Archives: friendship

#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #9


by Lillian Csernica on May 9, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Kindness only comes in whole.

 

Broken Promises, Broken Lives

Mary Anne yawned. She glanced at the alarm clock beside her bed. Three a.m. No wonder she was sleepy. She plugged her cell phone into the charger and tied back her long brown hair in a ponytail. Sleeping in her blue sweats seemed like an even better idea. The wind had risen, blowing the willow branches against her bedroom window. She knew she should have taken the first floor apartment. Too many bad memories. She couldn’t step out on a balcony without thinking of Esmeralda.

Mary Anne picked up her phone again. It had been a year already. She swiped through her photos until she found the last photo taken of Esmeralda when she was still happy, standing on the rooftop of that youth hostel in Yokohama. Cherry blossom season. Esmeralda loved flowers. The hotel held a party that night on the rooftop. The breeze blew cherry blossom petals along the streets. As night fell, neon came on all over the city. So amazing.

That night Esmeralda and Mary Anne had stayed up late, talking about the future. They’d been to a temple the day before and chose fortune sticks. The numbers on the sticks matched scrolls that described the kind of luck they could expect to have in the areas of health, money, relationships, scholarship, and spiritual matters. At the party they found a fellow guest who spoke English, Japanese, Italian and French. Massimo translated the fortune scrolls. It was all just one more item on the tourist attraction list until Massimo frowned.

“Esmeralda, in every column it says you must finish what you start. Any project, any job, any course of study, you must work hard and finish it as quickly as possible.”

“Why?” Esmeralda asked.

“I don’t know quite what it means. Something along the lines of Carpe Diem, seize the day.” Massimo gave her back the scroll and rubbed his hands together in a nervous gesture. “Many cultures have such sayings.”

Mary Anne nodded. “YOLO, right?” She laughed. “That’s why we’re here!”

She wanted to laugh it off and get back to the party. It wasn’t like she and Esmeralda were Buddhists and actually went to that temple. They were college students on vacation.

After the party, Esmeralda sat up late on the rooftop, watching the endless traffic and the rainbow of neon signs. It was three a.m. Mary Anne had enough plum wine to leave her sleepy and content. Esmeralda’s voice woke her from a doze.

“You understand, don’t you, Annie? I just want to be sure Teresa is OK.”

Teresa was Esmeralda’s little sister, all of fourteen, just starting high school. So pretty, but not all that smart.

“No problem, Esme.”

“You promise? Make sure she studies hard, and stays away from the bad boys.”

“Promise.”

Now Mary Anne put her phone back on the charger. Life was so unfair. A week after they came home from Japan, Esmeralda fell down some stairs. She couldn’t use her left arm properly and had missed her grip on the handrail. Tests and more tests. Six months later Esmeralda was dead. Some horrible neurological condition that happened to only one in one million people.

The willow branches rattled against the window again. Mary Anne frowned. She couldn’t recall that much noise even during some of the winter storms.  She threw back the covers and padded across the carpet to the window. She pulled open the curtains.

Esmeralda stood there, her heavy black braid a mess, her hospital gown hanging off one shoulder, her face twisted like a stroke patient. Beneath her feet, nothing but three floors of empty air.

“You broke your promise!”

“What? No!”

“Teresa is lost. You did not protect her.”

Mary Anne shook her head. Late night. Too much Internet. That blue glow from her phone messing with her brain.

“You promised me, Mary Anne. To make her study. To keep away the bad boys.”

“Teresa is fine! Her quinceanera is next month!”

The horrible thing outside the window shook its head. “No quinceanera for Teresa. No college. No future. You promised!”

“Go away!” Mary Anne grabbed at the curtains, trying to close them. The wind blew harder, rattling the panes.

“Tonight Manuel ruined Teresa. Your fault. All your fault! You promised!”

Mary Anne ran back to bed and dove under the covers. A nightmare. Just a nightmare. She’d done everything she could to help Teresa study hard. Even found her a math tutor. So Teresa went to a few parties. She always went in a group with three or four other girls. School events. Church events. Adults keeping an eye on the kids.

The covers flew back. Esmeralda stood there, tears running down her cheeks.

“Manuel is good for nothing but making babies!” Esmeralda let out a tormented wail. “You kept only half of your promise!”

Mary Anne rolled out the other side of the bed. She hit the floor on hands and knees and scrambled toward the door. Up on her feet, she ran for the front door and flung it open, racing down the balcony to the stairway.

Esmeralda appeared, hanging in space above the stairwell, hair streaming, mouth open wide in an endless scream.

Mary Anne jerked away, missing her grip on the railing. She tumbled down the concrete stairs. The last thing she felt was Esmeralda’s tears raining down on her face.

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scaryforkids.com

 

 

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Filed under Blog challenges, doctors, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, hospital, Japan, Lillian Csernica, marriage, mother, travel, Writing

How You Can Achieve World Peace


by Lillian Csernica on August 7, 2016

Lately I seem to be crossing paths with more Muslim people. Maybe there are more moving into my area. Maybe I’m just starting to notice Muslim folks more often. Women wearing the hijab are not all that common in my neck of the woods.

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roostercoffeehouse.com

In the coffeehouse where my writing group meets, I saw an interesting sight. An older man and woman who appeared to be Caucasian. The man wore the white skullcap and the woman wore the hijab. The woman’s headscarf was lovely and I commented on it. That got us into a conversation about a shop in Berkeley where I can find similar scarves. (Being Russian Orthodox, I cover my head when I’m in church.) We also discussed the latest trends toward longer skirts, which made both of us happy.

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The supermarket where I do my grocery shopping has a few new cashiers at the registers. One of them happens to be another woman who appears to be Caucasian, speaks with an American accent, and wears the hijab. She is a cheerful, talkative, charming person and I like her a lot. Our most recent conversation was about rock music. As I moved on out of the line, I said to her, “Salaam alaikum.” She gave me the sweetest smile and returned the greeting. We’re both People of the Book, so it’s all good.

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In a recent post I mentioned my family’s trip to the San Francisco Zoo. In one of the zoo’s restaurants, I met a Muslim family, mother, father, and two little boys. In the course of exchanging greetings, I said, “You folks are Muslim, yes?” The mother took a step back toward her children. The father’s expression turned wary. Little wonder. These are dangerous times.

I realized I’d made them anxious, so I smiled and wished them a Happy Eid Mubarak. The mother came forward with open arms to give me a big hug. The father thanked me, using a serious tone than conveyed gratitude for more than just my effort to be polite. When he said, “It means a lot,” I had to wonder what kind of hostility this family had faced in the past.  A kind greeting from a stranger recognizing one of the Muslim holy days brought that much relief and happiness. Such a little act, but for that family, it had great meaning.

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This is how we build world peace. We talk to each other. We get to know each other. We discover what we have in common. We respect each other.

Later today I’ll be buying groceries for the week. If I see the Muslim lady cashier, I’m going to ask her if we can have tea together sometime.

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quoteshunger.com

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Filed under charity, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, family tradition, Goals, Lillian Csernica, love, parenting, perspective

My Favorite Moments (Kyoto Roundup)


by Lillian Csernica on December 9, 2015

There were a few moments during the trip that stand out as particularly memorable.

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Turning on the lights in our hotel room.  There was no main switch just inside the door.  We did find the switch for the bathroom (located on the wall outside the bathroom, which is just asking for pranks and accidents).  There were small reading lights at the head of each bed, along with a table lamp and a floor lamp.  How did we turn them on?  There was a slot on the wall in the entryway similar to a credit card reader, only this was vertical.  I put my room key in the slot, then pulled it out again.  Voila!  Light!

Two minutes later the lights went out.

We went through this twice more, trying to figure this out with brains that had long since turned to cottage cheese.  I called down to the desk for help and told them the lights wouldn’t stay on.  They sent a man from Maintenance, who had me show him what I’d been doing.  I had the process half-right.  To keep the lights on, one leaves the key in the slot.  So every time Pat and I left the room on an outing, we’d check to see who had a key in hand and who had put hers in the light “switch.”  This resulted in dialogue that would have done Abbot and Costello proud!

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Norimono, 19th C.

The taxi drivers.  I love Japanese taxis.  The lace antimacassars on the seats, the white gloves, the automatic passenger door….  Sometimes the drivers were quite formal, and that’s fine.  Other times we’d get a driver who was happy to have a chance to practice his English, or maybe he just thought Pat and I were entertaining.  (Can’t imagine why anybody would think that!

One driver said, “English is just three words.  I love you.  I miss you.”  My cynical sense of humor kicked in and I told him, “You’re missing one. ‘I want money.'”  Fortunately, we were at a stoplight right then.  The driver burst out laughing.  He mimed writing something down, saying, “I must take notes.”  That made us all start laughing again.

On our way back to the hotel from Kiyomizu-dera, we had a driver who wanted to be friendly, but as is often the case, he was nervous about speaking English.  He had the radio on, playing classic rock.  That was a welcome glimpse of home.  Once I said, “American rock ‘n’ roll!” that broke the ice.  By then Pat was speaking enough Japanese to get into the conversation as well.  The driver revealed his secret stash of chocolates and gave each of us one.  Music and chocolate are the perfect ways to go from strangers to friends.

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At the smaller gift shop inside the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Pat and I got into conversation with Yuki, the lady behind the counter.  She was surprised by how much polite Japanese we could both manage.  When we explained our purpose in Kyoto as doing research for our writing, she thought that was quite exciting.  Before we left, she brought out two little packets of those sugar star candies like the ones Chihiro feeds to the dust sprites in Spirited Away.  She insisted on giving them to us.  That was a lovely surprise!

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www.aliexpress.com

The weather was so mild at the start of our stay I didn’t need my jacket day or night.  As the end of October closed in, the nights got colder.  In Kyoto Station one night, everybody else had begun to bundle up and there I was.  As I came up to the escalator going down, I made way for the older lady ahead of me with a polite, “Dozo.”  It was a long escalator.  The lady turned around and said, “Are you cold?”  Her tone of voice was like my mother’s just before she’d tell me to put on a sweater.  This came out of the blue, so I was glad to be able to answer in English.  “Outside, yes.  Inside, no.”  The lady nodded and faced front again.  As we neared the bottom, she turned and wished me a good trip.  The whole thing was rather endearing.

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The ladies at the front desk.  Thanks to my endless questions, Miss Nakanishi and Miss Kinjo knew our daily itinerary almost as well as we did.  When Pat and I came back from that day’s adventures, they’d greet us and ask specific questions about that day’s activities.  I think my boundless enthusiasm for all things Japanese plus my grasp of Japanese history and culture resulted in answers different from the ones a more typical American tourist might give.  Over and over again, Japanese people would ask me, “How do you know about that?”

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Miss Kinjo is from Okinawa.  That gave me a perfect opportunity to ask her about the kijimuna, the “little people” of Okinawa.  They’re on the large side for little people, being about as tall as a seven year old child.  Flaming red hair makes them unique among Japanese folkloric creatures.  All they wear is a garment like a fundoshi made out of leaves.  Kijimuna are tricksters.  They can be helpful when they want to be, and you’d better not offend them.  Miss Kinjo said her grandmother had told her stories about what the kijimuna had done when her grandmother was a little girl.

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With Halloween right around the corner, I was curious to see how Japan handled that holiday.  I saw decorations and party goods and some costume supplies.  The Japanese kids don’t go trick-or-treating the way we do in America.  The idea of dressing up as monsters to go door to door demanding candy under threat of “tricks” might strike the Shinto mind as the basis for a Takashi Miike movie!

This is what Halloween looks like in Kyoto:

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Filed under chocolate, cosplay, fairy tales, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Halloween, historical fiction, history, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, memoirs, research, travel, Uncategorized, Writing