Gift of Hanami
Grandmother is very fragile.
“We cannot travel this year,” I gently tell her. “Pandemic is fierce; we want to keep you safe.”
Grandmother grieves and loses her appetite. “Every year, our blanket under the trees,” she wails. “Lifting my face to flowers. Pink everywhere.” Her eyes fill with tears. “Tradition.” We take meals to her room, massage her feet, try to comfort her, but she seems to be collapsing into herself. I’m wracked with worry.
Then my dear wife Yui tells me her idea. I am wide-eyed. “You are willing to do this?” I know what that room means to her. It was to be our nursery, then grow into a playroom. Instead, it has lain empty all these years. Yui nods. “It is time.”
We work by night, to keep the secret from Grandmother. The walls and ceiling become blue skies, with piles of soft clouds. Against the sky an exuberance of blossoms, painted in dozens of shades of pink. Soft lighting simulates sunshine. A few strategically placed, tiny fans create spring breezes. Yui fashions hundreds of paper mache blooms and I string them with wire into the shape of a tree with branches tall and wide enough to form a canopy. Under the tree, we spread a thick blanket with pillows and a picnic basket that will overflow with favorite foods. We even find a delicate cherry blossom scent, and lightly perfume a few pink clusters.
April arrives, and we coax Grandmother out of her room. “We have a surprise for you. Come see.”
As we open the door to the wondrous new room, the light in her eyes nearly blinds me.
“Sakura,” she exclaims in delight, settling onto the blanket with us. Our little family of three sits quietly, remembering Grandfather, Father, Mother and our infant son. “Life is fleeting,” I whisper. One of the flowers breaks off from its wire, floating gently down to rest on Grandmother’s lap. It almost seems real. Yui breaks into a smile, and adds “But oh so beautiful,” as she breathes in the ancient fragrance.