Two weeks ago, before my father went to Tokyo for his business trip, we had a big fight about my cat. As with most fights, the issue was a very small thing but the heated words made it a very dramatic affair. What I should have said was, “Dander on the cat’s coat does aggravate asthma, but does not cause it, contrary to old wives’ tales”, but knowing my father’s stubborn, “parent-wisely” tone of voice and my reluctance at admitting defeat and impatience, regretful words were uttered.
So I didn’t hear from him for two weeks, and even when he came back on Friday night, I wasn’t home. This morning, we avoided meeting each other’s eyes as we went about our daily Sunday rituals. My mother, the perpetual peace-maker—partly because she’s oblivious to tension in the air—called me out from my room to where she was looking through my father’s luggage. With my father’s very awkward attempt at trying to look nonchalant, he told my mother which packages she should hand to me.
I carried three packages, small-medium-large, to my room and slowly opened them. And as I did, a quiet row of tears rolled down my cheeks. In the small package, a collar pin in the form of a bejewelled cat; in the medium, a Japanese pouch with the face of a blissful cat and a tiny bell; in the large, a new noren for the walkway to my bedroom. These were my dad’s reconciliatory gifts.
And sitting magnificently in the vegetable compartment (because there’s no more space) of my industrial-sized refrigerator, three gorgeous golden brown bottles of my favourite Japanese brand of milk tea.