Today’s word: Ishibashi
Today’s post is in memory of my grandmother, who passed away this weekend.
Ishibashi is a compound word– ishi means stone, and hashi means bridge. (The “h” often changes to a “b” in compound words.) Ishibashi, then, means “stone bridge,” and it is the name of the road where my grandmother lived.
Although my mom’s mother helped take care of me when I was born in Japan, my first memory of my grandmother was when she came to visit my family in the States when I was about 7 years old. She came with a cousin of mine and stayed for a few weeks, visiting a lot of tourist sites in the area. My grandmother had, prior to this trip, never set foot out of Japan, and spoke no English. She was in her late 60s, but I remember her being quite sturdy– when we visited New York City, I remember her walking up the steps within the Statue of Liberty without complaint.
The following year, our family went to visit my grandmother. I remember being enchanted with her house– tatami rooms with futons stored away in closets, a small rock garden with a bamboo fountain, and a sunken kitchen. There was a patch of grass on the side of the house that was blue, and I had made up a song about blue grass that I sang to my sister.
The house was on the side of a hill in the village, and there were stone steps that lead up to it. During this visit, I wanted to explore the area, so I told my sister to stay at the top of the steps while I went down the hill. I went around, looking at the different houses and walking along the paths, and went back up the steps after a fashion. My sister was nowhere to be found. I panicked, went up and down the steps several times, having no idea where I was, for there were no street signs. (I wouldn’t have been able to read them back then anyway.) Finally, a group of women found me crying hysterically along the road, and with a lot of difficulty, I managed to write down my grandmother’s name and her address in simple hiragana. The village had a PA system that announced that I was lost, and my mom came to fetch me home. My mom and my grandmother told this story for years afterward.
I have lots of fond memories of our visit, though, that probably deserve to have posts of their own.
The last time I saw my grandmother was about ten years ago, when I came to visit by myself. She was still very healthy then– would get up around 6 every morning to do all the chores in the house– sweep, do the laundry, make breakfast. One day, she had gotten a box of old photographs she had collected and was telling me stories about all my relatives. My mom had been sending her pictures of me and my sister all along, and I was amazed that she had kept up with our lives back in the States through pictures and letters.
My grandmother was 96. I wish her well.