[Blast Ant] Yesterday we celebrated Hinamatsuri, or Momo no Sekku. The peach blossoms welcome spring; it’s a time for everyone to welcome the new year, drive out the bad from the old year, and celebrate girls. Ah, let’s start with the train ride!
[Flucia] …Ansel sat next to me, “Love King” with his long blond hair and black knit cap. He’s so fond of that name. Across us was Ai in Bedivere’s lap, and Leoša sitting beside him. Ah! We spent a good deal of time picking out kimono. And we were shocked that Ai chose one with pastel colours! “To go with spring,” she said. The top was a light grey-green reminiscent of Japanese painted fern or pale jade, and the bottom a light pink like peach, and all was covered in butterflies and ears of rice.
Ansel picked out something navy blue for Leoša since she’s so fond of that colour. But, she actually chose an ivory kimono—it was covered in white plum blossoms, delicate orange flowers, and fields of wheat on the skirt. “Are you sure you don’t wanna wear this?” And she said, “You can wear the blue kimono. I want the ivory one!”
[Ansel] I did end up picking a blue kimono for myself. It was a good suggestion.
[Iseul] Cuz’ wore his usual tailcoat but in white, instead of a kimono. #SameClothes. Cousin looks good in anything… I went with long black hair and a black and burgundy ombre kimono with gold flowers.
Julia wore teal. Really fancy teal, rich and deep.
[Ansel] Why are we talking about clothes? What about the train? The train was hot.
[Iseul] Do you want me to compliment your girlfriend or not
[Iseul] Ant, gurl, chose this gorgeous, simple off-white kimono covered in salmon-coloured plum blossoms and dark jungle-green vines. Love King (do I really have to call him that) fell in love with her (again)(as if that’s possible)(but for him it totally is). Yumeka wore a deep grey and white ombre kimono, white at the top.
[Yumeka] I actually tried some magenta pieces earlier! But I chose not to be showy or else I’d be mistaken for a girl at the festival.
Iseul: Clothes are everything.
Ansel: Yeah, that’s true.
[Iseul] I call him the Trojan ho ‘cause subdued dark clothes like that lulls people into thinking he’s not a rabid sex shark. He’s like the twink equivalent of a big tiddy goth girl who’s craazy in bed.
[Yumeka] That’s legitimate.
[Iseul] These are compliments by the way
[Ansel] Leotrim wore a white coat… His usual. Maybe he’s autistic too… I think he was under the mistaken impression that he’d occupy the part of “outsider” that day, an observer, didn’t want to intrude. But after he saw the parade he regretted not dressing like the Romans.
Bedi just wore a plain slate blue yukata. Well, fine, I guess.
[Blast Ant] Oh my god! After what you wore for Bóndadagur!
[Ansel] The train station was nestled in a forest at the foot of a mountain. It was covered in peach trees. Boughs hanging all over the station. Canopies of spring green, pale pink… There wasn’t a breeze, but the air was cool…
[Bedi] Our view for most of the train ride was green. Green leaves, green shadows, green sunlight tinted by the leaves. Iseul’s favorite. We didn’t—couldn’t see very far.
Flucia, oh, you know this always, took the seat opposite me. Well. Actually, Didi did. But I was looking at her.
[Bedi] Flucia’s kimono was actually a last minute buy. She didn’t have any, so the kids dragged her off the station and they went on a shopping trip just before our train left. The miss was pretty surprised, but she went with the flow just fine. …Have we described her dress yet?
[Bedi] OK. It was robin’s egg blue, with purple and violet accents and flowers, and geometric patterns… Like overlapping squares… Rrm, I’m not doing it justice, but it was beautiful.
Bedi: I’m not interested in women. Not most women. But you just have to admire a beauty in front of you, y’know?
…So, the two lovebirds were holding hands. …And Didi, being the kind of man he is, was so completely licked by love for Ai in her little kimono that Flucia had to whisk him away to the bathroom to calm him down. The kicker was that the kids both noticed the way he was looking at her.
Leoša: “Ah! Papa’s looking at you the same way he looks at me!”
Leoša: “Papa, why don’t you look at Mama like you look at us?”
Didi couldn’t answer for himself, so Flucia and I explained to the girls that he doesn’t see their mother as a delicate flower that needs to be protected. To him—she’s a fighter, a comrade he can count on, someone who’ll watch his back… Some day, they’ll be able to understand the full depth of their father’s feelings, and I’m sure they’ll come to love him more for his actions.
Didi and Flucia were looking pretty refreshed when they came back from the bathroom.
[Bedi] Ai told them what I’d told her and her sister. And mama and daughter had a little conversation about love and all its different varieties. Flucia advised both her daughters:
Bedi: I’m not interested in women. Not most women. But you just have to admire a beauty in front of you, y’know?
“When you grow up, if you find yourself looking for love, be sure to find a man who loves you like your father loves me. And love him as much as I love your father. No… Love him better than I do. A man like your father deserves so much…”
I think we all fell asleep after that…
Ah. Leotrim was listening pretty closely…
[Blast Ant] I love that man so much. I remember when he and Ansel were pulling on my arms at the park, “fighting over” me, just a sorry excuse to tease me really, then to make up for it, serenading me with Youko Kanno’s “Strangers”. I forgave them. Such a sweet man. I think Ansel bullied him into bullying me—
Leotrim: …My late mother had said something very similar to me, when I was a child.
[Ansel] I did not.
[Flucia] So after the train ride…
[Bedi] We were on the other side of the mountain range.
[Flucia] Oh yes, we were.
[Bedi] It was all forested range the whole trip. We got off at another neck of the wood, at the foot of another mountain. I think this station was more remote than the last.
[Blast Ant] On occasions like these you don’t need mobile phone reception.
[Bedi] We walked all the way to the shrine from here. After rounding the mountain we left the wood, ambled on paths over low grassy hills covered in blooming peach trees. Cute little brown farmhouses, too… Far off, there were snowy peaks, and before our eyes spread a silver lake as still and as blue as the sky. There wasn’t a single cloud in the air, not even by the mountain peaks.
At the center of this lake was a small island with a shrine. That was our first destination. We crossed a long wooden bridge to get there. Ant enjoyed leaning over the railing and taking in the spring breeze and the scent of the lake.
[Blast Ant] There were other people on the bridge, lots of girls in their best finery… Bedi was leading the way! I wonder why…
Blast Ant: People stay on their phones too long. If you’re looking down, you don’t get to see the people around you or the light on the shimmering clothes they wear or how the veins of the leaves finger out in creases.
Bedi: Ant was the one who suggested we take this trip. And go on little “excursions” like these every now and then…
[Bedi] You put me at the head of the group.
[Flucia] Mmm, that’s true… So Bithy was leading, then it was me and Ansel, and the girls, and everyone else followed behind, their footsteps on the wood. And, I could tell my dear Leotrim was pausing frequently to look at everyone and everything…
[Flucia] Ah, he’s smiling! […] Anyway, we split a few times, because Ant so wanted to enjoy the breeze… She really loved it.
The island was covered in docks, and as we got closer we could see the people sending off boats full of paper dolls. At the end of the bridge was a torii—we bowed before entering—and before the shrine we bowed twice, clapped our hands twice, and bowed once more, and washed our hands at the trough.
[Ansel] Bedi paid for the paper dolls and boat at this point.
[Julia] It was so funny! He had this big pouch of coins that was almost bursting full…
[Blast Ant] Yeah! It made a huge thud when he slammed it down on the counter… What did he say? Oh let me see, I wrote it down… “We have a lot of bad omens to cast out. Just give us a whole barge of paper dolls.”
[Flucia] And he had such a serious face when he said it!
[Bedi] Sorry, but the first two months of this year have been awful.
Ansel: For anyone who knows this guy, Bedi offering to shell out the big bucks—in cash—is like a cat buying tickets to Typhoon Lagoon. Bedi’s cheap, OK?
Bedi: At least I’m a handsome penny-pincher.
[Flucia] And somehow King convinced him to buy a party boat…
[Ansel] Hey, it was really cool, OK? It had a miniature disco ball, and a light-up dance floor…
[Iseul] What was that thing you said about the boat
[Yumeka] I said, “Maybe they’ll all catch SARS-CoV-2.”
[Ansel] Floating petri dish…
[Yumeka] Ai asked, “Where are they going?” And Flucia said, “Out to Cancún, of course.”
[Flucia] We ended up buying the children their own rafts and paper dolls. So they could send them out themselves. They were so cute… Saying little prayers before sending them off. King was looking at them so lovingly, too… “May good fortune protect our little girls so they may grow up.” That was my prayer. Everyone else had something of their own to say, which you utter in your heart silently. I wonder what Leotrim said… And Nova…
On our way back, we passed more and more girls on the bridge. I hadn’t noticed it at the time, but maybe we came to the shrine early…
[Ansel] From there we went straight to town. It was a short walk from the shrine, in the other direction of the train station. The town square had this huge maypole-like thing, adorned with peach blossoms that day… Stalls and shops lined the whole square. Bedi couldn’t help himself and went into a local ramen shop. All the rest of us had chirashi-zushi—
[Iseul] You disappoint me, Bith
[Ansel]—, and for dessert, we got the kids pink strawberry-flavoured mochi. Us guys stayed together after lunch… All the women and girls gathered somewhere else, outside the town square.
Ansel: Chirashi-zushi is basically what’s sold as a “poke bowl” these days. Since it’s Hinamatsuri, all the chirashi-zushi have shrimp in it, to wish for a long health life until your back is bent like a shrimp’s; lotus root for foresight; and beans for robustness.
[Ansel] The women came first. “Make way, make way for our young ladies!”
[Bedi] They yelled harshly at the men, but it was really more for any bad spirits still stomping around.
[Ansel] …Sending that boat out… felt like spring cleaning of the soul…
…So. They were all in formation. Like a military formation, all wielding naginata and crying out in sync. I know Bedi was impressed. I was, too. I think Leotrim was startled by that first yell. Then he was shocked seeing all these women “attack” in unison. Nova admired them, too. He’s been taking on a human form with more ease recently. I wonder why…
The girls were all sorted according to age. After the women came the 16-year-olds (anyone older than that was considered an adult woman there), then the younger girls, with 4-year-olds in the very back of the procession.
There were so many cute girls. All of them were wearing kimono and elaborate hair ornaments. I saw one girl with a green beetle ornament instead of a flower, I thought that was cool… All the guys in the crowd were whistling, cheering, saying things like, “There’s my wife!” “That’s my daughter!” “The one with the pink hair ornament is my sister!” “Oh! My aunt is so pretty!” And Leotrim? Man was flabbergasted. Not used to seeing everyone cheer each other on, obviously.
[Ansel] The girls were all smiling. You could tell they were whispering to themselves, too. “That one’s my dad.” “Really?!” That sort of thing.
After the procession, the women chatted each other up, too. I could tell because Flucia introduced me to three other women, all mothers, as her husband. And the girls had made friends with the girls marching alongside them at the parade… Charlotte and Noni, those were their names, and the women Flucia befriended happened to be their mothers. Charlotte had one parent, and Noni had two moms.
After that, Julia, Iseul, and Ant enjoyed their own thing. Yumeka was really cute in his kimono…
Yumeka: He always gets so worked up over “cute” things. Cute girls, cute boys, cute Pokémon—anything cute.
Julia: I’m surprised he was able to keep his passions to himself.
Blast Ant: Speak for yourself! Do you know how hard he pounded me after the parad—
Iseul: Thank you for taking one for the team
[Yumeka] See! I told you! I’d steal the show!
[Iseul] Hey, you’re just going to skip over what Noni’s mom said to you? “Oh! He doesn’t look like their father at all!”
[Julia] Hmhmhm! Her partner was so embarrassed.
[Blast Ant] They don’t look like me, either…
[Iseul] I was the only one that looked like any of them because at that point I had black hair (to match my kimono) and so did Ai.
[Blast Ant] I ended up having to show them old pictures of Ansel to show that he and Leoša had the same red hair…
[Julia] Her partner was scolding her afterwards. “You can’t just say that to people!” “Say what?”
[Bedi] She was a little on the clueless side…
Then you two stole off to the peach groves.
[Blast Ant] Ahahaha… Do we have to talk about that?
[Bedi] A passing local found them after they’d fallen asleep, dressed, mind you, in the grass nestled against each other. He said, “We should let the lovers be.”
[Blast Ant] Ah…
That night was the evening peach blossom viewing, at that same grove, and throughout the entire countryside. Everyone brought picnic blankets and white lanterns and light drinks.
[Bedi] Nothing too heavy.
[Ansel] No, no.
[Blast Ant] Ansel and Ai went off on their own to view the stars, spend some father-daughter time together. …I fell asleep too quick, I suppose we were still tired out from our time with Ansel, I don’t remember being carried to our lodge but the next thing I saw wasn’t peach blossoms and stars between the branches, but an off-white stone ceiling… And I fell asleep again after that…
Yumeka: You know, Nova and Leotrim snuck off together too.
Iseul: Oh yeah. ‘Cuz, where you did and Leotrim go?
Nova: We sat by the lake banks and strolled around the edges of the town.
We talked for a long time after the ceremony, and all throughout the day. Leotrim and I. He wished to know more abut Flucia, but did not know how to approach her. He realized he knew very little of this person he loved so much. Her problems, her facets, anything about her political life and loves and aspirations… And he wished to spend as much time as possible with this person. And he wanted to wear a kimono next time…
Leotrim does not know much about me, either. We should talk…
I am fond of him.