There’s a little community garden that popped up this year. I sometimes see people working in it and I always try to discretely peer around the fencing so I can watch the plants grow.
Once when I was walking by the entrance, I met a lady leaving the garden. We did the usual you first/no, you first! dance, but after we determined who could go she stopped and asked the typical ice breaker question many foreigners get in Japan: “Where are you from?”
I replied America and I tried my best in Japanese to tell her how much I liked watching the garden grow and I found it beautiful.
“Oh, thank you! Do you know sunny lettuce?”
To me, it sounded like she said sunny but I believe it’s a katakana word. I don’t know what type of lettuce it is, but I do know I’ve seen it in the store. It’s eaten with fried foods or put in bento or made into salads.
“Yes! I like it very much!”
“Come on, I’ll give you some!” And with that she took me into the garden, past the peas just starting to grow on trellises, past other things that I was a bit shy and embarrassed to look at because other people were tending the garden too. I bowed and tried to be polite as possible, since I was now an invited visitor.
“Here!” She handed me one head of lettuce and went for another.
“Oh, no, no, please, just one is fine!” I think if I hadn’t stopped her I might have had several heads of lettuce.
I was genuinely touched by her gift. That she stopped and chatted with me and gave me the lettuce. Part of her hard work, as well as the work of others.
We didn’t always understand each other – she has the local dialect that is difficult for me to catch, and my Japanese is still on an elementary level – but we could communicate with each other.
The lettuce was delicious, by the way. Some of the best lettuce I think I’ve had.