In Japan, there is something called the Great Cleaning, a tradition where each family cleans their house thoroughly before the arrival of the new year. The cleaning usually takes place in December and lasts for several days. During this time, the floors are washed, the windows are cleaned, the ceilings and the fans are dusted, and the curtains are washed. And everybody in the house is supposed to participate in this cleaning event according to their individual capacity, including children.
The year when I was seven or eight, my family undertook a rather serious Great Cleaning. Since our house was still very new, my parents might have been extra motivated to clean the house in every detail.
I remember it was a particularly cold overcast day. The cleaning had been going on for the whole afternoon. I was mostly walking around the house, observing this very serious looking cleaning event, lending my hands whenever I was asked to do certain tasks. I was a little bit bored, since my parents didn’t assign me any proper task, and yet I knew they would call me back to do small tasks if I started playing.
So, I kept walking around the house, trying to look like I was doing something useful. Once my mother asked me to fetch something from her bag, and I happened to find a bag of candies inside. My mother always carried a bag of cough drops during winter in order to protect her throat from getting dry. But this particular cough drops hadn’t suited her taste, and she was planning to buy a new bag.
“Mommy, you said you didn’t like these. Can I have them?”
Usually, my mother was careful not to give me too many sweet items, but that day, she was so busy with her cleaning that she said I could have them.
I took the entire bag of cough drops in my pocket. When I tried one, it had such a wonderful flavour of Japanese plums that it immediately became my favourite candy of all times. When I finished it, I took another one from the bag and threw it in my mouth. I was no longer bored. I skipped around the house holding a secret supply of candies in my pocket. Once, I offered one to my father while he was cleaning the bathroom fan outside. When he asked me where I got it, I answered, “It’s a secret!”
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I finished more than half of the bag that afternoon all by myself. And the rest also disappeared quickly over the next few days.