Several summers ago, during my visit to Japan, my family went to a local hot spring not far from my parents’ home. This was a place where we used to regularly visit for a quick relaxation since when I was young.
It was no fancy place. Though they had a good collection of baths including a large outdoor rock bath, the place was more like the community’s public bath house than a resort. Many farmers, shopkeepers and other local folks would come to take a bath there in the evening.
After an hour drive through many rice fields, we arrived at the hot spring. As usual, we first took a long good bath, had my mother’s homemade dinner in an open sitting room, then moved to another sitting area for the final hour before the closing time.
In Japan, especially in a hot spring place, it is common for people to sit and relax on the floor space. There were some low tables and cushions prepared for the visitors, and both my parents and I picked up a few cushions and lay down on the floor. Some people slept like that, but I spent the time reading a book while stretching myself out over three cushions.
In front of us, there was a mother and two little boys. They had all taken a bath, and now, the mother was resting on the floor like us. She looked a little tired, lying down on the floor, while her boys were running about.
There was a toy vending machine nearby. Another child came with his mother and he got a little toy capsule from the machine. As soon as they left, the little boy went to his mother, who was resting on the floor with her eyes closed.
“Mommy,” he tugged at his mother’s shirt. “Can I have a toy capsule?”
“What?” The mother opened her eyes. “A toy capsule? You know that we aren’t doing that today. Another time. Okay?”
The boy didn’t look so convinced, but he went back to run about with his little brother. But his gaze fell on the toy vending machine. After a while, he went back to his mother, shaking her shoulder.
“Mommy,” his voice was now a little more urgent. “I want a toy capsule.”
“What happened to you, hon?” The mother looked at her son still laying on the floor. “Why do you want it all of a sudden? Another time, okay?”
But this time, the boy didn’t leave her side. He started whining.
“I want the toy capsule.”
His little brother was toddling about, happy and completely unbothered by what was going on between his mother and brother. The mother finally got up.
“Alright, alright,” she said, reaching out for her wallet. “I don’t know what got inside of you, hon, but you can buy one. Only one, okay? That’s gonna be it.”
The boy stopped crying upon receiving the coin in his hand. There was already a smile on his face. He dashed to the vending machine, and in no time, he had a toy capsule in his hand.
“Mommy, mommy, look what I’ve got!” He was all excited as he sat down next to his mother, showing her the treat he’d got.
“Good for you,” the mother smiled at him. “You’re happy now.”
The boy was satisfied, his attention solely focused on his new tiny toy. His brother was also sitting next to him, looking at the toy.
Soon, it was the closing time, and we all stood up to pack our belongings. The mother and the two little boys also left. As I watched them leaving, the mother little tired and the boys skipping with joy, I knew that this was a scene that would always stay in my heart.