It was the spring when I had turned nine. One long weekend, my father’s good old friend from college time came to visit us with his children. One afternoon, we all went to a local hot spring to have a relaxing afternoon. My parents booked a room there, and after taking a good long bath, we came back to the room and enjoyed the food that my mother had prepared. Then, we children went out to explore the building. We were too young and too energized to spend the afternoon lying down and chatting endlessly in the room!
I explored the building with the youngest girl, who was three years younger than me. Just when we were walking around the entrance area, we came across an interesting board with all the names of the private relaxation rooms inside the building.
“Look!” I said, stopping in front of the board. “Let’s see if we can find our room on this list!”
There were ten rooms in total, and each was named after some plant: balloon flower, pampas grass, hydrangea, autumn bellflower, mandarin orange, purple gromwell, morning star lily, rose madder, carnation, bush clover. Our room was the first one, named “balloon flower”.
“What’s a balloon flower?” My friend and I looked at each other.
These were all famous flowers and plants in Japan, but as young girls living in cities, many names were alien to us except for pampas grass and hydrangea.
As I gazed at the list of names in silence, a fun idea came to my mind.
“Let’s memorize these!”
My friend’s face also lit up with excitement, and we started reciting all the names from top to bottom. Since they were new names for us, we had to look at the board many times to remember them. After some practice, we sat on the floor and recited them together without looking at the board.
“We did it!” We jumped in delight upon finishing the recitation successfully. “We memorized them all! Let’s tell everybody about it!”
With that, we ran back to the relaxation room “balloon flower” to find the adults. They were packing up the belongings.
“We are leaving soon. Where are the other ones?”
“We don’t know!” My friend and I shouted. “But we memorized the name of all the rooms in this building. Listen!”
Then we recited the names all over together. It now flowed so smoothly that we both felt proud of our achievement. But adults weren’t as excited as we were.
“That’s cool, great job! Now, go find the others please!”
So, we ran out of the room, searching for the other girls. When we found them, we again told them about our exciting achievement.
“What? You memorized the name of all the rooms?” They were surprised. “But why?”
We offered them to recite the whole thing, but they said we didn’t need to. Instead, they told us about what they had discovered in the building. I don’t recall what they were. They weren’t as exciting as our discovery, and my mind was occupied with the name of the ten rooms I had just memorized.
Thus, the ten names my friend and I memorized that day and the excitement of it were kept between the two of us. We mentioned them whenever we wrote letters to each other and did the whole recitation together whenever we met again throughout our childhood.