Oba-chan is a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother.
She is 87 years old, with the vitality and energy of someone a quarter of her age.
She wears an apron all day, sometimes blue, sometimes velvet, and tiptoes around her yard in orange sandals and socks.
Her miso soup is mean, her donburi downright disrespectful.
She peels, cuts, slices and dices persimmons, laying them out on trays for the sun to dry. The unassuming queenpin of a dried persimmon empire.
She sits cross-legged at a tiny wooden desk in her study, which faces a large glass window that looks out at her herb garden. This is where her downtime is spent, reading books or writing in a pocket journal.
Oba-chan certainly looks the part of an elderly Japanese lady: her skin is wrinkly as a prune, her gait is slow, her posture slightly bent, her voice gentle and worn. Physically, time has taken its toll, as it does to every human being on Earth.
Her spirit has managed to escape time’s grip.
Clean the dishes after a meal and she’ll thank you like you just saved her life.
In her kitchen, each guest is assigned a pair of chopsticks. There are light purple ones with green streaks, brown ones with little blue fireflies on the handles. There is a coal black pair, a red pair. Oba-chan never forgets whose hand each belongs to.
Wake up one morning with a cold? Oba-chan will brew up a cocktail made of sake and a raw egg. It’ll fix you right up.
Oba-chan is the Japanese word for “mother”. It’s not her given name.
But to anybody who has tasted her potato salad, whose dirty laundry she has washed and hung out in the yard to dry, to anybody who has been left inspired by her agelessness, by her zest, she is Oba-chan.