Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones!
The first post in my reader this morning sent me tumbling back in time.
I once lived and taught English in Japan, where I called three separate towns home.
In my first home, I had roommates in a smallish but bustling ocean town. A couple of cats would leap through open windows to visit me.
In my third home, I lived in a small town-subsidized complex with many of my students. I loved working in a little garden out behind my apartment, and would open the apartment’s front and back doors so my students could run through during their playtime. The town was incredibly rural, but it felt anything but to me!
My time in my middle home was far and away the hardest on me. The town was smallish and nestled away in forested area some drive from more substantial towns. I had a car, but had little money to buy gas, and so used the car almost exclusively to get to and from the even smaller towns to which I’d drive for work. Internet was unavailable. I paid Los Angeles rent for a studio smaller than my current living room in a complex so quiet I felt more thoroughly alone than I ever did before or have since.
My brother-in-law made sure to write at least one 500-character email to my keitai (cell phone) almost every day, which eased my loneliness for a spell each day. Otherwise, I felt constantly, physically starved for signs of life, or any sense of connection outside my work.
I ended up buying a small living Christmas tree for how it evoked memories of Christmases past, and reminded me of life still whirling on without me somewhere I couldn’t feel it.
I decorated the tree with ornaments from the hyaku-en (hundred-yen, or dollar) store. and called
it him Mr. Jones. I talked to him as if he were simply the quietest of my friends … which, in very real ways, he was. He was “only” a tree, but he relieved my loneliness enough that I could eke my way through those otherwise crushing days.
I searched for a photo of him before I began writing this post. I couldn’t find a single one; my house was burglarized soon after I moved back to the U.S. and I lost all photos I hadn’t uploaded–or, in other words, almost all my photos. I’ve long since accepted the loss, but there are moments it stings anew, such as when failing to find a single picture of a highly improbable but uplifting friend.
I scanned through my photos once more, bursting into a grin when I saw what looked like a shadow of Mr. Jones in one picture. I opened the picture and cheered–quietly, so as to not awaken my light-sleeping toddler–when I saw little blurs of green and gold at its edges.
I’m sorry I can’t show you a full picture of Mr. Jones, but so glad I can picture him just beyond the edges of my photo. That he photobombed it without moving an inch tickles me so!
Looking at these little slivers of green, my heart is full of gladness for this friend I’d never have made in less trying times.
For learning to survive. For silver linings. For signs of life.
For Mr. Jones.
Wherever you are now,
merry Christmas, Mr. Jones!