Sometimes I wonder what things would be like if our family were different. Perhaps it's already different, and maybe I just try to ignore it. But even through we've had our difficult times, they have shaped and molded us to the family we are now
From the moment I laid eyes on her when she was at the shrine, the woman who would later by my wife, there was something that felt like we were wrapped together by the red string of fate. She was the idea Japanese woman, the Yamato Nadeshiko, I had always dreamed of. Being young and youthful at the time, as well as brash and arrogant, I did everything I could do to meet with the lovely being of romantic nature against the wishes of my mother, whom could only see her "contemporary appearance". Everytime we met, she blushed in my presence, and I did to hers. We were a match made in heaven, and a match I swore I would make a reality.
"Minori Inoue, will you marry me?" I asked, kneeling before the goddess of beauty.
"Yes, Eisuke Urushibara, I will marry you," she replied, welling up with tears of joy.Though my mother was against the prospect of our relationship, my father, who was the priest of the shrine at the time, gave us a traditional Shinto wedding. We were blessed to have a dream that withstood the change of eras and the end of time be passed on to us, the successor of the Yanagibayashi Shrine and the lovely Yamato Nadeshiko.
As my father grew ill, just before his eventual passing to heaven, he bequeathed the title of head priest to me, and I inherited the shrine. Minori moved in with me, now taking the surname "Urushibara". And, like a cherry tree blossoming in Spring, our family flourished.
Our first child was a girl we named "Yutsuko". From an early age, we could tell that she was stubborn. Minori said it reminded her of me when I was young. About 5 years later, we decided to have another baby.Our second child had a little bit of history. While my wife was pregnant, a mysterious text message said "Eat veggies for healthy child" or something like that. Not long after, another message said "Meat Meat Veggies Veggies", so we assumed it was spam and nothing more.When the child was born, we had a bit of deliberation over what the name would be. I suggested "Luka", and eventually that became the child's name. Yutsuko enjoyed playing with Luka, and for a while, everything was alright.Our third child, however, was when our dream family had been stopped by reality.
When she was born, she didn't cry at all, and was calm and peaceful. What I felt about the child was the same thing I felt when I saw Minori for the first time: This would be the traditional woman of the family, the Yamato Nadeshiko of our three children. With that in mind, we both agreed to name our child, "Megumi". From then on, I believed that this would make our family complete.However, things took a turn from the happiness we dreamed of. 4 weeks into the newborn's life, I saw Minori holding Megumi, who remained limp in her arms. We took her to the doctor to be examined, and hopefully make everything better. Minutes later, the doctor came back and said that Megumi had passed away of neonatal death.This was the first time our family had experienced true despair, and what was once supposed to be a wonderful future for once seemed beyond our grasp.Minori tried to pretend that Megumi never existed, constantly denying that those 9 months of pregnancy and 4 weeks never occurred. It hurt me to see her this way, but the only thing I could do was follow her train of thought. I didn't want to see her get hurt any further. The truth is, though, I felt more attached to Megumi than anything.In her 4 weeks of experience in this world, she was the sweetest and kindest a baby could ever be. I honestly though she would grow into a beautiful and compassionate woman who exhibited all the traits of a Yamato Nadeshiko. She would've been the perfect shrine maiden. I thought she would've had a bright future. It made it all the more harder for me to accept her death.And I would never admit that that beautiful child never existed.
Years passed, and the memory of Megumi had disappeared from everyone's minds except my own. Watching every day flow by, I thought about how empty it was without her presence. Even as Minori and I helped our children prepare themselves for their futures, I remained stagnant, faking a smile for my family. When Yutsuko was 18 years old, a thought came to mind that the best way to honor Megumi's memory was to have one of our children take part of what I saw in her with them, allowing that child to be the Yamato Nadeshiko of the family that has been missing for so long. I had decided to ask Yutsuko to take her place as a shrine maiden to continue family tradition."Are you messing with me? I'm not interested in becoming some stupid shrine maiden!" Yutsuko vehemently declared.I thought things would go well with her, but I realized how detached I was at the situation at that point. Yutsuko took on a tomboyish personality, making her everything but the ideal Japanese woman. But her statement would not stop me; this needed to happen in order for everything to be as it should."Yutsuko, this isn't up for discussion," I counteracted, "You need to become the shrine maiden at our shrine. Family tradition must be upheld."While it wasn't my primary reason for doing this, family tradition was important to me."So, please, don your miko robes and uphold tradition!" I demanded."Screw tradition!" Yutsuko shouted, "And screw your shrine!"We didn't talk again for a 7 weeks, and by the point that things calmed down, Yutsuko had left off with her boyfriend. While she was gone, I saw this whole plan i had as fruitless and foolish. It was only driving our family apart. No child in our family had the same characteristics that Megumi exhibited, and certainly wasn't a Yamato Nadeshiko.No, there was one child that fit the bill: Luka Urushibara, my second-born child.I remembered when I had walked into Yutsuko's room seeing Yutsuko dress Luka up in her old girlish clothes. When I saw Luka in that manor, there was something that reminded me of Megumi. With feminine personality, caring demeanor, and skill in culinary arts, I realized now that Luka was the perfect Yamato Nadeshiko, except for one thing. Luka always referred to himself as a boy. It was why I was so hesitant to choose Luka first. Nevertheless, this was the only option I had, and I intended to pursue it.I went to Luka and asked "him" to become the shrine maiden for Yanagibayashi."B-but I can't, F-father; I'm a boy!" Luka cried."Luka, please. Without Yutsuko, there is no one else to fulfil tradition except for you," I insisted, "I need you to become a shrine maiden, and this is not open for discussion."Luka's eyes were already tearing up. While I saw nothing wrong with a girl simply upholding tradition, Luka's special circumstances made it hard on me to force this notion. I nearly gave up, too, but before I gave up, Luka spoke in a tearful voice."O-okay... I-I'll do it," Luka responded.
From then on, Luka did everything to uphold tradition and accept her identity as a girl, though often she would appear confused and upset. Sometimes I'd hear her talking in the mirror, repeating, "I'm a boy... I'm a boy". Eventually, I stopped hearing this all together, and she became the perfect Yamato Nadeshiko that our family needed. Every day seeing her made me feel content beyond belief. Truly, she was what drove our family forward, past the despair of Megumi's death, and Yutsuko's abandonment of our family. I was blessed to have such a wonderful child like Luka,My beloved daughter