The Curious Habits of Kimono Clad Dad


This week would’ve been my dad’s 85th birthday. As always, I find peace and calmness in writing. Reminiscing with my family, I came across a photo from when we lived in Kuwait. It was a photo of my dad in a kimono and I remembered the year when my dad would put on a kimono every weekend, go about the house happily singing, cooking and giving sage advice.

Btw, a bit of useless information – back then weekends in Kuwait were Thu-Fri not Sat-Sun. In Islam, Friday is a holy day so that was part of our weekend. Till the age of 10 I couldn’t relate to Sunday blues. We had Friday blues and Thursday was the best day of the week.

But I digress. I’m sure you’re all wondering, “Why was your dad in a kimono every weekend?”

When we lived in Kuwait, my dad worked for Pioneer (anyone remember the gigantic Pioneer hi fi systems??). This meant that he would travel to Japan regularly for work. During his visits he would immerse himself in Japanese culture and bring us presents like books on Japanese proverbs and beautiful paintings. Our home was influenced by Japanese decor in a big way. We were big into Japan.

He would also invite his Japanese colleagues and their families over to our house. He would spend hours discussing Japanese philosophy. In fact, my first baby sitting job was for a Japanese baby named Saku who was super cute and had an obsession with sitting in cardboard boxes. I was told by his parents to always have a cardboard box handy and line it with newspapers. Saku also came with a baby leash. Perhaps his parents really wanted a puppy.

Saku’s parents gifted my dad a kimono one year and my dad was thrilled. He decided this would be his weekend attire. So every Thu morning I would wake up to kimono clad dad. Kimono clad dad had curious habits that only commenced once the kimono was on. This included:

1. Serving “candy” that tasted like seaweed and/or fish. Now this wasn’t actually candy just delicious Japanese snacks. My dad called it exotic “candy” so as children we thought all candy tasted a bit fishy and would stay away from it. This was his way of controlling our sugar intake. To this day, the first mental image I have when I see any kind of candy is a fish. The first time I came across Swedish Fish in the US, it was an extremely poetic and emotional moment for me.

2. Cooking Red Cabbage. All day. I’m not sure how many of you have cooked red cabbage for hours but it has a really terrible smell. This has nothing to do with my dad’s appreciation for Japanese culture. He was just convinced that red cabbage had many health benefits so he would take every opportunity to serve it. He put it in stews, curries and even made red cabbage ice cream once. That was not a good day. It was not sweet because he was trying to control our sugar intake.

3. Singing songs about light. My dad was a religious man and often sang serious songs about God. During the year of the kimono, he would switch things up a bit over weekends and sing happy, silly songs about light in general. He did this while cooking red cabbage. I think he was trying to distract himself from the smell.

4. Taking an awesome photo. He looked great in his kimono and knew it. The photo included says it all.

5. Gifts for me from the stationery closet. My dad had an entire closet dedicated only to stationery. It was extremely organized and well stacked. During the weekend, if I was good, I got a gift from the stationery closet like an eraser, a pencil – and once I was older an ink pen. This is why I love walking through the aisles of Staples and get excited when a stack of new note pads arrive at my day job.

I’m not sure why my dad stopped kimono weekends. I loved the activities. Not the red cabbage. Maybe I’ll start having friends over to sing songs of light and gift each stationery. Bring back the weekend activities. Not the red cabbage.

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