My love letter to the best flooring in the world. But it's also so much more.

Dear Tatami,

How are you doing? It feels like it's been awhile since I last saw you. Well, maybe it has been. We did encounter each other at some of my stays this September, but that wasn't the same as usual. When did I last see you, for real? Almost close to four years ago, I think. Last time I went to Japan, in 2020. Right before the pandemic. Right before everything changed. 

I remember it was cold. It was February and I went to celebrate a friend's wedding. I stayed with you at my grandparents. My grandpa was still alive then but it was only my grandma at the house. We watched TV together while we cooked breakfast, watching the news of the soon-to-be pandemic unfolding. I slept in the room you're also in. Breathing in the smell of my grandparent's, my nose freezing in the mornings. My grandpa's clothes still hung from the walls. I didn't realize that that time was probably one of the last times I'd stay at that house. I'm sorry I didn't properly say goodbye, but I guess neither of us knew.

I miss seeing you at my other grandma's too. Her place was smaller, but so cozy. Her whole apartment felt like I was wrapped in a warm blanket. I'm not sure if that makes sense. Whenever I'd go visit her, I could immediately smell something she prepared for us. Usually something warm, like udon or chawanmushi, things my mom likes. I watched TV with my mom and you. I'd mindlessly trace your grooves and bumps. Going against and then along the lining of the weaving. We'd lay our futons on top, and turn off our lights up until the mame-den. I'd fall asleep to the clock ticking. But she had to move out of her place too, and again I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. She doesn't remember me anymore, but I'm okay with that (in a "life happens" kind of way). I try not to think about it too much. 

Even when I knew I missed you, I didn't realize how much until I visited Japan again a couple months ago. We had to stay in hotels. My grandmas had both moved out of their places, their places where you also were. Where I'd get to see you. We stayed in hotels with small rooms, where it was carpet and the bed took up most of the room. There was barely any space for me to walk. I came back tired from a walk, but not late enough to sleep yet. I thought to myself, where am I going to sit?? If this was my grandparents', I'd just sit down where you were, letting a big sigh of relief out as I lied down. My brain clouded up. I wasn't sure what to feel. It was like anger and frustration, mixed with an unexplainable sadness. There was no one I can blame, and somehow that felt worse.

I always wish you could come to the states with me. It would be so nice! Tiles and floorings are so cold. The carpet is soft, but it collects too much dust I feel. I always told myself, if I ever could build a dream house, it would have a washitsu, my own room with a tatami! But it's almost been 30 years and here I am, wood and carpet only. One day. 

I wonder if we'll be able to see each other again, like old times. You were with me for all of my fun Japan trips and it's hard for me to imagine we'll never spend time like we used to. But I guess that's the part about growing up. Or I guess it's now growing old. Either way, it sucks. I want to keep my hopes up though, even though I'm a realist. I'm sure one day we'll see each other again and we can be each other's company. Remember, you're amazing. No other flooring can replace your greatness haha 

So, until we meet again. 

Love,
Nicole

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