I stand at the kitchen sink as the dim early morning light brings the backyard into focus through the window. For this first half hour of my day, the only sounds in the kitchen are my sounds as I pack lunches for the kids and my husband. Today I cut and peel an apple for our youngest child. As I go through the ritual of slicing and peeling away the skin, I deliberately leave a few bits of skin on the otherwise bare slices. This habit of leaving some bits of skin on the apple is an act I refer to as “Seiko Baba.” Seiko Baba was a teenage student in one of my English conversation classes in the late 1980s in Tokyo. She was petite, beautiful and fun loving. She was one of the few students I met outside of school for social events. One day she and a few others ended up in my small apartment where I served tea and snacks. She offered to peel an apple for us to share, and as she did so, she left bits of the peel intact. She explained that she had attended a finishing school for girls and had learned to peel apples this way. The skin left on the slices shows the color and freshness of the apple and that not too much was cut away. She laughed at the absurdity of teaching young women to peel apples with such care, even as she continued to peel away most of the skin leaving artfully thin strips behind. Her ability to laugh heartily at her own culture, while still embracing it, has stuck with me all these years.
I embraced feminism whole heartedly during college and envisioned a life focused on intellectual pursuits. I came from a household where my single mother spared no time for packing lunches. Time was short and better spent with the important things, like work and reading the Washington Post cover to cover every day. Yet here I am alone in the kitchen feeling honestly satisfied as I tuck these apple slices into my daughter’s lunch box. I wonder what ever happened to Seiko Baba. Does she peel apples just this way for her own kids? I know she would laugh if she knew her name has become a household word in our home.
the things I once thought