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It's Friday afternoon, the sun is shining and I have just broken free of my forty-hour work week. As I start my car, my Red Hot Chili Pepper's cd begins to play. I roll down my window and turn the music up, never mind that I only have a 5 minute drive home. As I drive, I can't help but enjoy the weather, but all of this glorious weather is overshadowed by my one-track mind. All I can think about is the mail. Today is the big day. Today is the day that my bujin hakama is supposed to arrive. As I pull over and park my car by the communal mailboxes, I can't help but think to myself "There are only two things that could make this Friday absolutely glorious: my hakama and a parking spot by our townhouse." I take out my key and open the mailbox. Letters, bills, a magazine and then something shiny catches my eye. YES! This is the mailbox key that is given when a package is too big to fit in your personal mailbox. I look at the key and it doesn't tell me what box it is in. Doesn't matter though, I will try every mailbox here if necessary. Lucky for me, the first big box I tried opened. I eagerly pulled out the package to see who it was from. I read the return address: bujin. I couldn't help but smile and I am fairly certain that the sun began to shine brighter just for me.
I practically skip my way back to car. Two weeks and five days after ordering my hakama I now have it in my hands. I start my car and begin the short trek back towards my townhouse. The sun is still shining brightly, so I'm hopeful of an empty parking spot, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much. Can a person really get two nice things on the same Friday? They sure can! I see a parking spot open and just calling for my little cabrio to fill it. (See, our townhouse has a one car garage. My husband is the one that parks in the garage. Oftentimes, I beat him home, which means I either have to hope for an open spot or move my car to let him get the garage before parking again in the driveway. There is very little parking elsewhere, so more often then not, this is what I have to do. Now, there are two holy grail parking spots that are thrown in amongst the 8 townhomes- and most of these townhomes have two cars. If you can get one of these, it is a miracle. In fact, people will park their cars there and not move them for like a week. Grr.. anyway, let's get back to the story shall we?)
I happily pull past the spot and back into it. My cabrio is so happy with the spot that it is practically purring. Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I was stoked none the less! Somehow, I manage to get out of my car with my purse, my lunchbox, my water bottle, my winter coat, my fleece jacket, all the mail and with my hakama in tow. Once I get inside, I lay everything down on the couch. As excited as I am about ripping open this package, I need to take care of my shih tzu first. I go upstairs and let her out of her room. Her pretty brown eyes and tail wags tell me that I made the right decision. She picks up her bone and eagerly trots past me into our bedroom (as she knows this is my next destination as it is a daily thing). I take off my heels and put them away, use the bathroom and change into more comfortable clothing. The whole time I am chasing Meili around the room or giving her little smoochies on her head when she stays still long enough. Her topknot is all askew, so I will have to fix that shortly. I look down at her and say "Let's go downstairs!" She leads the way and I follow. I take her outside to go potty. While I am outside, all I can think about is ripping into the package. This is worse then Christmas!
Once Meili is done, we go back inside. I practically have a heart attack as I see this person out of the corner of my eye. No one is supposed to be in my house! Finally, I am able to focus to see who is actually in my house. My husband is looking back at me with this amused look on his face. "What are you doing here!?!" I exclaim. "I thought you were working till 5." He shakes his head and simply says "Nope." He looks down at the couch and sees that my hakama has arrived. "I'm impressed. I thought you would have had that ripped open by now." I proudly responded with "I guess I'm more disciplined and patient then you thought." I'm finally done wiping Meili's paws and she takes off across the kitchen into the living room to run around till her daddy says hello.
I walk over to my husband and kiss him hello and ask how work went. As he tells me how his day went, I casually picked up the package and set it on my lap. He gives me the abbreviated version of his day, which was most appreciated since I'm dying to rip this plastic open. With a deep breathe I open the package and pull out the deep blue hakama. I immediately take note of how rough and stiff the fabric feels and I admire how pretty the himo are tied. Whoever folded this did a wonderful job. As I sat there evaluating it, it occurred to me just how heavy this hakama is compared to the one sensei was letting me borrow. I wonder how heavy it will feel when I put it on? I set the hakama aside and look at the paperwork that came with it: instructions for washing, wearing and folding your hakama and the receipt.
The instructions state that the pleats are lightly stitched and that they will need to be cut before wearing. With a sad heart, I open up my hakama and fear that it will never look that beautiful again. I should have taken a photo! I look at the pleats. Nothing! I begin to open them and feel higher up. Nothing! Now I'm even more upset because I just unfolded my hakama for no reason what so ever! I tell my husband that I am going upstairs to fold my hakama on the bed so I don't get dog hair all over it. After a bit of fiddling, I get the hakama folded along the creases and looking quite presentable once more. I take it downstairs and put it with the rest of my aikido stuff for Saturday morning.
Saturday morning, half asleep I arrive to the dojo. I shake off the sleep as I pull out my new hakama. The hakama feels heavy in my hands. This is the defining moment. I will finally find out whether it fits or not. I shake it out and step inside. I quickly realize that the hakama is stiff and the himo are stiffer still. It reminds me of getting a brand new belt. This will require some breaking in for sure. Only problem is it will only be worn twice a week. I take note of the extra weight, but it is barely noticeable now that it is tied in place. For some strange reason, I didn't even take the time to look in the mirror. I was distracted. I walked out of the changing room with bokken in hand, the hakama grazing the floor as I walked. As I walked up a couple steps, I quickly realized that I will now have to lift my hakama as I step up or I would trip over the extra two inches of length that wasn't there before.
Once inside, I put my flip-flops away, drink some water and then sit in seiza with my bokken beside me. Wow this hakama is stiff! I could step out of it and I'm certain it would stand all on its own. Once class began, my new hakama constantly brought attention to me. While doing warm up cuts, every time I sunk into my hips and dropped, my stiff hakama would make this loud swooshing sound as it fell upon the floor. I had to concentrate to keep myself from laughing. In fact, it took quite a bit of concentration to get my mind off of the noise. My hakama once again reminded me that I had to earn its respect. While doing forms, I constantly discovered that I had stepped on it or got it tangled up somehow. I was beginning to feel like this was the first time I had a hakama on. At one point, my hakama was just a complete mess. One of my stiff himo had come undone and the back of my hakama was falling down. I annoyingly went off to the side and fixed it. From then on, I made a habit of tugging at it after every form to make sure that it stayed tight.
Once the class was over, I went to the back and attempted to fold my hakama. I was dreading this moment. I had created new creases and wrinkles and was convinced that I would never get it folded so beautifully again. Once again, I was wrong. To my amazement, I had it folded with every crease in the right place. It was as if the stars aligned and along with it, the inner and outer pleats were all where they were supposed to be. I'm hopeful that as long as I fold it properly after each class that it will always be this easy to maintain. As I walked off the mat with my new hakama, I wondered to myself how long it would take for it to feel like home. For now, I feel like I am just a clumsy visitor.