My aunt and I have a particular bond in my family. First, I should mention that my mother and my aunt are identical twins, so growing up my relationship with my aunt (and conversely, my cousins’ relationship with my mother) may have been somewhat different from a normal aunt-niece dynamic. I honestly have no way of knowing for certain since I have no other point of comparison, but sometimes it felt more like having two mothers and several sisters.
We also seem to share certain things that nobody else in the family does to such an extent – my aunt is a civil engineer and interior designer, and while I am certainly nowhere near as capable or qualified, I’ve always loved decorating, the artistic aspects of interior design, and had I had more of a brain for math I probably would have tried to be an architect. We’re also both more prone to health problems than most of the other people in the family, who mostly seem to be fit as the proverbial horses.
I guess what I am trying to say is even though I don’t see her as often as I did when I was little, we connect on some level, and she always seems to have a knack for finding things I would appreciate. When I was younger she often gave me art supplies to try to encourage my artistic side (which I shamefully admit I have been horrible and neglected since then). For Christmas this year I asked for a very strange and specific camera lens adapter and it was decided it would be better if I went to buy it myself, so I could make sure I was getting the right model. My aunt, however, was not comfortable with the idea of me having nothing to open, so she gave me this gorgeous set of four prints of Kumadori, or Kabuki stage makeup. They are absolutely stunning. Naomi has brought to my attention that they seem to be inspired by the tradition of oshiguma:
There is a delightful custom associated with the use of kumadori, that of oshiguma. The actor takes a silk cloth to make a “print” of the make-up on his face with after the play has concluded. This is considered a souvenir of the very essence of the performance and is highly prized as a collector’s item.
After the “yay opening presents!” hubbub subsided, I managed to catch my aunt aside and ask where on Earth she’d gotten them, because I’ve never seen anything like them. She looked at me sheepishly and confessed that a friend of hers had received them as a thank-you gift while contracting with a Japanese company, had passed them on to her, and she in turn had passed them on to me. I was so touched. Now some of you may think ill of re-gifting, but to me this wasn’t so much a re-gift as the passing forward of a really beautiful treasure, ensuring they finally found a home with someone who would appreciate them. The previous owners were simply fostering them until they found their forever home!