- Family and Parenting
A Story About My Mother
A Tribute to a Wonderful Woman
My mother was born in January, sometime shortly after the second world war in a small town called Okitsu-a quaint seaside town in the city of Shizuoka, known for it's abundant seafood, fresh wasabi and delicious green tea. She was part of a large family which consisted of two sisters and five brothers. Although my grandfather had a business dying kimono fabric, he could barely feed his family. It was right after the war and food was extremely scarce. In those days, rice was especially hard to come by, so my grandmother would combine chopped sweet potatoes into the rice to add additional volume. According to my mother, those were tough times. Yet these were the times when some of her fondest memories were made.
She had always been the "black sheep" of the family. She didn't like doing what she was told and she was incredibly stubborn, determined and more than a bit of a troublemaker.
This is a story about my mother.
*Photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.
My Mother's Choices
My mother told me that she had always been the troublemaker in the family. When she was a child, my mother never liked sharing things with her sisters. As she was the middle girl, she got the hand-me downs from her older sister which annoyed her. She was naturally expected to take care of her younger sister, which simply bored her. She caused her parents lots of anxiety and worry.
One day, full of resentment and a need to be fashionable, she ordered a pair of custom-made shoes without her father's consent. She then started to date my father, a son of a famous Japanese singer of their generation. They fell in love and against my grandparent's wishes, they got married and moved away to the big city of Tokyo.
Shortly thereafter, she had her first child. As you can see in the picture above, I was a chubby little blob of marshmallow. Two years later, my sister came into the world. Although my mother doesn't talk much about this period in her life, she told me enough that hinted of a very distressful time. My father was a notorious playboy and although my mother felt that she could change him, this did not happen. My father gambled during the day and frequented cabarets and bars at night while my mother worked to support her two kids. Shortly thereafter, my father started taking her hard-earned money while she was away at work. He also kept a mistress on the side, paying her rent with my mother's earnings.
She knew this couldn't go on forever and something needed to change. Perhaps she felt that she'd made a mistake. She knew she should have listened to her parents. Whatever the reasons, it was too late. She was here with two kids in tow and a husband who used her money for women and gambling.
There were days when she would walk down the street trying to figure out how she would feed her family. One winter afternoon, as she strolled past vegetable and fruit stands, she swallowed her pride and asked the store owner for food scraps. That afternoon, she made soup out of cabbage scraps. She had no choice. She had to feed her kids.
Months went by with no improvement with her marriage or financial situation. She took me and my sister by the hand and left her husband asking for nothing in return. She knew if she stayed she would go crazy. As she walked away from the apartment, she realized she had nowhere to go and thoughts of doom flashed through her mind. She wanted to kill herself right then and there. She even thought of walking in front of a train to die. It would be quick and easy she thought. How easy it would be to run away from the pain and suffering. But there was something that meant more to her than her own life. It was the life of her two children. This was the crucial moment in her life-the turning point-that made her stronger and more stubborn than she ever had been.
*Photo of my mother and me
Sharing Your Life with Your Loved Ones
Each page asks a thought-provoking question with space for your own answers. For mothers, this is a good way to record your life and share it with your loved ones.
Moving Away to a Foreign Land
Persuaded by my uncle ( my father's younger brother ), my mother accepted two one-way tickets bound for Hawaii, where my grandmother ( father's side ) was living. With no English skills, my grandmother found her a job as a bar hostess. After a few months, she used the money she earned to bring my sister over to Hawaii. She worked at the bar while my grandmother took most of my mother's earnings, saying that she was just taking her cut for taking care of the kids while she was at work.
My mother finally got smart. She met a local man and after dating for a few short months, they were married. Then the nightmare really began. Almost immediately after their marriage, he started to violently abuse her night after night. I remember seeing my mother being pinned to the wall with objects such as tables, chairs and beds. Sometimes her nose would bleed and other times she would just scream and cry. My sister and I would cry our lungs out and although it would stop our new father from hitting her, we knew he would continue beating her the next day.
One night I couldn't stand it anymore and I cried at the top of my lungs to make him stop hitting her. He grabbed me by the neck and hit my head against the wall. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, it was all quiet. A month later, they were divorced and the nightmare was over.
*Photo of my mother in 1970's
Hard Times for the Family
My mother was understandably under a lot of stress-something my sister and I couldn't understand. She started to take her anger and frustration out on her kids. At first she mostly took her anger out on me. After I became too strong for her, she started to take it out on my sister. This was probably the most horrific time for all of us and being confused, both my sister and I started to resent her.
Sometime during the 80's my mother used the money she saved up to buy a bar and start her own business. Fortunately, it did very well and she earned enough to buy a condo just after a few years of hard work. She never took a day off and although she didn't know it at that time, it would take its toll on her health.
By this time though, her children were getting into their own problems. Both her kids attempted suicide but fortunately, they were both unsuccessful. Her son never returned home after that except for the few times he needed something. Deep down inside, my mother was struggling to deal with her life, her problems and the future of her children.
*Photo of my mother and her daughter in December 2013.
30 stories from different real-life moms tell their story of how it really is. Hilarious and entertaing, this book is a must-read for moms everywhere.
Your Mother's Life
Do you think your mother had a difficult life?
Things That We Resented About My Mother
- Physically abusing us sometimes for no apparent reason.
- Not celebrating holidays like the other kids.
- Not being home to cook for us or tuck us into bed.
- Making us believe that she didn't love us.
- Never hugging us.
- Not being there to help us with homework.
- Not being a normal mother.
How About You?
Do you feel any resentment towards your mother?
My mother endured a lot that's for certain. My sister got into drugs and I stopped going to school. I came out to my mother and having a gay son didn't make things easier for her. She had a lot on her plate all the while, trying to keep her business afloat. After many years of non-stop working and intense stress, my mother had a panic attack.At the hospital she was told that she was suffering from high blood pressure and extreme stress. The doctor basically told her that if she didn't change something in her life, she wouldn't be alive to see her grandchildren.
My mother made a decision to sell her business at the age of 55. She had already paid off the mortgage for the condo and had some money saved up to feed herself for awhile. Her son finally started to come home to look after her. She was bedridden for almost an entire year. It was during this time that the healing process began. They all knew they had only each other. They were still family and it wasn't too late to salvage what they had. It was time to let go and learn to forgive. It was not easy but mother, daughter and son all secretly vowed in their hearts to do their best to fix the mess they were in.
*Photo of my mother and son on a trip.
I Love My Mother Because...
- She had the strength and courage to raise two kids on her own in a foreign country.
- She made an honest effort in accepting me as gay.
- She taught her kids good table manners.
- She cooked, cleaned and ironed for us when she could,even though she was a busy working mother.
- She spoke to us in Japanese so we would grow up to be bilingual.
- She has the ability to act completely silly, which never fails to make me smile.
- She is fair.
- She treats all my friends with utmost respect.
- She is pretty awesome.
Years after Retirement
It took my mother almost an entire year to recover from her bad health and stress. She was having constant panic attacks and insomnia and until this day, she doesn't go a single day without her pills. Fortunately, her blood pressure got under control and her health dramatically improved through juicing, natural supplements and rest.
Once she recovered and her health stabilized, we traveled the world together-Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Paris and London. I loved taking her on these trips and I felt immense joy from seeing her smile. On the plane returning from Paris, my mother told me a story from her past.
My mother smiled as she remembered, "When I was in my 20's, I went to a fortune teller and I asked her if I would be happy."
"What did the fortuner teller say?" I asked.
"Well, she said that I would have to endure hard times first but happiness will surely come during my later years, Now when I first heard this, I was disappointed because I was still so young when she told me this. But you know what? I think she was right because truth be told, I am very happy now. "
That was one of the best stories she's ever told me.
*Photo of my mother 2010
Your Relationship with Your Mother
Have you ever had a heart-to-heart talk with your mother?
A Better Relationship
Do you have a hard time talking to your mother? Do you feel like no matter she's never satisfied? No matter how difficult, there are ways to better communication and understanding each other. It's never too late to improve your relationships with your mother or your father.
Still Going Strong
Most recently, I went to visit my family in December of 2013. My mother was doing well and she looked extremely healthy. She currently lives with my sister in Hawaii and although they are constantly at each other's throats, they are learning how to live under the safe roof. Despite their heated arguments, it's obvious they love each other. My mother is planning a visit to Japan, where she will be staying with me for a month to clean my perpetually messy apartment. She will yell at me and boss me around for the entire time. It's obvious I'm a masochist because I can't wait!
*Photo of my mother in 2007.
What do you remember most about your mother? Please feel free to leave your comments.