Favorite Memories about your Mother

holidays
#1

On this Mother’s Day, let’s reminisce a little - what are your favourite memories about your mother?

My birthday sometimes falls on Mother’s Day (like this year) so I’ve always joked with my mum that my twin & I are her built-in gifts for Mother’s Day.

She loves to travel and volunteer (separately, not in the same trips) and I inherited those from her, even as I inherited introverted tendencies from my dad so those genetic inheritances seem like they should clash but they haven’t.

Mum used to set aside a day of the week for each child to spend time with her - a resolve that fell by the wayside due to a busy life and four kids but I still remember my day was Tuesdays.

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#3

I know I missed Mother’s Day on this one, but this reminds me of this piece we did a while back that I still have a great deal of affection for. Oh, and also, Happy Mother’s Day!

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#4

My mother died four years ago: she was a difficult, often angry person, and there were times where I refused to speak to her, since I was often the brunt of her anger. Looking back as an older adult myself however, I realize she had a hard life as a young woman. Her father was the black sheep of an old samurai family; he was disinherited in favor of a younger half brother, I suspect because he was an incorrigible child who grew into a temperamental, self-absorbed young man. He also brought upon his family a curse, according to legend: when he was little, he took a sacred halberd from the family shrine and used it to try to catch eels in a nearby stream. When he was caught, his nurse, an old family retainer, predicted the family would never prosper because he had dishonored his ancestors.

Anyway, without any prospects in Japan, my maternal grandfather used the last of his funds to buy passage to the United States, where he tried to become a farmer. Of course, with no experience in agriculture, it was a disaster; with the onset of the Depression, his fortunes, along with my mother’s and the rest of the family’s, declined sharply…until he got a telegram from Japan, announcing that his half brother had died suddenly with no living heirs. The family’s estate was all his, along with its holdings, mostly tenant-farmed rice fields.

My mother didn’t get to enjoy much of this good fortune, however. She was married off at 19 to the son of a wealthy family of industrialists. She and her husband were then sent off to oversee the construction of factories in Manchuria, which had been recently conquered, violently, by the Japanese Imperial government. My mother spoke a little of those times, but any probing on my part made her clam up: she knew how popular Japan’s actions were in the United States back then. She was there only for a short time, until Chinese nationalist forces moved into the area. Her husband sent back to Japan, assuring her he would join her later. He didn’t: he disappeared, likely a prisoner of the Chinese army before being shot or hung.

She went back to live with her parents outside of Tokyo, which was still smoking from the firebombings by US planes. Not long after, the family received word that my mother’s older brother, who’d been drafted to act as an interpreter for the navy, went down with a Japanese battleship at Midway. Their own home survived the war, but shortly after the surrender to the United States, my grandfather died of a sudden stroke, after cutting down an ancient pine tree growing next to the house. It was thought then that the spirit, or kami, of the tree, had struck my grandfather down in revenge for destroying its home.

Not long after this, my grandmother tried to marry Mom off to a much older but rich man, “because at your age you should be glad to have any husband at all.” Mom was 28 by then, and a widow with no prospects: during the US occupation, the family’s land holdings had been redistributed to the tenants. The old feudal system was finished, and all they had now was the house. Mom however didn’t sit around and let tradition take over her life. She enrolled in an American business college that had opened up in Tokyo with the US government’s assistance. She took shorthand and typing classes, and eventually got a job in the typing pool on the US army base. Her favorite story from that time was seeing General MacArthur come into the office with a memo and ask, “Who can type this in five minutes?” My mother was the fastest typist in the pool, so she took the memo and had it done before the general could leave the room. When she gave it to him, he read it over and said, “Very nice!”

My mother told me these stories, by the way. She was a marvelous storyteller: I think she could have written a memoir, had she not been so overwhelmed by emotions about her past. I don’t think she ever got over her experiences from the war. She suffered from depression, though she refused to admit it, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, probably a form of PTSD.

After the US occupational offices closed up in 1952, my mother decided it was time to seek her own fortunes in the United States. She went back, worked briefly for the Office of the Interior in California, then met my father and got married. I wish I could say she lived happily ever after, but that’s for fairy tales, not for the complications of real life. She was never the stereotype of a passive Japanese housewife, and in spite of our problematic relationship, I do respect her adventurous but grief-filled life.

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#5

There’s one particular story of my mom that I still get good mileage out of. My sophomore year at school I lived in an on-campus townhouse with a couple good friends. She visited once and I grabbed her a glass or water while we were sitting in the kitchen. I didn’t think anything of it when I opened the kitchen cabinet, but my roommate had a… let’s say “advanced tobacco smoking apparatus” in the cabinet. After I sat back down and she asked if that was my bong in the cabinet I realized that A) oh yeah, that’s there and B) mom knew exactly what that was with a brief glance. I don’t think it was until then that I realized that despite being hard on me, in hindsight for all good reasons, mom wasn’t as different from me as a kid as I’d thought.

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#6

This was really interesting to read and despite the dark aspects that is a fascinating family history indeed especially with it spanning so many countries and world events.

I have to mention I was immiediately reminded by what you said about your grandfather of the character Kiyoaki in the Yukio Mishima novel “Spring Snow” part of the “Sea of Fertility” trilogy and then about your mothers husband with the character of Kaji in the brilliant Masaki Kobayashi movie trilogy “The Human Condition”.

Have you read that book or seen those films ? If not , I highly reccomend them.

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#7

Hahaha ! I love it ! that is a brilliant story !

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#8

That was a good post - I think you’ve inherited your mum’s talent for storytelling. I was fascinated with her life, which was hard but made her character strong.

I think we always have complex relationships with our parents - we will always be in a perpetual struggle because our choices belong to us but our life originated from them so they always feel invested even when we’re not asking for advice.

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#9

Hahaha, was she a wild child in the 70’s? Maybe your mum had very interesting life experiences she just hasn’t shared with you. It’s like the old adage about your kid not being able to put one on you because you’ve done it all and know what to guard for.

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#10

Thank you!

#11

I haven’t read “Spring Snow” yet: I stopped reading Mishima a while back because so many of his characters seemed “doomed” or fated to die tragically. Since I am going to Japan this fall however, I may try the Sea of Fertility trilogy to gain some insight into the culture and my own family’s background. A lot of Japanese Americans boast about having samurai ancestry, but from my own experience, the attitudes born of that class often translate into dysfunctional behavior in contemporary culture. (Contrary to what I’ve seen in some manga and anime, the samurai were not friendly towards women warriors or female equality.)

I don’t know much about my mother’s first husband: she talked about him for a bit, but as she got older she would get angry whenever I brought him up. I’m not sure I would compare him to Kaji. First Husband came from an elite family, had a university education and until he went to Manchuria, never knew a day of want. I also admit I was disgusted by my mother’s seeming nonchalance at having Chinese house servants while living there, and buying jewelry from starving women in the street. (“I was helping them.” Well, your presence there certainly did not.) It didn’t help that while in high school, I was friends with a Chinese student whose very old father was a survivor of the rape of Nanking: his first wife and children from that marriage were all killed when Japanese soldiers set fire to their house. When he found out I was of Japanese ancestry, he turned and loudly spat into the yard. To this day, every time I see a book or documentary about Nanking, I flinch.

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#12

I have so very many cool & funny memories of my mom who came from a long line of strong & independent women, I don’t even know where to start. I guess it would have be heavy on the sports because she loved sports & could carry the conversation with any male about last Friday’s high school football game, Sunday’s NFL playoffs, last night’s Stanley Cup match, or Arnold Palmer’s score in the latest PGA Tour stop, and the play-makers of each. So many times I watched with pride as some man tried to trip her up talking sports, instead be taken down hard & fast! I watched the first Super Bowl with my mom; my dad had no interest.

I lived in Europe for a time in the 60s & became a “soccer” fan. When I returned my mom & I both lived in Houston TX and she managed a hotel. [A whole 'nuther story, believe me.] She was also one of those magnetic people that everyone was attracted to including lots of people in much higher income brackets than she, so she always had free tickets to some sports event since everyone knew her sports “fiendedness.” Well I thought I was just so above American football and over it since soccer was the sport of Europeans. Nonetheless my mom kept asking me to go with her to see “her” Houston Oilers play in the Astrodome. I turned up my nose each time reminding her I no longer liked the violence of American football and preferred the much more dignified sport of soccer. I’m certain my mom was giggling to herself, but was also not discouraged.

One day she called to ask yet again if I’d like to go to an Oilers game and sit in really good seats. I sighed, opened my mouth to say no, again when…“They are playing the Jets, by the way.” OMG! Yes, I hated American football, but I didn’t live in a hole in the ground…“Jets? Joe Namath? Broadway Joe???” So yep, we’re going to an Oilers game. You kinda have to be from Texas to get the full kick from the rest of this story.

Texans are assigned a football team before they get their name, usually the hometown team, but for the NFL you get the Houston or the Dallas team, depending on what part of the state you come into the world. Born in Houston in the 70s? Ok, little Oiler fan here and that sticks for the rest of your days. Some people, of course, take this fan assignment more seriously than others and become “die-hard;” those would throw themselves on the sword for the team. Texas die-hard can actually be pretty scary because they would also have no problem throwing a fan of any other team on the sword.

We get settled in our seats, the Oilers come out to appropriate fanfare, or at least all that can be mustered by the few hundred die-hard fans still coming to see the very bad Oilers team, then almost as a second thought with no fanfare come Joe Namath and the NY Jets. [Don’t even get me started on Texans’ opinion of anything New York.] I was so excited to see Broadway Joe live, I almost peed myself as I literally jumped up on the bleacher seat and screamed his name! You know how you get so excited about something, you don’t notice that the room has gone quiet? My mom suddenly stood up in front of me as if to shield me and said, “SHUT UP!” Quietly, she whispered for me to look around. I did and realized every single die-hard was glaring at me. That night my mom did something she never did, she left the game at the beginning of the fourth. Could’ve stayed since the never- win Houston Oilers actually beat Namath and the always-win Jets that night.

That was the night I returned to American football as a Houston Oilers fan. I figured if they could beat Broadway Joe, well who knows?

My mom died with Alzheimer’s which, over the life of the disease, can blur a lot of happy memories you have about that person, so you try to catch & record the few good ones. I called my mom every week even when I don’t think she knew who was on the other end of the line. Once though she was very excited and obviously happy because she was in a hurry to get dressed. When I asked her why, she said she was on her way to see the Houston Oilers play the NY Jets!

Love you & very much miss you, Mother. I’m still an American football fan–only die-hard for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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#13

Wow, that triggered one of those “I think my mom knows more than she’s letting on memories” for me as well. My mom actually showed up at my door once while some friends & I were partaking and had been for some time. Her reaction was completely calm when she complimented us on our music–The Moody Blues. My best memory of that night is my mom lying on the floor, headphones on, obviously enjoying “Knights In White Satin.” <:

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#14

Just, wow!

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#15

Hahaha! That was a fun story. Now you’ve made me curious about that other story about your mum managing a hotel.

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#16

Now, that is a book! <:

#17

Someone once asked me if I was a Mama’s Boy. “Well…” I began, “Mom drove a muscle car, and rode a motorcycle, and had tattoos, but so far I have not stolen a police car so I can’t be considered a total Mama’s Boy. Yet.”
(Understand that mom was born in the 1930s, and had accomplished all this before the end of the Nixon administration. Suburban New England moms of the Silent Generation did not do these things.)
The police car was a bit of a crime of opportunity, you might say. She was out at some roadhouse laughing it up and had parked her ‘67 Lincoln Continental at the far end of the parking lot. It was raining when she came out, and rather than ruin her nice Jackie Kennedy getup she ‘borrowed’ the police cruiser that was idling right there by the front door, at the taxpayers’ expense, to drive herself to the far end of the lot, where she abandoned the cruiser (still running) and took off in her Continental. Never heard a word about it.
You know when your mom tells you the other kids make fun of you because they’re jealous? Whoever it was that called me a Mama’s Boy really failed to push my buttons with that one.

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#18

Oh yeah. I have pictures of her in her giant homemade bell bottoms and with her first car, a Burnished Brown '69 Camaro. Last year I also found a picture of my dad on a couch in what I think was their apartment before I was born with a poster with a pot leaf on the wall behind him. We chuckled about that while he was in the hospital before he died last year. That’s my “feelies” story for the day. :slight_smile:

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#19

My kind of mom!

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#20

What a fun story about the police cruiser! Glad you’re a Mama’s boy. :grin:

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