If you are my friend on Facebook, you probably saw the picture of my mother I posted. It was an old photo of her in her early 20's. Even so young, you can see her toughness, her resilience..,at least I think you can. Here's the photo.
I didn't get to see her for Mother's Day but I did speak to her over the weekend. She must have been thinking about her mother because she was re telling me some stories about her childhood.
My mother was born in 1938 in Okinawa, Japan. You can probably guess that her childhood wasn't pleasant, as WWII began to heat up in the Pacific after Japan attacked Pear Harbor. Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu Islands southwest of Mainland Japan. It is a beautiful tiny island and is strategically located in the Pacific. This is not going to be a history lesson but a memoir of a woman who lost her older brother and her mother during the war.
She told me that she was almost 6 years old and her sister only 2 when the war in the Pacific began to intensify. Her older brother was already shipped off to fight, they never knew where he was headed or where he died. They never even got an official notification because they no longer lived in a house. Her family, along with others were nomads, moving from one cave after another, trying to stay away from the fighting. My mother has mentioned it briefly and I have seen documentaries about the war in Pacific and what happened to many who hid in the caves. My mother said they were lucky. They were found by American soldiers who only wanted to see if there were Japanese soldiers hiding along with them. Once it was determined that there were no soldiers, they took the men with them, including mom's father. For a few weeks, the remaining women and older men tried to provide shelter and food for everyone. I can't imagine how scared my mother and her sister were.
Eventually, her father was released and ended up working for the Americans later after the war. But during the aftermath of war, the living conditions were horrible, many infected with Malaria, including my grandmother. There were no medicines, no access to doctors. My grandmother did not survive the infection. At 8 years old, my mother became the matriarch of her family. She was able to finish what is equivalent of junior high, but she had to work and take care of her dad and her sister. She never went to high school but made sure her sister did. She and her dad worked to build a small house because you need a house to keep the spirit of a person and mom wanted to make sure that her dad's spirit had a home.
My mother has told me these stories before. And her experiences definitely shaped her adult life. My mother is a tough woman, brutally honest, always dignified in appearance. We have had a difficult relationship, but I always try to respect her wisdom, try to understand where she comes from, the sacrifices she has had to make. I do lover her very much. I remember having fun with her growing up. I keep trying to remember those things when things are tough between us. But no matter what, I will always celebrate her survival and her strength. I hope she had a great Mother's Day. ❤️