Many of my Meetup members, friends and family have been talking to me about contributing to my site again. It looks like they have won. I can’t think of a better day to start than on Mother’s Day.
My mother turned 95 yesterday (May 10th, 1924).
Notice that I did not mention that she “celebrated” her birthday. I have my reasons, my mother’s (reason) is that she HATES any mention of her birthday. In fact, if you want to see the ire of a 95 year-old, 4’9″ Japanese mother, go ahead…mention her birthday.
Born Yukiko Matsushita, she grew up in a wealthy family. Yet, 75% of her family were decimated by post-World War II diseases in Japan that are no longer spoken of. Diseases such as polio, smallpox and diphtheria claimed the lives of her mother, brothers and sisters.
My mother is the first child on the left, held by her mother. Her mother would die of disease, a few years after this photograph was taken. Her father would remarry a younger woman with her own children, siring three more. Her father (my grandfather) owned a textile factory in Tokyo. He attended the oldest and what was at that time, the most prestigious university in Japan Keio University. He graduated in the top 1% of his class. Because of his standing, my grandfather could have become a politician, lawyer, doctor or scientist. He chose to become a businessman and enter the world market as a textile manufacturer. My grandfather specialized in manufacturing silks for the seats in the finest Pullman cars in the world. His company prospered from the manufacture of silks until World War II, because of the war. The advent of World War II devastated his business, the Japanese government told my grandfather that he would retool his factories to manufacture uniforms for the Japanese army and navy, or they would take over his business.
My mother used to tell me stories about her siblings calling her “mouse”, because of her height. My mother also told me stories about dodging bullets as a girl in Tokyo. She mentioned once that one of our planes was strafing ground targets, of which she was one (I guess mom was pretty tough).
My mother lived through post-war Japan by attending school to be a kindergarten teacher. She talked more to my sister about those years, the devastation of her father’s business, the war eventually leading him to move onto other business ventures, only to die of stomach problems at an early age. One thing my mother did was to work at the USO, where she met my father in the early 50’s. No doubt, she was shunned by her family because of her association with a gaijin (especially a non-commissioned officer in the Air Force). A two-year courtship via mail ensued, eventually landing my father in trouble for failing to get permission to marry my mother from his commanding officer (an error that would cost him his ability to rise up in rank, quickly).
With my birth, and my sister’s birth two years later, we became a family that traveled from one base to another every 4 years or so. My father loved art and music as a pastime, as did my mother. From my perspective, Dad often did his thing and Mom did hers.
I remember our times in (what was then) Misawa Air Force Base in Northern Japan. My mother loved “punch pictures”, often working with my sister, while Dad would take me to the base library. It was in that library, where I was permitted to divulge myself of whatever books were in the library. Yes folks, I was an 8 year-old with a passion for mischief, reading books about the Vietnam Conflict and adult science fiction short stories by Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Philip K. Dick, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and Kurt Vonnegut, shaped my life and future, while Dad sat in a recording booth, creating reel-to-reel tapes of his favorite music.
Mom was our influence in art and would continue to be until only a few years ago. All of the following images were either painted or created by my mother.
What were also fascinating, were Mom’s dolls. She took up a hobby of “doll-making”. Mom added her own flair to her dolls, many of them relegated to a lifetime in her basement, hidden from public eyes.
Some of her dolls won awards. Again, what you are seeing were kept locked away in her basement.
Mom did have a more prized collection of dolls in her living room. Not all of them were made by my mother, but prized (just the same).
It was my mother’s love of art that influenced me to create a more “visual” form of writing.
Thus ends my tribute to my mother on this Mother’s Day. I hope that you have enjoyed her work as much as I have and that you enjoy your own Mother’s Day celebration in honor of the mothers of our world.