words that resonate……

The Year of Living Nonjudgmentally at http://annkoplow.wordpress.com/ offered the following sentiment, which I now share with you.

          The pain of the loss is directly related to the importance of the connection. 

John F. Kennedy died fifty years ago today.

Where were you when the bullet cut short his life?

I was in school with my fellow classmates at St. Anthony Girl’s School in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii.

English: Posthumous official presidential port...

English: Posthumous official presidential portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, painted by Aaron Shikler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously I knew nothing of the President except for what I saw of him on our black-and-white television set. His Hollywood-good-looks probably affected me the way it did every other red-blooded girl, American or not. He was hot!

Of course there was more to JFK than his rakish, matinee idol looks. 

With his words, sincerely spoken, the President touched our souls. All the outer trappings of his life melted away.

          Here  was a man, walking the beach. Head bowed, deep in thought.

          Here  was a father, scooping up 2 adoring children into his huge embrace.

          Here  was a husband, given to faults not unlike other husbands.

          Here  was a son, trying to measure up to standards set in stone.

          Here  was a brother, beloved by siblings and in-laws alike.

          Here  was an uncle, setting an example of public service for later generations to come.

          Here  was a friend, one who laughed, who cajoled, who pulled rank, who was loyal.

          Here  was a soldier who thought nothing about his own life in order to save others.

Here was my president, who dreamed of a country in which all served for the good of one another.

…the loss still resonates…

………hugmamma.JFK

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warm and sunny…just like mama

It’s been awhile since I’ve bolted from bed, putting fingers to keyboard because  thoughts and words started assembling like soldiers in a military dress parade. But I was given my marching orders, so here I am, albeit a little bleary-eyed still.

All this to do about a holiday honoring women of the world, hell-bent on doing a great job. Whether charged with the care of one, 9, or however many, moms awake each day to the sounds of their offspring calling their generic name…mommy, ma, mama, mom, or mother. Can’t warm to that one myself; but to each her own.

Memories are unique, according to one’s own experiences and perceptions. Today I remember the warmth and sun…of my mom.

Mama wasn’t perfect…neither am I.

She gave away hugs…the same ones I now share…as “hugmamma.”

Though poor, she was always “dressed to the nines,” her hair coiffed in the style of the day. A habit I’ve acquired.

A quick smile, an infectious laugh, twinkling eyes as if to say…”Have your best day.” She left me that too…that which I give to you.

Sunday best required a hat. Mama bought me Easter ones…when she could. A new, store bought dress was included…if it didn’t “break the bank.”

A pot of soup for a sick friend or neighbor; a kindness returned when mama was “under the weather.” I helped transport the generous offering…both ways.

Mama left me her “green thumb” and passion for gardening. I love flowers, their colors, their fragrances, their attraction to birds, butterflies and bees. I can feel her beside me, when I’m pulling out weeds.

Each Christmas she handcrafted wreaths from evergreen branches we’d gathered, along with wire clothes hangers, newspaper strips and string. Mama’s strength and dexterity always amazed me. As did her gifting these homemade treasures to friends and relatives.

When I was sick she’d minister to my every need, lathering my chest and throat with Vicks to break up the congestion. Or massaging my upset tummy with warmed oil because she said I had “bush.” A Portuguese term for a “turned stomach,” according to mama. The onset of which probably occurred when I took a tumble.

She let me burn a small candle once when I was playing with my dolls. My brother complained, saying I’d start a fire. Mama defended my frivolity.

 Sundays at the beach, running its length, the warm Pacific waters our reward. Mama took time out of her busy week to ensure my siblings and I had fun.

TARO PATCHES ALONG HIGHWAY 36. TARO ROOT IS TH...

TARO PATCHES ALONG HIGHWAY 36. TARO ROOT IS THE BASIS OF POI, A TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN DISH – NARA – 554077 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trudging through murky, muddy Taro patch waters, mama taught me to scour the bottom for “pupus.” Hawaiian relatives of the French escargot, the smell of pupus boiling on the stove was enough to send me running out to play.

Prying the meaty critter out of its shell with a safety pin and popping it into my mouth was not my fantasy snack. No amount of cajoling or pressure got me to down that nasty mollusk.

So how is it that I now relish the taste of escargot  bathed in garlic butter?

Mama cheered proudly when I stood before a basketball crowd as lead high-school cheerleader. 

She made my costumes for school plays.

Tänzerin beim Hula ʻauana im Wettbewerb

Tänzerin beim Hula ʻauana im Wettbewerb “Miss Aloha Hula”, Merrie Monarch Festival 2003, Hilo, Hawaiʻi, USA; Pentax Z 20, Tamron Zoom AF/MF 3,8-5,6/28-200 mm aspherical (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Hawaiian dance recitals, she helped gather koa seeds for the leis we strung, and ti-leaves for the hula skirts she made.

All the small and big things mama did for me…I do for my daughter. Some days joyfully; others, like a zombie.

I wouldn’t trade my memories for someonelse’s…nor my job as mom…for another.

Great days or less than…my heart overflows.

…mama wasn’t perfect…and neither am i…

…hugs of aloha…on mother’s day…and all days…

………hugmamma.

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

 

daily post challenge: what prompts me to create…to write?

I’m a storyteller. Aren’t we all? I think what I have to share is worth sharing. I don’t know of too many people who feel differently about themselves.

Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great ...

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I want my turn at the soap box on the corner, where I can spew nonsense, or platitudes, or gut-wrenching experiences. Who doesn’t do that, every day?

I’m looking for an audience, beyond my immediate family, who’ll nod in agreement, offer sympathy, or call me a genius. Don’t tell me you don’t have those same fantasies?

Escaping the reality of housework, endless meal preparations, weekly laundering, tending the garden…other good reasons…to create…to write. Surely you have your own list of reasons to seek some respite in more pleasurable past-times.

We’re human beings, after all. We’re not mythological gods who manipulated fate on a whim. Nor are we members of the lesser species whose only business is to survive. We must carve out our own legacies…with our own hands…with our own creative juices.

My professional career was spent behind a desk, several in fact, from Hawaii to Washington D.C. to Boston to New York. During that entire time, the artist in me lingered in the shadows, while my more practical side set about to conquer the world. Well, maybe just a fraction of it.

Now the only desk I enjoy sitting at is the one on which my laptop sits. And any desk will do…

…as long as I can write………hugmamma.

each with a story to tell…

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a favorite jazz station, the music playing in the background. I remember nothing else the deejay said except that each of us is looking to tell our own story. Those words have stayed with me, coming to the forefront when I listen to other people speak, whether in person, on TV, on the radio, or read what they’ve written, or what’s written about them.

It’s as though I’m watching a larger-than-life screening of “This is your life!”, a TV reality show from the 50’s, hosted by Ralph Edwards. Using a scrapbook with photos from the person’s life throughout the years, Edwards surprised the person whose life was featured, with people from his or her past. While not exactly the same, I tend to listen to someone’s story as though I’m looking through a View Master…one slide at a time…click, click…click, click.

I think perhaps we’re all looking for legitimacy. We want to make sure we’ve made our mark, before exiting this life. We want someone to remember that we were here. So we tell our own story…every day. The trick is getting others to listen. And the only way we know for sure is if they engage in conversation…telling us their story. And so it goes…back and forth…round and round.

The main characters of the show. (Background, ...

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While most of us engage in modest storytelling, there are those who have taken it to a whole other level…on reality TV. The Kardashians have allowed us to move in with them, and as a result we’re privvy to their successes, and their foibles. In The Biggest Loser the challengers look to us for support and compassion as they wage a desperate fight against obesity. Even in the sitcom Everybody Loves RaymondRay Romano encourages us to laugh at his display of idiocy. I’ve heard much of it is reflective of his true self. Maybe he loves playing the fool. Nothing wrong with that. It’s his story, after all.

Blogging is a very good example of storytelling. We’re all telling our own life stories…in our own way…on our own terms…in our own good time. I don’t think we intentionally write to be validated; but we like it when we are. Storytelling is like reruns of our favorite TV show, mine being I Love Lucy. We never tire of telling our favorites. If you’ve read hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul from its inception, you’ve heard me relate some of my stories…

time………and time………again………hugmamma.     

a tribute…to my mom’s legacy

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

In a couple of days we’ll be celebrating moms. What they mean to us; what they do for us. My mom has been gone a number of years now. But there’s never a day that passes, when I don’t remind myself that “because of my mom, I can endure this struggle.”

While she was alive it seemed my mom and I were always engaged in our own struggle. Up until Alzheimer’s completely overtook her mental capacities, she was forever willing me to do as she wished. Perhaps I was too much like her, for I had difficulty bending to her will, especially after becoming a wife and a mother. Although I was her youngest, I felt I deserved respect as an adult having to make my own way in life. I was footing my own bills now, and picking myself up after life smacked me a blow to the head. This became even more apparent when I moved away from family in the islands, to reside permanently on the mainland. I think I learned early in life that I needed to take care of myself…without whining.

So whether or not my mom intended to give me the strength to endure, I learned by osmosis. She did it, so I do it. And because I do it, my daughter does it. But I must admit she does it with a whole lot less…whining. I like to call it venting. I like to get things off my chest with good friends, including my daughter, and hubby, of course. Now that I’m blogging, you naturally hear some of it as well. But you’ve always the option of…tuning me out.

My daughter’s recent experiences have served as a reminder of the strength instilled in me by my mom, which I have obviously passed along. My daughter’s dance season began with a sabbatical during which she returned home here for medical treatment. After 2 months, she was able to rejoin her ballet company. Cast in a couple of wonderful roles, she was elated to be dancing again in February. As she geared up for the final performance of the season last weekend, my daughter broke her hand in a freakish accident during rehearsal. While stressful, physically and emotionally, she carried on as cheerfully as possible. The beginning of last week she learned her apartment was mildly infested with bed bugs.

Bedbug

Image via Wikipedia

Advised to strip the place of everything except the furniture in preparation for treatment she, with a broken hand, but with the help of a friend, did just that. Renting a storage unit in which she placed bins and trash bags full of her belongings, and boarding her cat at the vet, my daughter has now been waiting almost 2 weeks for her apartment to be treated.

Management is dickering with 2 pest control companies about the price. Meanwhile my daughter is boarding here and there with friends because she doesn’t like the thought of being live bait. The rep from the second company consulted, suggested my daughter sleep in the bed where a couple of bug larvae were found so that the infestation would not spread to other areas, since the bugs would go in search of her blood. You can imagine her reaction! He went on to say that she needn’t have emptied her apartment of its decor and her clothing. Caught in the middle of 2 supposed experts saying opposing things, who should she believe?

Unfortunately management of the apartment complex is in the same quandary, and my daughter is the guinea pig in its efforts to devise a game plan going forward. With bed bug infestations throughout the country being widely broadcast in the media, I wonder why there was no best case/worst case scenario in place with the apartment complex‘s regular vendor of pest control?

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.....

Image by Daisy.Sue via Flickr

With a broken hand, and living like a nomad, my daughter maintains an upbeat attitude about her life. She’s rehearsing a piece she’s choreographed for this weekend’s show with trainees of the company; she’s been a model in a photo shoot for the company, albeit minus the hand splint which she’s now sporting; and she happily accepts invitations out with friends which often includes a place to bunk for the night. As a beacon of light on the horizon, my daughter will soon be reunited with my husband and me for some much-needed R and R. I promised that she and I would “tie one on” when she got home.

Mother & Child, Coc Ly Market

Image by Hanoi Mark via Flickr

Any mom who cherishes her child can appreciate that what my daughter has been through makes my spirit go limp. At my age, I don’t even have the fire to take on the adversaries anymore, at least not as I did in earlier decades. I have my husband to thank for that. In our household wiser heads now rule, for which I’m eternally grateful. For it has meant that, unlike my mom, these, my later years are free of the kind of stress she inflicted upon herself through negativity. And that I truly believe, is a key component of Alzheimer’s. I may still not escape its grasp, but I maintain control over the number of factors that might contribute to eventually being overcome by the disease. So while I still have my wits about me, I’ll continue to fight the good fight. That’s something else with which I can gift my daughter.

giving thanks…for what my mom has given me…and what i’ve been able to give my daughter…and for the legacy that will most certainly… live on…hugmamma.

Wild Roses Mother's Day Card

Image by Flora Powell via Flickr

mothers, compassion for

Cast of Family Ties from a later season. (From...

Image via Wikipedia

Through the first three-quarters of Meredith Baxter‘s autobiography, Untied, I found myself extremely frustrated. Here was an actress whom I thought had everything going for her. She was best known as Elyse Keaton, Michael J. Fox’s TV mom on “Family Ties, an 80s sitcom. But sometime before that she had been one-half of the handsome couple in Bridget Loves Bernie.” David Birney played her spouse, and became the real thing after the show ended.

What was disappointing about Baxter’s real life story is that through 3 failed marriages, she was always the victim of her husbands’ verbal, emotional, mental and in Birney’s case, physical abuse. Where she might have projected a woman-in-control on the small screen, she was anything but, in her personal life. Yet in one important area she was in charge. Able to get regular acting gigs, Baxter became the “bread-winner,” and wound up paying alimony to her ex-husbands.

The source of Baxter’s inability to be an equal partner in heterosexual relationships, for she did recently out herself as a lesbian, was because her mother had opted out of that role when Baxter was very young. 

 

Craftsman-style bungalow in North Park, San Di...

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I can remember coming home from first grade, walking through the front door of our little white Craftsman-style house on Indiana Avenue in South Pasadena, and calling out, “Mommy, I”m home!” 

No answer. I was confused; her car was out front. I stood very still.

“Mommy, I’m home!”

Still nothing. Then I remembered.

“Whitney?”

“Yes, dear?” her musical voice rang out from the middle bedroom, where she kept a vanity table at which she’d do her makeup.

Although I believe she had no idea about the psychological impact this might have on her children, now that I’m older I realize that Whitney was probably just giving us what she got. Whitney’s mother was born Martha Mae Wilkerson–my brothers and I called her Memaw. She was a scrappy, tough, smart, and wily survivor. She wasn’t the soft, fuzzy type; she didn’t coddle Whitney and she didn’t coddle me. …married five times…Memaw would leave her kids behind, once with a couple of former missionaries and another time with her elementary school teacher. …It wasn’t until the fifth grade that Whitney discovered drama class…From that day forward, Whitney realized that no matter what school she was in, the drama department would become home…(and) that the nearest thing she had to a real family when she was growing up were the casts of the plays that she appeared in.

AA meeting sign

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It took Meredith Baxter the better part of her life to sort through the mess it had become. Having drifted into alcoholism, she eventually sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous upon the urging of the producers of a particular TV show she’d been working on. But even after attending the group’s meetings for 10 years, Baxter hadn’t engaged in the self-examination process recommended by the program, until a good friend intervened.

Carla noted that…I’d not laid to rest many of the issues that brought me into the program in the first place ten years before, the primary issue being my mother! Drinking had been but a symptom of my alcoholism; I used drinking to solve my problems, but my problems were caused by my thinking, my selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-pitying thinking, and the destructive feelings and resentments that resulted. This way, I developed and preserved a belief system that filtered all information through a warped prism of being unwanted, unloved and unlovable.

Baxter set about replacing her old belief system with a new one. She found clarity in acknowledging that she deeply resented having to call her mother by her stage name instead of mom or mommy, and that she didn’t acknowledge her children as hers for a long time, and that she left them in the care of their stepfather while she pursued her acting career.

In order to help herself heal, Baxter decided that she needed to understand her mother.

…figure out who she was, learn what kind of mothering/role modeling she received, what did she want that she didn’t get, what were her disappointmens in life and how did she deal with them? And why did she make the choices with her children that she made? 

After answering all of these questions for herself, Baxter found great relevance in the words of someone speaking at an AA meeting.

A woman was talking about our parents as wells and that we were wired to go to our parent-wells for nurturing and sustenance. Many of us found our parent-wells were empty, but they weren’t empty at us. They were just empty.

Meredith decided that while she felt she was the target of her mother’s empty well, there was no basis in fact to support it. Instead, the supposition was based upon personal feelings.

As a followup to her discovery, Baxter needed “to learn to have compassion for (her) mother’s empty well, to accept (her) mother’s limitations and forgive her.”

Well, as soon as I started thinking of ways I had disappointed my own children, I quickly had a much better perspective. I thought about being too fearful to protect them from David, times when I traveled and worked when they probably needed me, times I left them with nannies, times I, like Whitney, had chosen work over my kids, times when I’d had too much to drink to be useful to them in any way–the list is endless. I could honestly say, however, that I did the best I could given the tools and information I had at the time, and therefore I had to allow the same for Whitney.

What I came away with was a sense of understanding Whitney and appreciating her in ways I wouldn’t allow myself to before. In truth, she gave me the very best she had. What I thought of it at the time is not important because I wasn’t in a position to know.

Finally, Meredith Baxter enumerates the ways in which she has been a better parent as a result of her own mother’s failures. “Many of what I think are my best traits as a mother were developed as a protest to what I had experienced with her.” Where Whitney never spent time with her children, Meredith was sure to be with her own youngsters when she wasn’t working, “making breakfasts, packing lunches, doing carpool, play dates, homework, projects, school breakfasts, soccer games and practice, gymnastics, baseball games and practice, swim meets, piano, violin, track meets, open houses, teacher meetings, performances.” And she was thankful that she loved being a mother, who loved doing it all. For that Baxter credited her mother for leaving a legacy, of which she had no knowledge. 

I found this portion of the book the most befitting my own experience. Like Baxter I had to let go of painful occurrences with my mom as I was growing up. What I didn’t understand as a youngster, I understood only too well when I became a wife and mother. Furthermore I’ve had the love and support of my husband for 40 years, and counting. While my mom never remarried after becoming a widow at age 30, pretty much shouldering her burdens alone. I had only one child for whom to care, my mom had nine. She had serious health issues all of her life, like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis. And they only worsened as she got older, added to which she also developed Alzheimer’s. I’m able to see to my health on a regular basis, because I have a spouse who provides a comfortable life.

Parents do the best they can with what tools they’ve been given. Rather than find fault, we can try to do better with what we’ve been given. But if at times we fail, and we will, we should be prepared to forgive, ourselves and others, and show compassion, knowing that we can always try again.

for moms…huge hugs…hugmamma.

counting my blessings

On my recent flight home, I overheard a fellow passenger remark “It’s good to get away, but it’s always good to come home…sleep in my own bed.” Amen! Again I say, Amen! So this seems as good a time as any to reflect upon that for which I’m very thankful, beginning with…

  • The memory foam mattress that snuggles up against all the contours of my body, as though I was sleeping on a cloud. Now if only I could lay my brain beside me, so it too could get a good night’s rest. Maybe then I’d slumber peacefully, rather than thinking what next to write.
  • My husband’s affection pulling me into a huge bear hug. Just where I belong, until death do us part…not even then.
  • Crouching down beside Mocha, the doggie “love of my life,” to whisper “sweet nothings” in her ear. 
  • Lovingly stroking the length of Sitka, Juneau and Sunkist, as they stretch up to share their hearts with me.
  • Laying my weary head on my daughter’s shoulder, as she embraces me into the bosom of her “old soul.”
  • Letting my home, still decorated for Christmas, nourish my soul with childhood delights.
  • Reading emails from friends and family, sharing memories, newfound discoveries, and always love and concern.
  • Writing and blogging, journaling my thoughts and feelings, wary of the day when I might not, but thankful for the precious moments of the present.
  • Knowing that I’ve a network of online readers with whom to share my journey is mind-boggling, but a blessing I wholeheartedly welcome.
  • My health, such as it is, keeps me ever mindful that quality of life is fragile, and shouldn’t be compromised by poor choices.
  • The Maui of my childhood, where innocence and naivete abounded, ingrained forever in my moral fiber.
  • My Aloha spirit, my compassion for others, a legacy from my mom and those who came before.
  • The 2 angels who have gently guarded my well-being these last decades of my life, continuing to do so, my husband of 40 years and my daughter of 24.
  • And God above all, who gifted me with life, ensuring my best, knowing He is always with me…ALWAYS.

 

counted your blessings lately?…hugmamma.

“something in common?” edwards and madoff

Children is what they had in common, Elizabeth Edwards and Bernie Madoff. Beyond that, very little it would seem. Edwards, a mom who couldn’t give enough of herself to her offspring; Madoff,  whose son Mark hung himself with a dog’s leash today, his young son sleeping nearby. Edwards, whose children “led the way;” Madoff, whose sons “trailed behind.” Edwards, who would have crawled into Wade’s grave offering maternal comfort; Madoff, alive, his needs met, his son dangling lifeless, no parent offering comfort.

When I hear of children’s lives gone awry, I always imagine them as “clean slates” upon which we adults pen the first pages. It’s hard for me to fathom the responsibility. We don’t come to the task empty-handed. We bring an arsenal of “tools,” gathered in our own journey from childhood to adulthood.  What manner of “tools” these are, is dependent upon the words that were inscribed upon our “slates.” “Unless you walk in someonelse’s shoes…” is another image that readily comes to mind, stopping me short of passing judgment.

Rather than dwelling upon Madoff and his sins against his fellow-man, not the least of whom are his wife and sons, I prefer to focus upon Elizabeth Edwards and the legacy she has left. She showed us how to make “lemonade” of the “lemons” she was served, a son who died at 16, an unfaithful husband who fathered his mistress’s child, and a disease that stole her from her 3 remaining children.  Praise for this selfless mother as she was laid to rest today, diminished any news of Wall Street tycoon, Bernie Madoff, except for word of his son’s suicide.

As she ended the eulogy to her mom, Kate Edwards, the eldest daughter, spoke of the children’s running “game” of one upsmanship with Elizabeth. Back and forth, they assured one another “I love you more.” And as would be expected, their mom always had the last say. So in conclusion, Kate said to Elizabeth “I’m proud to be able to say, I love you more, mom,” which, of course, brought me to tears, as I’m sure it did the attending congregation.

Perhaps Elizabeth Edwards was on hand to comfort Mark Madoff, when he passed from this life.

a lesson for all…hugmamma.

crazy horse, a “sioux christ?”

What would convince me to read Crazy Horse – A Life by Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove? A thin paperback, only 148 pages, I was intrigued. I knew the Indian leader was famous, but why? I had no clue. Might he have been the “Sioux Christ” as indicated by Oglala and Brule Sioux historian, George E. Hyde,

…a man not easily swept off his feet by even the most potent myth, confessed his puzzlement with the Crazy Horse legend in words that are neither unfair nor inaccurate: “They depict Crazy Horse as a kind of being never seen on earth: a genius at war yet a lover of peace; a statesman who apparently never thought of the interest of any human being outside his own camp; a dreamer, a mystic, and a kind of Sioux Christ, who was betrayed in the end by his own disciples–Little Big Man, Touch-the Clouds and the rest.   

Reading the first few pages, I was reminded of a TV documentary I’d seen. Rising majestically over Pa Sapa, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Crazy Horse again takes his rightful place as one of the Sioux’s most famous and heroic warrior. Fifty years ago sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began to carve the Indian leader’s likeness out of what once was Thunderhead Mountain. Within the last half-century the artist, his wife, and children have moved “millions of tons of rock…as they attempt to create what will be the world’s largest sculpture; but the man who is emerging from stone and dirt is as yet only a suggestion, a shape, which those who journey to Custer, South Dakota, … must complete in their own imaginations.”

Crazy Horse remained isolated from the encroachment of white civilization for as long as he was able. He seemed an enigma among Indians. Even his own people didn’t understand him.

Crazy Horse, from the first, was indifferent to tribal norms. He had no interest, early or late, in the annual sundance rite, and didn’t bother with any of the ordeals of purification that many young Sioux men underwent, rituals that have been well recorded by George Catlin and others. Crazy Horse took his manhood as a given, and proved it in battle from an early age. His people may have thought him strange, but nonetheless he was let alone, allowed to walk in his own way.

 His prominence today, as a symbol of Sioux resistance, owes much to his character, of course, but it also is in part a matter of historical timing. He fought his best in the last great battles–the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn–and then died young, in the last moments when the Sioux could think of themselves as free. By an accident of fate, the man and the way of life died together: little wonder that he came to be a symbol of Sioux freedom, Sioux courage, and Sioux dignity.

Several reasons loomed large in my desire to learn more about Crazy Horse.  Biographies intrigue me, historical ones only if there’s a personal story behind the facts. People interest me, not the retelling of history. That’s my husband’s passion. That the Sioux leader was a native American, and I am a native Hawaiian, piqued my curiosity. My desire to eventually see the mammoth memorial in his honor clinched my decision to purchase, and read the slim volume.

An avid fan of old movies, one of my favorites is “They Died With Their Boots On,” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, filmed in 1941. Of course Crazy Horse was not listed among the credits in the film, although he was there, during the real battle, that is. Watching Errol Flynn portray General George Armstrong Custer, I subscribed to everyone’s belief that he was the hero who sacrified his life at Little Bighorn, the day his regiment was massacred. It would be un-American to think that the Indians were fighting for the survival of their nation, and were, in fact, the real heroes. In the author’s words, 

Though Crazy Horse was able to live many months and sometimes even years in the traditional Sioux way, raiding and hunting in turn, the way of life to which he had been born was dying even while he was a boy. By the time of his birth the whites were already moving in considerable numbers along the Holy Road (what we call the Oregon Trail); at first the pressure of white intrusion may have been subtle and slight, but it was present, and would be present throughout his entire life. The buffalo were there in their millions when he was born but were mostly gone by the time he died. Crazy Horse would have been a boy of five or six when Francis Parkman camped in a Sioux village whose leader was Old Smoke;…Parkman was well aware that the way of life he was witnessing that summer–vividly described in “The Oregon Trail”–was a way of life that would soon be changing; indeed, would soon end…With such an abundance of game both north and south of the Platte River, it may be thought that tribal life could have gone on with little change. But the lives of hunting people are never that secure. There was, to be sure, a lot of game; but it didn’t meekly present itself …(it) still had to be found and killed…animals were quick to shift away from places where they were heavily hunted. From the standpoint of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Pawnee hunters who lived by what they killed, the white invasion was almost immediately destructive.

General Custer, “the most aggressive general in the American army,” was an “erratic egoist.” Not prone toward patience nor heeding the advice of others, Custer determined that the Indians were fleeing from him, rather than standing firm in opposition.

On the morning of the battle, when most of the Sioux and Cheyennes were happily and securely going about their domestic business, never supposing that any soldiers would be foolish enough to attack them, Crazy Horse, it is said, marked, in red pigment, a Bloody Hand on both of his horse’s hips, and drew an arrow and a bloody red hand on both sides of his horse’s neck. Oglala scouts had been keeping watch on Custer, following his movements closely. Crazy Horse either knew or sensed that the fatal day had come.

Although prepared to do battle, Crazy Horse, unlike Custer, preferred the peace of his life in isolation.

He would have preferred, I imagine, simply to avoid them and go on living a traditional Sioux life, raiding, hunting, dreaming; but the option of avoidance was not available to him for very long. The whites were too many, and they weren’t satisfied with the Holy Road. They weren’t satisfied with any one place or one road; they wanted everything. So he fought: on the Bozeman, on the Powder River, on the Yellowstone, in the Black Hills, on the Tongue and the Rosebud, at the Little Bighorn…He didn’t win the war. What is hard to judge is how long he really expected to, if he ever expected to …he went his own way, traveled his own road, until it dead-ended at Fort Robinson in September of 1877. Looked back on from the perspective of one hundred and twenty years, his doom seems Sophoclean, inevitable; but perhaps all dooms do, once the roads taken and not taken deliver the character to his fate. 

His fateful death seemed preordained, both because of the unending encroachment of the white empire, and Crazy Horse own destiny to lead his people. In a dream, interpreted by his father, Worm, “a healer, a shaman, a holy man, and an accomplished interpreter of dreams” the Sioux warrior learned that he “was to dress simply, put a small stone behind his ear, and, most important, he was not to keep anything for himself. Instead, he was to be a man of charity, doing his best to feed the poor and helpless members of his tribe. His duty to the poor was a duty that Crazy Horse took seriously all his life–it may have been because he doubted his ability to feed the many hungry people who were following him that he decided to bring the band into Fort Robinson in 1877.”

Crazy Horse resisted the dominance of the whites, while other Indian leaders were acclimating, bringing their people to live within close proximity to military forts. Those whose lives were toppled, resented the resistance of those who held fast to their diminishing lifestyles. Because of the unusually hard winter of 1876-77, Crazy Horse decided to succumb to the demands of his pursuers, knowing that the 900 he led would otherwise not survive.

By the end of what was in some ways a year of glory, 1876, Crazy Horse had come to a desperate pass. It was a terrible winter, with subzero temperatures day after day. The Indians were ragged and hungry; the soldiers who opposed them were warmly clothed and well equipped. The victories of the previous summer were, to the Sioux and the Cheyennes, now just memories. They had little ammunition and were hard pressed to find game enough to feed themselves. …

It was a surrender, of a sort, but only of a sort…it was not a full or normal surrender, and neither the agency Indians…nor the generals nor, probably, Crazy Horse himself ever quite believed that a true surrender had taken place. They may all have intuited an essential truth, which was that Crazy Horse was not tamable, not a man of politics. He could only assist his people as warrior and hunter–a bureaucrat he was not. Had there not been those nine hundred people looking to him for help, he might have elected to do what Geronimo did for so long: take a few warriors and a few women and stay out. He might have gone deep into the hills with a few men and fought as guerilla until someone betrayed him or at least outshot him. But it was true that these nine hundred people depended on him, so he brought them in and sat down, for the first time, in council with the white men.

 From the time that Crazy Horse handed over his rifle and his horses to the white officers at Fort Robinson until his death just four months later, he was a confused, stressed, off-balance, and, finally, desperate man. For almost the first time in his life he had done something he really didn’t believe in, something that went directly against his nature. Even though he knew he had done it for the right reason–the welfare of the people–it did not feel right. The adjustments required of him if he was to live as an agency Indian were not adjustments he was able to make. From his personal point of view probably the best thing that came out of this move was that Dr. (later Agent) Valentine McGillycuddy offered to treat Black Shawl, his wife, for her tuberculosis, and did treat her with some success.

The following death bed statement was supposedly spoken by Crazy Horse to agent Jesse Lee who had brought the Indian chief to Fort Robinson, according to Peter Nabokov’s “Native American Testimony.” Evidently Lee was tortured over his unwitting involvement in the dastardly deed. Even General George Crook seems to have had regrets about not meeting with the Sioux leader as promised, saying ” ‘I ought to have gone to that council…I never start any place but that I get there.’ ”

My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white man. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return.

We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing, and our tipis. We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservations, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat, and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt.

We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government then. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, who destroyed our villages. Then “Long Hair” came in the same way. They say we massacred him but he would have done the same to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.

After that I went up on Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud agency…I came here with the agent to talk to the Big White Chief, but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me, I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me.

I have spoken.

 Another element of the dream in which Crazy Horse shouldered leadership of his people, foretold that he “could be injured only if one of his own people held his arms.” “Before Crazy Horse was even in the ground, Little Big Man and a delegation of the Sioux leaders were in Washington to discuss the relocation issue. There exists a curious artifact, a medal presumably given Little Big Man for his bravery in subduing Crazy Horse.”

This post has been in the draft stage since September. Elizabeth Edward’s death reminded me why I’d decided to write about Crazy Horse. Both were individuals who lived their lives out of the spotlight, until circumstances beyond their control placed them, front and center. While they would have preferred to return to their private lives, without fanfare, concern for their loved ones made it impossible. So a mom and an Indian chief did what was required, remaining true to themselves until the end of their lives.

Sometimes you don’t realize who your role models are, until they are. It’s for sure neither Elizabeth Edwards nor Crazy Horse thought their lives would make a difference to those who never knew them, like me. Rather than seeking to know acclaimed celebrities, I would’ve preferred being a “fly on the wall” in the lives of these two reluctant heroes. What made them laugh? Who did they trust with their deepest thoughts? If they could reset their lives, would they do anything differently?

So when I visit Crazy Horse’s sculpted likeness, and if I visit Edward’s grave, I’m sure to be moved by 2 simple people, whose legacies are gargantuan.

in awe…hugmamma. 

  

  

 

good samaritan #7

Newman’s Own has celebrated a landmark contribution of $300 million to charity. It was reported by Brian Williams on NBC’s Evening News. I wasn’t aware that every penny is donated. While I may not have been a huge fan of Paul Newman’s films, liking some, but not others; I commend his generous nature of seemingly, unconditional compassion for the less fortunate.

In a clip from an interview with Newman, he said “What could be better than holding your hand out to someone in need?”  Newman identified a need, and signed on for life, even in death. I’ll bet he’d be even prouder of his philanthropic legacy, than the one he left behind on celluloid.

My husband, daughter and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Newman’s eldest daughter Nell, and her husband once. I believe she’s inherited her dad’s position as head of Newman’s Own. They’d bought an antique pine cupboard from me, which was selling at a charming, antique shop in Wilton, Connecticut, where I rented a space, called Simply Country. They asked if I could deliver the piece, which, of course, I consented to do. Who wouldn’t? Even if I had to rent  a truck to haul the cupboard! Luckily, it fit in the Ford Windstar van we owned at the time.

The couple lived in a smallish, white cottage, on a huge, level, parcel of land. Most of it lay behind the house, which sat at the front of the property. Nell and her husband were warm and friendly, smiling and laughing easily. While our husbands carted the cupboard into the house, bringing it to rest in its designated spot, Nell and I made “small talk.” Wish I remembered about what. But I’m sure I admired her home, her furnishings, and asked after her parents. She told me they lived nearby. In fact, I knew where their house was located. In my regular treks in and around Westport, I’d seen the stone lions that guarded the iron gates to the actors’ acreage. I may have glimpsed the home when we drove slowly by once, but viewing was difficult, since it’s set back from the road aways.

I think we commented on the lovely, old trees gracing their yard, so we were taken around towards the back to see more of them. Hanging from a very  large  branch of one tree, was an old-fashioned, rope swing, with a wooden seat. While we adults continued to talk, our daughter made herself comfortable, swinging contentedly, back and forth.

When we took our leave, it wasn’t like old friends, but rather like folks who were very delighted to meet one another. Perhaps, it was that they, and we, rarely, if ever, get to know people from two such different “worlds.” In truth, they weren’t really so different from us. Nell’s parents would’ve been proud of how cordial and welcoming she was to strangers, just making a delivery.  

for the “star” and his offspring, hugs…hugmamma.

“life is messy”

I’ve decided that along with aging comes a treasure trove of “20-20” hindsight. Life would’ve been so much easier if I knew then, what I know now. Only recently, very recently, have I arrived at the conclusion that life is messy.

Because of my strict upbringing where chores were done before playtime, I was always cleaning and organizing. It’s not to say this routine isn’t a great building block for a happy life, but it contributed to a personal uneasiness as an adult, if my home wasn’t in tip-top shape.

During the first years of married life I was always stressed and upset that I had to spend the entire weekend cleaning, when I would’ve preferred to relax after working all week. My husband didn’t demand it of me; I expected it of myself as a result of the residual effects left over from life with my mom. In retrospect, I should’ve engaged my husband in doing the minimum housework necessary, and enjoyed our time doing fun things together instead. I know I would’ve liked myself better, since I wouldn’t have wasted my time and energy trying to convince my husband that he should be as anal as me about a clean house. It’s insane to think I spent those years being a martyr to a stupid house; I should’ve reveled in being the pretty, young thing my husband married, with the vision that life would be a fun-house, not a mad-house. Yikes!

I think it’s fortunate that my legacy to our daughter has been a more practical attitude toward housecleaning. Within the last decade or so, my mantra has been to  keep a “straightened and vacuumed” house, so that company is welcome any time. As long as they don’t venture to do the “white glove” test for dust, then they’ll enjoy their visit. Raising a child and accumulating a gaggle of pets quickly convinced me that I had to take things down a notch, or I’d be in an insane asylum, or my husband would have bid me adieu, or both.

But what has finally convinced me that life is messy, and it’s perfectly okay, is the current state of my home. My daughter is on a sabbatical from her job, and is home with us. We have had to reorganize closets and dresser drawers, making room for her things. Her cat Misha is also visiting. Our main bathroom has become his stomping ground, as well as the hallway where his food is located. Gates are up, keeping our dog Mocha and Misha apart when we’re asleep or not at home. My 3 cats remain downstairs in their domain, being allowed upstairs only after Misha has had his roam of the space. There have been face to face encounters, with hissing on my cats’ parts.

Misha is curious about these seemingly mysterious critters, since he’s an only “child.” He wants to get up close and personal, fearlessly getting in their faces. Luckily our cat sitter recommended hormonal wall plug-ins which have calmed our menagerie considerably, as well as lavender-scented collars which have the same effect. So far, we’ve been spared any bloodshed. Maybe one day soon, all 4 cats and 1 dog will be able to pass each other by, without so much as a backward glance. I pray for that day.

Straightening and vacuuming occur less frequently than usual. Small piles of stuff tend to accumulate here and there. My daughter and I play “bananagrams” pretty religiously. We’re definitely relaxing more than we’re cleaning, enjoying each other’s company. The pets are getting more attention, since we’re making a concerted effort to maintain peace.

Life is messy, but having our daughter and Misha share our humble home is a blessing for which I’m grateful. Cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness, my family’s happiness and togetherness is Christ present in our lives. I’m richer for the mess with which I’ve learned to live.

Life is not linear, for “detours” constantly overtake us. Life is, in fact, what we make of those “detours.” We travel a path, divert to another, retrace our steps, take another path, continue as far as we’re able, until we face another “detour.” That’s life in a nutshell! Rather than resist, we should be grateful for the gift of adventure with which God has blessed us. It’s exciting to live in the moment. Having a positive outlook can only make that moment, momentous.  

I believe we begin to die the minute we are born. But we never think of life that way; instead, we look forward to living with every ounce of our being. Nothing should diminish that excitement, so we should draw upon all the positive energy we can muster to enhance our lives, making them the best possible they can be.

Life is an hour-glass, and time is running out. Focus upon making every grain of sand, a beach on Maui where the foam-tipped waves rush up to meet you, as you run to become one with the warm, Pacific waters, contentment welling within you. God bless our lives, as “messy” as they are.

works in mysterious ways, God…hugmamma.  

children, “clean slates”

A favorite saying has been that “Children are clean slates, upon which adults leave their chalk-mark.” Although babies are most likely born with individual personalities, it’s also very likely that adults influence their development to a great degree. Our passions and prejudices are passed along directly, or through osmosis. We are human, so it’s impossible to guarantee perfection when raising children. Nonetheless, we should make a concerted effort to guard against leaving a legacy of negativism to future generations. Easier said than done.

Change is inevitable; life isn’t stagnant. But while we can’t stop change, we can  control its direction. Viewing life through a baby’s eyes, it would seem only natural that he or she would want a pleasant environment in which to grow and  flourish. It’s not far-fetched to think that adults would agree.

Unfortunately, life has had a head start, our world seems already “set in stone.” War is waging all around us. Battles are being fought on every front: rich vs. poor, liberals vs. conservatives, Wall Street vs. Main Street, blacks vs. whites, Muslims vs. Christians, U.S. citizens vs. illegal immigrants; big businesses vs. small businesses. On the front line fighting are the stockholders, politicians, consumers, lobbyists, NAACP, Ku Klux Klan, “skinheads,” religious fanatics, families, farmers, pharmaceuticals, health insurance companies.

The fallout from our self-inflicted war is its negative impact upon our society, particularly our children. Many fear they will be saddled with our trillion-dollar national debt; I fear they’re already saddled with a psyche of distrust and dislike for anyone and anything, alien to the world in which they’ve been raised.

Children are “killing” children, as in the case of Tyler Clementi’s suicide brought about because his college roommate and a friend posted pictures on YouTube, revealing that Clementi was gay. Obviously the instigators grew up with a certain mind-set, and felt certain their revelation would be well received by millions having the same mind-set. That way of thinking, “us against them,” has been generations in the making, passed along without thought of the consequences to the most vulnerable among us, our children.

When we become adults I wish we could remember how it was growing up as children. Rose, a black girl at the orphanage where my mom worked, was forever picked on because she was mentally slow, stuttered, and built like an Amazon. With nowhere to go when she graduated from high school, my mom brought Rose into our home for a couple of years, to share what little we had. Another orphan, Fuji, was teased because he was slightly built and had effeminate tendencies. And I can remember telling “white lies” in elementary school to cover up being poor, wanting desperately to be accepted by others. How did we children know that being black, disabled, gay and poor were qualities that set us apart, like lepers, like outcasts? Why did our perpetrators know they could victimize us, and not be punished by the adults? It’s no wonder we grow up doing what was done to us, or by us, as children. Can the cycle ever be broken? I hope so.

I’m still trying to “wrap my brain around” the Human Rights Campaign. While I can’t identify with gays in their perception of life, I know in my gut that they are human beings deserving of the same respect that I demand for myself. Knowing several gay men, I’m aware of their incredible talent for business, and commitment to doing their utmost in their positions, most of them in management. Perhaps because they feel they have to prove their worth above and beyond their straight peers, gays are sensitive to their surroundings and those who cohabit them. Granted, there are those who are jerks, just like there are straights who are jerks. I avoid both, not because they’re gay or straight, but because their personalities don’t coalesce with mine. Period.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not an easy undertaking, not because it CAN’T be done, but because of society’s pervasive mind-set. Get rid of the mind-set, and I don’t see a problem. As children, weren’t we told to “get along with others?” I don’t remember being told only to play with “straight” boys and girls.

One of my best childhood guy friends, Michael, was very fashion conscious, seemed like one of the girls during sleepovers, eagerly joined in learning new dance steps, and was as heartbroken as me when my boyfriend and I broke up. My brothers referred to Michael as a “mahu,” (Hawaiian for “gay”), but that didn’t deter me from having him as a close friend. My mom thought he was a great friend, my girlfriends liked him, and my other guy friends, sports jocks, liked him as well. In fact Michael wasn’t gay for he had a serious crush on a mutual friend, who felt badly that she couldn’t return his feelings.

I couldn’t imagine the world without the gay men I know, and about whom I care. They’re like me in all the ways that matter. They love, they feel, they bleed. Why wouldn’t I let them defend me by serving our country? Their sexual preference seems to be the only obstacle to military duty. Delete that, and it seems a “no-brainer.” But eliminating historical prejudices, especially ones based upon subjective interpretations of the Bible, seems an impossibility. My one voice can’t “move mountains,” but as Gandhi said “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s important you do it anyway, because no onelse will.”

For me, those discussed in Eve Conant’s Newsweek article “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,”  are the faces of the Human Rights Campaign, gays who want to serve and, perhaps, die for our country.

Joseph Rocha had always wanted to be in the military. He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, trained to become a handler working with explosive-sniffing dogs, and found himself part of a small, specialized unit in Bahrain. Banned by law from discussing his sexual orientation, he had a hard time explaining to his peers why he didn’t party with them, or even join their bawdy conversations. He became an outcast. Fellow sailors ridiculed him for being gay. At one point they locked him in a dog kennel. Another time they forced him to eat dog food. In 2007 he was discharged after signing a document admitting his homosexuality. But if “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed–as many expect will happen in the coming year–Rocha says he wants to serve again. “You never lose that sense of duty and service and love for country,” says the second-generation Mexican-American from Sacramento, Calif., who will graduate from the University of San Diego this spring. “It’s a unique and beautiful thing most of us feel we were robbed of and would take the first chance to have it back.” …

Lissa Young, 48,…A West Point grad from a military family–her father was a fighter pilot–Young had an exceptional 16-year military career before she was outed in 2002. At that time, she was a Chinook pilot and West Point instructor who had just been selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel. …

To fly commercial planes, Young needed new training, but her financial security–including her retirement benefits–disappeared the day she was discharged. She was in her 40s with $50,000 to her name and no job experience outside the military. … she was hired by Raytheon as a salesperson for air traffic-control systems in the Middle East. But she felt awkward in the corporate world. …She…made her way to Harvard.

Now Young is on the verge of getting her doctorate in education, still hoping to teach at West Point as a civilian if she can’t rejoin the military. As a cadet at West Point, she was the first female to serve as a deputy brigade commander, and she returned later becoming a full-fledged instructor. ‘I’m a product of West Point,’ she says ‘They molded me, I took an oath to dedicate my life to leading soldiers.’ …being in the Army and serving isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.’ She would love to fly again, and if allowed back in, wants to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. …

Bleu Copas, 34, joined the Army after the attacks of September 11. ‘I thought it was the honorable thing to do,’ says the native of Johnson City, Tenn. But after almost four years in the service, the then-sergeant–and fluent Arabic speaker–was anonymously outed. …He accepted an honorable discharge. ‘My commander told me he didn’t want to do this, that I was one of his best leaders,’ …Despite what happened, he says he wants to return ‘for the same reason I signed up in the first place: to serve my country.’

The Army invested a lot of time and money in Copas before it dumped him. He spent 18 months in intensive Arabic training in Monterey, Calif., and had top-secret clearance for handling sensitive documents. These days he works a desk job at the Department of Veterans Affairs back home, helping soldiers transition to civilian life. He doesn’t feel comfortable in a suit and tie, and he’s forgetting his Arabic. ‘It’s very rusty now; I don’t have a lot of use for it in northeast Tennessee.’ He says he’s not bitter, but it’s clear he’d like a change. ‘I’ve been told I’m too forgiving; maybe that plays a role. But if there are new opportunities, I just want to take them.’

After 9/11 ousted gay vets felt hopeful they would be recalled to service. ‘These were high-performing people who knew the nation was in need and couldn’t imagine the military wouldn’t want them,’ says Bridget Wilson, a San Diego lawyer who has represented gay and lesbian soldiers for decades. Yet pilots, linguists, and trained gunners watched from the sidelines as the military loosened restrictions on high-school dropouts and former drug users to boost recruitment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘It really made us crazy when they waived convicted felons into service,’ Wilson recalls.” 

If my daughter were to go to war, I’d want her fighting alongside soldiers who are the best in their fields. But I don’t anticipate having to worry about my child going to combat, so I’ll leave it to the parents of children who might one day decide to enlist. Would it be better that they be caught in a hailstorm of fire with trained soldiers, gays and “straights?” Or all “straights,” some having been drug addicts or felons before joining? I’m not saying they can’t change, but what’s their proven track record? 

just my opinion…hugmamma.

who i am

Girls become women; boys become men. In the beginning it seems to just happen. Females emulate their mothers; males, their fathers. Their traits become ours, seemingly by osmosis. As children we don’t stop to differentiate between good and bad characteristics. What we see becomes what we are and what we do. As we grow older and experience life outside our family, we begin to compare ourselves with others, our lives with theirs. We see what we like and don’t like about us, about them.

I think only in older age, especially if we have children, do we understand those who walked in “our shoes”, before we did, our parents. My father died when I was one, so I never knew him. My mom was my world, in good times and bad. Throughout my 50’s I gradually became aware of the legacy she left behind.

Widowed at 30, nine children to raise, my mom managed with the help of Maryknoll nuns who ran the orphanage where she worked. She was laundress, part-time cook, and part-time chaperone. She never missed a day on the job, driving an hour from our home in the city, to the orphanage in the country. As a toddler, I accompanied her, my days spent rolling around in huge crates filled with freshly laundered clothing and linens. The youngest orphans were my playmates; the older ones my babysitters. They were my family, since most of my siblings had long since left home.

My mom’s car was our “bread and butter,” as she would repeatedly remind us. It was essential to our subsistence, getting her to and from work.  There was no AAA in those days, or if there was, we were too poor to subscribe. My mom changed her own flat tires, tinkered under the hood, and faithfully had the car serviced. With a sergeant’s precision she showed us how to wash and wax the car.

We would drag out the bucket, the hose, the detergent and lots of “elbow grease.” Along with two siblings, a brother and sister who were still in school, we cleaned every inch of our two-toned blue, Dodge sedan, until it glistened under the bright, tropical sun. We often looked like wet fish, having pelted each other with water from the hose or soapy water scooped from the bucket. When we were seized by fits of laughter, my mom’s eyes would twinkle and a huge grin would emerge to temporarily smooth away the frown lines deeply imbedded above her brows.

Active in our church community, my mom served as president of 2 women’s groups. She allowed me to invite foreign students to live with us for several days or weeks, giving them an opportunity to experience life in our country. It wasn’t unusual for my mom to invite total strangers into our home, like a young, handsome, Chinese man who was selling Life magazine subscriptions. We couldn’t afford it, but my mom felt sorry and subscribed anyway. To thank her, the nice man returned with an ice cream cake, which we happily devoured. One particular Jehovah Witness was a regular visitor on Sundays. A devout Catholic, my mom still listened when others spoke of their faiths. I’m ashamed to say we children hid, hoping they would go away. My mom suffered painful arthritis as far back as I can remember. At 3 a.m. when I’d head to the kitchen for a drink of water, my mom would be pacing the floor, attempting to walk off the unrelenting ache in her knees. She’d moan heavily, sometimes crying. I was too young to be of much comfort. My mom sat in the bleachers, watching with pride as I led the crowds in cheers for our team. She sewed one-of-a-kind clothing, some “hit the mark”, others not so much. Strumming the ukulele, she’d harmonize old Hawaiian songs with me, a favorite being “Ke Kali Ne Au.”

Without realizing it, my mom was bestowing me with her strengths. A single parent, she forged a life for herself and her children as best she could. She wasn’t above accepting help, nor did she shy away from helping herself and others. While raising us, I can’t recall my mom investing in much time bemoaning her plight. She was a handsome woman who prided herself on how she styled her hair, and how she wore her makeshift dresses.

I may not mimic my mom in every way, but like her I’m a strong woman with a soft underbelly. She has instilled me with her graciousness toward others, her “funny bone,” her songbird’s voice, her sense of style, and her gourmet sensibilities. And like my mom, I have faults. While she didn’t apologize for them, I’m certain she asked God to forgive her trespasses. Like her, I pray to be pardoned for my transgressions. 

Foremost among the lessons I have gleaned from my mom’s life  is compassion, for myself and others. Because her journey was fraught with more “lows” than “highs,” it’s a wonder she lived well into her 80’s. She was plagued by health issues, family discord, and personal demons. Besides which, my mom never remarried, remaining a widow until the end. For 50+ years, she shouldered her burdens without the love and companionship of a soul mate. So if she floundered, who could stand in judgement? “For unless you have walked in someonelse’s shoes…”

who I am is owing in part, to her…hugmamma.