please…take care…

Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits

Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Saturday morning!

What got me out of bed so bright and early?

Another post…what else!

Before I go there however, I’d like to explain why my flaws are often the jumping off point for my writing.

It’s because I’d really like to help you learn from my mistakes or inaction…if possible.

So back to the story at hand.

My previous piece…“Wellness”…got me thinking about my mom.

Raising a large family as a widow meant we lived from paycheck to paycheck. As a result my mom’s needs came last.

I never remember her visiting the doctor. She could barely afford to take us. We were lucky to have a kind physician minister to our health problems. Dr. Fleming never pressed my mom for payment, allowing her to pay what she could…when she could.

My mom suffered greatly from arthritis, especially in her knees.

Her sorrowful groans would awaken me in the early morning hours. The floor boards creaked as she paced back and forth. Until the pain subsided, she could not sleep.

I’d lay quietly, praying for God’s help, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Not even her arthritis could keep my mom from going to work, an hour’s drive from home.

She was the laundress for a Catholic orphanage…The Children’s Home. She often helped in the kitchen, and sometimes chaperoned the older kids, driving them to school functions on the weekends.

It’s difficult to understand how my mom dealt with her health issues, including high blood pressure and diabetes, without the help of doctors. As sole breadwinner, she had no time for self-pity. My mom took care of herself, and us, as best she could.

Comparing our lives would be like comparing apples and oranges.

I’m extremely fortunate to have my husband of 42 years by my side. His generosity has been a blessing for my daughter and me. We are truly grateful for his loving care and support.

Whenever I think of my mom it is with deep regret that she could not have enjoyed a better life. One that included a lifelong companion.

Someone of her own to love…and love her.

Someone who would have helped shoulder the burdens…and kiss away her tears.

Someone with whom she might have shared secrets…and belly laughs.

My mom might have been spared much of the physical and mental anguish she suffered throughout her life…had she someone to help pay for her medical care.

Alzheimer’s stole whatever remained of my mom’s indomitable spirit…when she died at 86.IMG_4143

It’s never too late…

…to look to your own well-being…and that of a loved one…whatever their age…

………hugmamma.

a tribute to my mom…ironing

Ironing board

Image via Wikipedia

Do you iron what you wear? With drycleaners popping up on every corner, and the grunge look being in fashion, and ripped jeans looking cool, why bother to get the wrinkles out of everyday wear? I’ve got a small stack of shirts and jeans, both mine and my husbands, sitting atop the dryer waiting to be ironed. Sometimes I pull an item or 2 from the pile and give it a quick press when I’m in a hurry to wear it then and there. But most of the items have been patiently waiting their turn, collecting dust. Literally. It’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

When “the mood” hits me, I’ll gather the load of folded, by now very wrinkled items in my arms, bring them upstairs in front of the TV, and plop them down on a chair. Then I’ll ask my hubby to drag the ironing board up as well. He’ll usually go the whole “nine yards,” situating it in its usual spot, plug an extension cord into the nearby wall socket, plug the iron into that, and voila! I’m good to go. I’ll find a good show to watch on TV, and start ironing away. Once I get started, I can hardly wait to see the pile of clothes get smaller. It’s like a competition with myself, but also against the clothes. Will I get through all of them, or will I get pooped first?

Toritama produces 15% of the Brazilian jeans

Image via Wikipedia

Because my husband’s clothes are larger per square inch than mine, ironing them seems to take twice as long. But I muddle through, knowing I’m being a good, no great, wife! Truthfully, I think he’d probably wear his clothes wrinkled. In fact, he’s tried that. Upon closer inspection I’ll give him the thumbs up, or thumbs down. The older I get, sometimes I’ll just squint and give a quick thumbs up.

How my mom ever managed to work for years as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, I’ll never know. She spent 8 hours standing on her feet, ironing, ironing, ironing. In between that she’d put loads of wash on, and then hang them out to dry. She dealt with pieces of clothing that ran the gamut from kids’ play clothes to nuns’ habits, including their head gear. Starching items was a biggie in those days. For those not familiar with that term, select types of clothing were doused in thick liquid, that really seemed like glue. I don’t remember if it was then lightly rinsed, or just wrung out and hung to dry. What puzzles me to this day is how my mom managed to get the nuns’ heavy, black, woolen uniforms, and head pieces, looking like they’d been drycleaned? She should have gotten an award or something. I imagine her pay was even paltry, given the orphanage was run on a dime and lots of prayers.

Needless to say my mom taught my siblings and me to iron correctly. On a shirt or blouse, we learned to iron the collar first, then the upper neck area along the back, then each sleeve, then the front of one side, moving around the back of the shirt or blouse, to the remaining front. On a pair of slacks, we would iron the front, then the back, then fold the legs together so that we could iron one side at a time, being certain to iron the inside of each leg as well. It was expected that when we opened the pants up again, there would be creases down the fronts of each leg.

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

Image via Wikipedia

Talk about learning to iron as if we were artists, or scientists. My mom took great pride in not only mastering the technique, but having each item of clothing looking a thousand times better than when she got it. And that skirt or overall may have passed through her hands a gazillion times! No matter, my mom washed it, dried it, and ironed it as if for the very first time…and never complained. Even when she developed varicose veins as a result of working barefoot on concrete floors. The sight of her calves marred by streaks of blue bumps, were a constant reminder to me of how my mom sacrificed her own comfort to keep us kids fed, and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Being widowed at such a young age, 30, my mom was immensely grateful to be working. And the Maryknoll nuns were like guardian angels always hovering to make certain we had enough food and clothing, even if both were surplus from the orphanage’s own stockpile.

So yes I still iron, however minimally, in memory of my mom who made the task monumentally important. Such a small, everyday occurrence, that for her meant all the world.

i try not to underestimate the small…for they are usually larger than they seem…hugmamma.  

a special relationship, daughter and father

Readers of my blog from the start, know that I was fatherless as a child, my dad having died when I was one. Age 30 at the time, my mom never remarried. I don’t know how she felt about remaining a widow, but I remember wishing she had a husband. I would have happily helped her pick one.

When my mom worked as laundress, part-time cook, and sometime-chaperone at a Catholic orphanage in Paia, Maui, Mr. Chalmers worked there as groundskeeper. He was tall, with sandy-blonde hair that fell gently across his brow. I remember thinking his blue eyes were kind-looking. Even as a youngster in elementary school, I sensed there was chemistry between my mom and this “hauole,” Hawaiian for “foreigner.” But it went nowhere.

As I reflect back, and I have many times, I wonder if my mom felt uncertain in the company of a “hauole” man, being that she was native Hawaiian. The cultures are so different, especially back then, in the 50s. Perhaps she felt him too different, even while she might have found him attractive. All I know is I liked him, I wanted a dad, and I wished my mom would have brought Mr. Chalmers home to our family!

When I was littler, I wished my mom had married “uncle” Lot who lived next door with his sister, “aunty” Miriam. They weren’t family but they made us feel as though we were.”Uncle” would cradle me in his lap, where I’d curl up, my sleepy head nestled against his shoulder. Maybe uncle wasn’t my mom’s “cup of tea,” but he was most definitely mine.

Then there was our next door neighbor, and landlord, Ah Sing. We’d moved to one of his family’s rentals when I was beginning kindergarten. Unfortunately he was already wed, to my best friend Leola’s mom. Her dad seemed a better match for my mom who was friendly and warm like Ah Sing, both having Hawaiian blood coursing through their veins. His wife, on the other hand, was Chinese. She reminded me of the ice queen in the “Narnia” movies. So there went another great candidate for my dad!

But the “piece de resistance” was Dr. James Fleming. He too would’ve made a great pairing with my mom, in my limited child’s experience. He was a little plump, like my mom. And though he wore wire-rimmed glasses and sported a crew cut, though slightly longer, he was still attractive. He had a broad smile, a twinkle in his eye, and always gave me a big, orange gumdrop at the end of each visit. When he vaccinated me with an injection in the arm, I’m sure I cried. The needle looked like it would’ve been used on a horse, not on my scrawny arm. But Dr. Fleming made me feel brave, and would reward me with 2 pieces of candy. Now what kid wouldn’t want him for a dad! But alas, he already had 3 sons, and a wife. No matter, I continued to fantasize.

Dr. Fleming was of the Lahaina, Maui Flemings. Throughout my childhood, up until I was 16 and left for college, we often frequented a beach near their home, named after the family. I’m not sure if it’s still known as Flemings Beach. It might have been renamed something more befitting the island’s commercial growth, especially if the Fleming’s no longer own property in the vicinity. But even before I learned he was wealthy, Dr. Fleming was the knight in shining armor sitting astride a white horse, who would come galloping along to whisk my mom, and me, off into the sunset. Yes, even then I was a romantic.

When I was older, probably of middle school age, my mom revealed a secret, one I wished I’d known earlier. She told me when I was born, Dr. Fleming offered to adopt me. He’d have welcomed a daughter into a family of all boys. Obviously, my mom declined, but I’m sure she lingered over her decision. She had 8 other mouths to feed, although some of the older ones might have since left home, to make a life for themselves.

What would I have done if I’d known of the adoption earlier? Probably just what my mom did, think about it, but then reject the idea vehemently. After all, my mom and older siblings were my world. One of my brothers was adopted by a childless couple. I’m not sure how he felt about being given away at the time. Did he cry, refuse, sulk? I never asked. I’m not sure if he’d tell me now, at 71.

Writing this blog has proven cathartic, therapeutic. What’s become increasingly apparent these last 6 months, is not growing up with a father has impacted me more than I’d realized. There’s a void no one can completely fill. It’s as though my life has listed since birth, like a sailboat that never righted itself. Thank goodness family and friends have helped anchor me, ensuring that I’m not set adrift. I’ve learned to accept my imperfect life, my listing, continuing to “sail” far and wide. The world that passes before my “bow,” is the same one seen from the bow of a sailboat that maneuvers perfectly.

My daughter has been nurtured by two parents, who love her dearly. And I have been lovingly nurtured by she and my husband. Going forward in life, she and I agree that we’re blessed to be “drinking” from glasses that are always half-full. But I’m so thankful that my daughter has my husband for a father. He would have been my choice as a dad too, if he’d been an adult to my child. But watching him with our daughter, more than compensates for the father I never had.

a father-daughter tradition, hugs for…hugmamma.

beware of “mama grizzlies”

Regular visitors to my blog are well aware of my fear of bears, especially the ones roaming around my community looking for food. Fortunately these are black bears foraging for berries and garbage scraps, not people. I’m told, thankfully, that grizzlies don’t inhabit our area. I hope this behavior is not altered by future environmental changes, or I might have to move back to Hawaii, where bears are behind bars, in zoos. So why on earth would I be drawn to a “mama grizzly,” unless I was a baby grizzly hungry to be fed? 

Where I might have found Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell “curiosities,” now my gut instinct is to slowly back away from them, eyes lowered so as not to encourage their wrath. According to Lisa Miller in her recent Newsweek article “Hear Them Growl,” “A mama grizzly is a conservative woman with ‘common sense,’ as Sarah Palin puts it, someone who ‘rises up’ to protect her children when she sees them endangered by bad policies in Washington. She is fearless, and that, in combination with her femaleness, makes her scary–a new kind of political predator. She will take on any foe and, the implication is, rip him or her to shreds.” On her Facebook page, Palin asserts ‘Mama bears not only (forage) for themselves to prepare for winter, they (work) twice as hard to slay salmon for their cubs, too.’

There’s a pervading sense of “me-ism” in grass-roots politics, Palin’s brand of governing, best expressed by Nevada’s Senate candidate, Sharron Angle in June’s National Review, ‘ Don’t get between me and my cubs, or you’ve got trouble.’ On its face, the sentiment is commendable, but it seems to reflect a deeper philosophy that there is nothing Angle won’t do to preserve her family unit. The implication is that all American mothers should feel likewise. My concern is for those mothers who are “broken” financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, like my mom was. Who helps these mothers? Who helps them help their families?

It would be nice if every community had an orphanage run by Maryknoll nuns, making donations of used clothing and a surplus of powdered eggs and milk, to single mothers raising their families. My impoverished mom was fortunate to have these “angels” hovering around, helping her care for her 9 children. But these days the Catholic Church has its hands full, defending itself against allegations of pedophilia among its rank and file. And for the most part, nuns are now figments of our imagination, ghosts from a bygone era. Charitable organizations, as a whole, are finding it difficult to remain afloat during the currently depressed economy. So where do those existing on the fringes of society go to survive? 

With few exceptions, the grizzlies have been disinterested in the issues and policies that their political opponents say are good for children–despite new numbers from the census showing that rising numbers of America’s children are poor. Most of these candidates have vowed to fight to repeal President Obama’s health-care plan, for instance, and Bachmann (Minnesota’s congressional incumbent) and Haley (South Carolina’s gubernatorial candidate) have taken  special aim at CHIP, a federal program aimed at helping low-income kids get health insurance. In 2001, as a member of Nevada’s state Assembly, Angle voted no on a domestic-violence bill that would recognize restraining orders issued in other states. In 2007 Haley, a state representative, voted against a measure that would have created a kindergarten program for at-risk kids. As governor of Alaska in 2008, Palin slashed funding for Covenant House that included resources for teenage mothers. In 2009 Bachmann voted no on a bill that would give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave.

Palin, Haley, Bachmann, Angle, and O’Donnell all declined to comment for this story. (Most grizzly candidates regard the mainstream press as the enemy.)

I agree with Angle’s friend and head of the Washoe County, Nevada GOP, Heidi Smith in that ” ‘When people don’t have jobs, they don’t have food, …There’s a loss of self-respect if you can’t provide for your family … ‘ But I’m not as comfortable with her statement that ‘The less amount of government interfering with family life, the more families can prosper,’…” Nor do I agree with Haley’s friend and president of the South Carolina Policy Council, Ashley Landess, who concurs with Smith and adds ” ‘Children are the most stable and most protected when their parents are able to provide for them,’ …” What happens to those of us, born and bred in this country, who don’t have parents to provide for us? Or whose parents can’t provide for us? Are we exported to some third world country to blend in with “our own kind,” vanishing from the collective American psyche forever?

If the grizzlies are united by an anti-establishment fury rooted in maternal concern, then it’s fair to ask what their records show they’ve done for kids. Not just their own kids–but for America’s kids, and their families as well. Even some Republicans wonder whether all the fearsome roars are merely election-year antics with little substance. ‘ ‘Mama grizzlies’ has a  catch to it, and you save your cubs–but what they’re lacking is solutions,’ says former Republican congresswoman Connie Morella. ‘They want to take their country back. Back to where?’

As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” I used to say mothers should rule the world. I guess I was looking in the mirror at the time, imagining women who share my perceptions of life and humanitarian attitude. But even more, I assumed they’d “bring more to the table,” like broader life experiences, higher education or greater aptitude for knowledge, more management skills, greater business acumen. Perhaps I was envisioning someone like Michelle Obama.

Gut instinct and common sense resolutions work in managing my household. But there are so many more layers to governing masses of people. So I’m not in alignment with whom Palin “…was soon anointing mama grizzlies… When she endorsed Arkansas congressional candidate Cecile Bledsoe on Facebook, Palin explicitly referred to her as part of a growing list of “commonsense conservative ‘mama grizzlies.’ ” I’m for environmental responsibility, but I have no clue how to proceed, no matter how much gut instinct and common sense I might muster up. So if experts advocate conserving energy, I will do my best to follow their advice. In some corner of my brain, I understand the need for “living within one’s means.” But in our household my husband balances the checkbook and pays the bills. I’ve learned that I have a low threshold for anxiety, and have difficulty wrapping my brain around mathematical calculations. Why then would I want to relinquish the government purse strings to women who are unable to manage their own home finances?

Haley, who has two children…is just the sort of pro-business, low-tax, limited-government conservative Palin loves. Her platform is focused mostly on economic issues: creating jobs and unleashing entrepreneurial energy by slashing taxes. She holds herself out as a paragon of fiscal responsibility (never mind that she and her husband have failed to pay their taxes on time in each of the past five years).

O’Donnell, too, preaches fiscal responsibility on behalf of children, but hers is a tougher case to make. According to the Wilmington, Dela., News Journal, O’Donnell defaulted on her student loans, as well as on her mortgage. Aside from running quixotic campaigns for the U.S. Senate, O’Donnell hasn’t had a real job since 2004. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. attorney and the Federal Election Commission, alleging that O’Donnell embezzled $20,000 in campaign funds ‘to cover her personal expenses’ and committed tax evasion by not claiming those funds as income. ‘If what you’re doing is sending someone to Washington to cut the deficit, why on earth send someone who can’t manage her own finances?’ says the former Republican governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. ‘How does that give the voters a level of confidence?

O’Donnell’s response ‘I think the fact that I have struggled financially is what makes me so sympathetic.’ reminds me of Depression-Era’s John Dillinger.

John Dillinger has gone down in history as a pseudo ‘Robin Hood’ character, a gangster with charm and style who was more idolised by the public than reviled. His life has been recounted in many movies, particularly the film-noir gangster films of the 40’s. In a case of life imitating art-imitating life, Dillinger, who is said to have modeled himself on Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn – for instance leaping over counters- was himself a character whose eventful life influenced the pictures, especially as the archetypal good-guy hood.

But the truth about Dillinger is more prosaic; that he was simply criminally intent on making as much money illegally rather than having been pre-occupied with Joe Public during the Depression years. Gunned down by the FBI while leaving a Biograph cinema, even his death has helped fuel a mythology about this good-looking, charismatic crook, who is as famous for his love life as he is for the banks he fleeced.

 I have difficulty acquiescing with other stances taken by these “mama grizzlies.” With regards to abortion, “Angle’s views are harsh: when asked by a radio interviewer in June what she’d tell a young girl who’d been raped by her father, Angle responded, ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right,’ and that the girl should turn ‘a lemon situation into lemonade.’ ” Sounds like some nonsense a Stepford Wife would utter in her fairy tale world. Tom Pritchard, president of the Minnesota Family Council has said of Bachmann, ” ‘Michele’s view is that parents are the ultimate educators and should call the shots,’ …” Meanwhile she “has voted against funding early childhood education, student-retention measures, and school modernization.” And as a state legislator, Angle “fought the conventional wisdom that kids have different learning styles. She introduced two bills that mandated the teaching of phonics, saying, ‘We need to return to the basics of education.’ According to fellow legislators, Angle refused to meet with the teachers’ union or lobbyists while she pushed the bills.” In 2005 O’Donnell complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and sued her employer, a conservative think tank, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for $7 million alleging gender discrimination. “Yet in 1998 she appeared on cable television defending the Southern Baptist Convention’s new language commanding that wives ‘graciously submit’ to their husbands, and she has been an outspoken opponent of women in the military. Her erratic stances and statements have caused even party stalwart Karl Rove to call her ‘nutty.’

Themselves mothers, it’s understandable that these “mama grizzlies” would support positions beneficial to their households. “Angle pushed a Nevada judge to expand definitions of homeschooling to accommodate other moms like her, who sent their children to small, family run religious schools.” And Palin “a mom who sent (or sends) four kids to public schools…refused to advocate for school vouchers in Alaska and supports infusions of public money into the education system.”

‘Our schools have to be really ramped up in terms of the funding they are deserving,’ she said during the 2008 vice presidential debate. ‘Teachers need to be paid more…We have got to increase standards.’ While governor, Palin repeatedly increased education spending, and shortly before leaving office last year proposed a plan to ‘forward-fund all our school districts with more than a billion dollars.’ The only place where Palin veered to the right was in the teaching of creationism. ‘I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class,’ she said in 2008.

But while I don’t fault them for following their maternal instincts, I’d rather not sublimate mine so that theirs might become the “law of the land.” I’m not certain they’d be impartial arbitrators in determining whose maternal instincts would be most advantageous for all, under their governance. Newsweek’s writer says it best

Fundamentally, the mama-grizzly phenomenon is not really a movement or even a political term that represents a fully coherent set of ideas. It’s mostly a marketing tool, meant to draw attention to Americans’ broad dissatisfaction with the way things are. Fair enough. Many people are dissatisfied, and they want to vent and they want to change Washington. But in the wild, real mama grizzlies are known to be aggressive, irrational, and mean. The issues facing the country are complex, and bears are not.

walk backwards and avoid eye contact.. . hugmamma.

 

 

 

putting a “face” on the “unknown” (an update)

I received information that requires I update my previous post, the “unknown,” put a “face” on it.

My nephew and his partner were married in San Fransisco in 2009. The happy news is that he was the one who had nursed my nephew back from a near fatal illness, that must have been a nightmare for all who love him, especially his parents, my sister and her husband, who then cared for my mom years later, during her decade long bout with Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure they’d agree that God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. But I’m certain their reward is their children and grandchildren. 

My nephew’s 2 daughters had been in the L.A. Social System before their adoption, and they now attend the school where their dad teaches 5th grade. Writing these words brings a lot of warmth to my heart. Two young girls, one 12 and one 6, were rescued from a system, an orphanage of sorts, and restored into the welcoming arms of a loving family. I would hate to imagine where those youngsters might be today, if not for their dads. From my perspective, the product of a dysfunctional, straight family, 2 fabulous dads who love 2 “broken” children, deserve a lot of thanks and support, in their efforts to create a normal home in a society too quick to judge. My great-nieces, young innocents, are another couple of faces of the Human Rights Campaign.

the “unknown”, less so…hugmamma.

roses, with thorns

Was just thinking that my blog might be mistaken as portraying a life lived in a garden of fragrant roses, devoid of any thorns. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Living an impoverished life, the youngest of 9, raised by a widowed 30 year old, native Hawaiian, whose only source of income was as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, was not without physical pain or mental anguish. At our best, we were a dysfunctional family, at our worst, we were individuals trying to survive, until we were old enough to get out of the house. I’m sure our story is replicated the world over. Rather than remain the victim of circumstances, and take my “mountain of pain” to even greater heights, I prefer to dismantle it altogether. At 61 I don’t have decades left in which to experiment, to learn by trial and error. I’ve dabbled sufficiently in life’s “ups and downs,” to know that, going forward, I’d like to live with a positive frame of mind. I don’t wish to allow negativity to take control of my life, the only one I have. What example would I be setting for my daughter, who puts great stock in the examples set by my husband and me? She’s worth more to me than any pain I suffered as a result of the personal baggage I dragged around, like a ball and chain. Better to sever the shackles that bind, and be rid of the accompanying stress forever. I’ve come a long way, but I’m far from done.

still a work in progress…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.