memories, thanks for

Being the youngest of 9, I grew up not knowing most of my older brothers and sisters for they’d left home at an early age, to make their own way in the world. They all succeeded according to their own individual talents and circumstances. I can remember moments when we interacted. But for the most part, we’ve remained separated by land, sea and a lifetime of experiences. We’re in touch from time to time, and we all wish only the best for one another. And I’m happy for that. I don’t regret what was or wasn’t, what might or might not be, what is, is good. I have unique memories of each sibling, for which I’m thankful. 

  • The eldest, Richard, died of a heart attack in his 50’s. I first met him a couple of years earlier, when I was a college freshman. I was told he looked most like my father, whom I don’t remember since he died when I was one. Upon meeting me, Richard exclaimed that I looked like a Miss Hawaii. So of course, he scored major points with me. At least I had that moment to cherish, when he was gone.
  • Stanley, a brother of few words, is the one I know least. Attractive, gentle and quiet describes him best.
  • Ruby, my oldest sister was like Stanley in demeanor, and being only a year apart, they were inseparable growing up. When I was older, I remember summers with her family in Honolulu, and when I was in college she lent a much-welcomed, helping hand.
  • May, a career secretary for the Air Force, was a great source of financial help to my mom throughout my childhood years. I summered with her family in Honolulu as well. She began a tradition of sending me birthday and holiday cards bearing coins which were inserted into slots. These were always a great source of delight for me, and a very special treat.
  • Bud has always been a charmer, a great flirt with the women. His happy-go-lucky manner is how I know him best.
  • Ben had been adopted by a childless couple when he was a toddler. I think I knew of him before we met, when I was in high school. In the ensuing years, he and I have become very well acquainted, trading barbs, laughs and hugs, via emails, blogs, and sometimes, in person.
  • Lucy is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Holding her pom-poms when she was a high school cheer leader was every kid sister’s thrill. It was mine.
  • Edward and I were the last 2 to leave home, being the youngest. Our shared experiences are probably the foundation for our lingering closeness. I understand him the best of all my siblings, and congratulate him for what he has accomplished in spite of the many obstacles he had to overcome, and for being the consummate family man, proud of his son and daughter.

cherished memories are worth their weight in gold, unlike the metal, they never lose their preciousness…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.