My mom left Tuesday, and we’ve been off kilter — it’s how we always get after her visits. K’s emotions spiral out of control, I get flummoxed with having to cook again (yes, my mom cooks the entire time she visits. It’s her thing) and after speaking so much Japanese, I tend to get thrown off for some reason. M laments that we can’t have impromptu date nights and is disappointed that I’m back in charge of meals.
This visit was slightly different in that we took a number of little trips and had big events: K’s birthday bonanza full of drama (more on that another time), a 24-hour Portland tour via AmTrak, a day spent at a nearby island. The photo above was taken at KVI Beach on Vashon Island. We loved it. On the ferry over, she challenged K to a fierce arm wrestling match:
My mom is eccentric and she wears her eccentricity proudly and boldly. Maybe it’s because she’s an artist, but she’s incapable of being anyone but herself, and when I was a kid, this was a source of constant embarrassment for me. Our house was the only one I knew where innumerable completed and in-progress canvases obscured furniture and we literally had to leap over her artwork to get from one room to another. Her daily uniform was (and still is) a paint-splattered t-shirt and polka dot shorts.
She rarely abides by rules, especially when she doesn’t think they make sense. I remember traveling through Europe when I was about eleven, and my mom maddeningly wanted to picnic in off-limits areas. Undaunted by watching eyes, she plunked herself on a grassy field that was clearly closed off and busted out a camp stove to boil water for instant miso soup in the middle of Spain (or at least I think it was Spain, it might have been France. Either way, I was mortified). She did this while munching on rice balls that always seemed to magically appear at picnics.
As I grew older, I began to appreciate this almost complete disregard for other people’s opinions. I used to think it was because she was an immigrant and didn’t understand the Western cultural subtleties, but no, from the stories she tells me of her youth in Japan, she’s always been this way. Sure, she had her insecurities and probably still does, though she doesn’t show them to me. I believe she possesses a rare sort of self-confidence and comfort with herself. It’s the reason that I’m drawn to people who are like her: settled in their uniqueness, even oddness – the kind of people who don’t try to hide who they are. Because let’s face it: we’re all weird.
She has strong opinions. Above she’s imitating my poses when I take photos of my handmade clothes. “Why are you always looking down? Stop standing pigeon-toed!!” She’s not one to mince words, and when I was super sick a couple of years ago, she told me that I looked like death threw up all over me. She was right.
Though she’s lived in Los Angeles longer than she had in Tokyo at this point, she still retains many distinctly Japanese traits – like covering her mouth when she laughs (not always, but often) and wearing stiff slippers made out of a strange, cardboard-like substance when indoors. She teaches K so much. Not just the Japanese language, but how to live, how to observe the colors and textures and shapes and the very essence of the world. She shows K how to enjoy each day, because no one can celebrate the simple pleasures like my mother.
My mom has a whopper of a life story, and my hope is that one day she’ll let me tell it in full. Her tale has everything: love and loss and romance and scandal and adventure and rollicking humor. And a lot of instant miso soup and rice balls.
For a woman who barely stands five feet tall, she can leave a gargantuan hole of emptiness when she leaves.
Ba-chan has gone home
Three weeks slipped away too fast
I miss all the laughs
Happy weekend, everyone!! Thank you for all the stress-relieving ideas; I loved reading every single one and found myself nodding enthusiastically and making mental notes to incorporate many of the suggestions. The winner of the giveaway is Anita. Congrats!!