For many, Mother’s Day is a time of remembering our mothers no longer with us. My mother passed away in 2012 and sometimes it seems like only a few years ago. While we had a sometimes difficult relationship, we loved and cared for each other. I learned to feel lucky as I became aware that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for those who did not have good relationships with their mothers or even had no relationship, not to mention those who have miscarried or have suffered the death of a born child of any age.
Some of the difficulties I had with my mother were from cultural differences and her wartime experience, and I did not realize this until I wrote her memoir of childhood in Japan around WWII. I learned so much about her, what she had been through and what formed her, and in turn how that formed me.
In Japan my mother took classes in sewing Western clothing which came in handy during the Occupation when she sewed the US Officers Club waitresses’ uniforms out of American parachutes—normal fabric was hard to come by right after the war. She was an excellent seamstress and made most, if not all, of the clothes for my sister and me when we were young. She especially liked making matching outfits which I did not always appreciate but I loved our red and white sailor blouses and shorts she made to match her own. My mother’s cultural upbringing made me upset one day when I had caught some minnows during a vacation. They were meant for our fishpond back home but my mother ate them, skewered and grilled over our Coleman camp stove!
I was so glad I thought to ask about and write my mom’s stories which became Cherry Blossoms in Twilight: Memories of a Japanese Girl. If you haven’t yet and if you are still able, isn’t it time to ask your own mother—or grandmother—about her childhood? Or maybe it’s you who were born in the first half of the 1900s and experienced so many technological advances and historical happenings. These stories are lived history and it’s time to write them down before it’s too late. They are your family legacy and a way for your mother, your grandmother, or you to be remembered forever. Don’t let these stories—and the memories—die.
Is it Time to Write Your Memoir? by Ben Kyriagis, author of the memoir Don’t Marry an American