Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Facilitating this community of memoir writers has been a joy from the beginning. When I try to tell people just how special this group is, I suspect they must think I am exaggerating. Maria’s story represents what happens when people take time to listen to one another. Walls of fear and prejudice come tumbling down. And we are sometimes blessed with the privilege of being there to witness it.
I was in a concentration camp under the Japanese regime.
During the time that has passed since then, and that sure has been many years, I learned to forget and to go on. I had several friends that were Japanese. But I would never buy anything that was made there. I even chose not to accept a better job when I found out that my supervisor was Japanese. It made me think of long past sad times. I must say that almost all my life I was too busy having a good time. I always worked hard and studied hard, wanted to be the best mom I could. But I really never took time out for just me. My inner self.
Then I retired, earlier than I wanted. Again my time went for extra work to make money for the care of my children and grandchildren.
Then one day a lady from the Netherlands came. She was looking for any survivors of the Tjidang camp in Djakarta, Indonesia during World War II. And I am one of them. She talked to me for a long time. Then she offered me a visit with a psychiatrist and he referred me to a counselor. I still see her. This Dutch organization gives me some money for the rest of my life.
I still carried a grudge that I was hurt not only by the Japanese, but also by the Dutch people. Because when we came to Holland, nobody was nice to us. I know that they went through a war too, but they weren’t skinny and hungry. A Dutch organization gave us double coupons to obtain food. Others were envious of that. And, of course, we spoke Dutch, but with no dialect. They thought we had our noses in the air.
In school they laughed and teased us because we were far behind in every subject. I was 9 years and had to do grades 1, 2, and 3 in one year. No wonder I was still undereducated for my age. I made up for it for many years to come. The older we get the more we learn and understand. This counselor helped me a lot.
Now I’m a senior and am in this writing class. When I listen to the other people in the class, I learn and take time to understand other people and how different they are. When I listen to Kay (she’s Japanese) she makes me think of her and other people from a very wise and humble standpoint. I finally felt that I could love her for what she is, Japanese or not. And I felt such a burden of relieve fall off me that I was quiet and thankful. When we left and I saw her outside, I called her and hugged her, thanking her for being Kay, wise and understanding.
Yes, even at 78 years one can still learn a lot in life.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Our daily routines may change gradually, but they change dramatically. Enjoy Charlotte’s perspective on one aspect of this change. There are certain things that it’s best to keep a sense of humor about. Aging is one of them.
The words, “of an age” sound genteel and sweet, but, truth be known, the so-called golden years are spent in an entirely new circle of friends. They reside at our doctor’s office. Other patients; the receptionists, the nurses and the doctors themselves are all known by their first names. The workers at the pharmacies know us by the prescriptions we refill on a regular basis.
Each day is a whirlwind of pills—and more importantly when to ingest each one, how often-of course, the timing is crucial. One with water first thing; you can’t eat for an hour no matter how late you start. Then two others, one small round pill and one triangular shaped. To be taken with breakfast, one with a little food and the other when my tummy is full. Oh don’t forget the teaspoon of syrup.
Lunch brings on a pile of vitamins. Capsules and pills all recommended by our M.D. or grandson and especially Dr. Oz, who daily has something new that is important to swallow.
Afternoon calls for some elixir, a tea perhaps, or a smoothie made from many healthy ingredients.
Six o’clock comes quickly and it’s time for the pill that will anchor my blood clot. Pay attention now, is this the day for a whole one or a half? Oh my! Have I had enough water to drink today? Probably not, but if I try to make it up now I’ll be up several times in the night. Tomorrow I’ll do better.
Bedtime and three teaspoons of that stuff that keeps my air passages open. Now what did I forget? I’m sure there is something. But I’m too tired to care. Good night ZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Do you have an every-day utensil in one of your cupboards that has served you and your family for generations? Have you ever thought about how that ordinary item has added to your family’s memories?
Old black iron pan
What history you have served.
Nordic lamb and cabbage,
Proud tradition you preserved.
Adjusted next to melting pot stews
And the tight economy of war,
You now offered us filling foods
We might not have considered before
Another journey, this time South
And the aroma was totally new
As you brewed us many spicy feasts
Our Children enjoyed them too
Having journeyed far with four generations
What will happen when I am gone?
What will you serve at your next destination?
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Here is a different perspective on memory from Yolanda.
I have come to the conclusion that a great memory is a bit over-rated. When I was much younger I had extraordinary recall. My mind never seemed to run out of inventory. I remembered every unkind word, broken promise, betrayed confidence, my failures, others failures.
Being overly sentimental is like a web that can entangle and choke a person with memories, whether they are good, sad, or ugly. Memories can be disruptive; they come back when you don’t want them, in daydreams, nightmares or flashbacks, usually accompanied by painful emotions.
In this age of pharmaceutical wonders there are pills for anxiety; depression, improved memory, libido; the morning after pill; why not have pills for forgetting? Sure, one could argue that our memories are part of what makes us who we are. Yet, if we didn’t recall the negativisms with which some of us grew up, the naysayers, we’d have greater confidence and potential to be the best we can be.
Still I’m reminded that life, like art, has light and shadow. Mosaics illustrate wholeness with intricate complex, interrelated elements of parts, or factors. In essence, I’m a piece of unfinished work, and in the end, discernment is the key.
I must be poised to remember that sometimes it is good to forget.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
It has been quite awhile since we have published any stories on this blog. Here is an early memory of my family’s celebration of Independence Day. Do you have one to share?
When I was young, mom and dad took us to Grandma and Grandpa’s hillside home in Monterey Park. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins were there as we celebrated America’s Freedom.
In the afternoon, while it was too light for “real” fireworks, Grandpa would take the kids into the garage, near his workbench and get out some small black tablets. He’d put them on the garage floor, and light them with a “punk,” a sort of slow-burning lighter.
Sometimes it was a little hard to get them going, but once they ignited, the tablets would begin to glow and grow, producing long “snakes” of ashes with a peculiar pungent odor. Sometimes he’d let us do the honors of lighting these mild “fireworks” and I suppose we were more excited than these little glow worms deserved, but it was all part of the day’s energy.
All day we waited in anticipation for the sun to go down so we could begin the “real” fireworks. After a meal of hamburgers, picnic style salads, beans, and watermelon, we brought blankets, chairs, and popcorn onto the front lawn as Dad and the uncles got the show ready to begin.
They took turns lighting the fireworks, dashing out of the way once the sparks began to fly. A pinwheel on the peach tree, a piccolo Pete piercing the night, fountains, roman candles – all these filled the night with excitement, laughter and wonder.
But the best part always came at the end, when the sparklers came out, turning us into magicians with our wands. We wrote our names in fire on the dark night, trying desperately to get the last letter written before the first one faded. Impossible, of course, but we never stopped trying.
Grandma and Grandpa moved from that house when I was quite young. The scene was recreated in other places over the years, but the house in Monterey Park is where my memory is most vivid, most filled with magic.
When Steve and I had children of our own, we took them to my mom and dad’s home, where we ate hamburgers on the patio and watched fireworks in the front yard after dark. Later, the party moved to our house and began to include the neighbors. For many years we had an annual 4th of July block party, everyone bringing something to share.
The tradition faded and died for many years, and we have been celebrating the 4th with a swim party/barbeque at Pam and Joan’s house, ending the day with chairs on the lawn at Downey High Football Stadium, enjoying the community fireworks display.
But today we are returning to the neighborhood barbeque. It’s a whole new set of neighbors and we have passed the baton of hosting the event to the younger families. I look forward to getting to know some of the people I pass every day. And I hope the children enjoy the sparklers.