Monday, April 12, 2010


A beautiful sunny day! Cherry tree in full bloom. Spring flowers showing their buds, some ready to bloom. Fitting for my mom's birthday. She would have been 90 years old today. I know that I should be feeling only gratitude for the three years I was blessed to take care of her. But a wisp of adolescent sense of unfairness still hangs in my heart like a surprise spider web. I wanted another fall of blazing colors the day she left me. I wanted another spring season full of joyrides. And I wanted today, a birthday cake with 90 years old on it and placing it in front of my mom and watch her make big googly eyes and say, "90 years old?! Me?!"

I will get tulips for the alter for my Four Treasured Ancestors. How lucky I am. Four.

There is a picture of my precious Winnemem Granny who took us under her wing and mothered me through the hardest times of my adult life and helped raise our family onto a path of life my Nikkei upbringing prepared me for. I wasn't alone anymore; we ae in a circle with a Mountain, a River, and prayers said like children say to their grandparents and relatives who take care of them, to our relatives of Mother Earth.

The middle picture, because that is her favorite place to be, is a picture of my mother in her late thirties, a beautiful woman more beautiful than her daughters would ever be, petite, but mighty inside. She was not raised to live the life she was given, an unfortunate arranged marriage, single mother, fearful for her daughters, but still walking each day with faith that it would turn out ok. I noticed this is the same way she woke up each morning, her mind unfamiliar now to her, everything unfamiliar. She must have gathered up courage out of each new day's confusion and would greet the staff and "the elderlies" (her name for them) like they were all her relatives and ate her familiar breakfast. And when I showed up in the morning and got her ready for her day, she brightened, remembering me, "My Baby!!" Then everything must have been ok. Her hand cupped in mine, we'd go out for our ride, a new adventure each day. And when we left the gate, she'd raise her arms and embrace it all. We repeated this through the day, and each time I came after a meal or after her nap or the entertainment social hour, always, the bright smile. "There you are!" I think she thought that she and lived together and I was just walking another hall.

For the ancestral alter, instead of any one of the pictures I snapped during these four important years where I took care of Momma, it is the thirty-something single mother's picture I chose looking like a movie star to her young daughters.

And on the other side of her picture is the one of her parents together, my grandparents,who must have been in their fifties at that time. Grandpa is in his suit, serious, and Grandma the same. It's a formal dignified picture of the farmer and the farmer. No farmer's wife in our family. My immigrant Ojichan and Obachan both worked hard. My own mother never lost her "on" for her parents, that deep feeling of unrepayable debt. On the one hand, there is a story behind this feeling of "on", because my grandparents rescued all three of us despite the norms of the time regarding marriage and we lived together for their whole lives. We were one family, not a broken one. I had no need for anyone -- no father figure, no surrogate, no father. I felt whole with Obachan, Ojichan and my mother.

So for the four treasured elders, I am grateful to you. I am grateful that you took care of my mom whose picture sits between, between her precious parents and the Winnemem Granny of the Sacred Mt. Shasta who takes care of my family and me still. And it will be flowers for you because you all, each one of you, loved flowers. Grandpa has a carnation attributed to him. Grandma never posed for a picture without standing by her flowers in full bloom. We were never without flowers in her house because Grandma was also a lifelong student of "ikebana," the art of flower arranging, natural style. As for my Granny, she and I planted many flowers at the ranch during our twenty some years together. She liked her roses best planted and blooming all season rather than cut into bouquets.

And for this birthday, this spring day, for all our joyrides and walks among the blossoms of each season, for always being brave when you stepped into the unknown circumstances, sometimes terrible circumstances, and holding on to treating the human beings like your relatives, and for taking good care of your two little girls even at the sacrifice of your own desires, Happy Birthday, Momma.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.