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What writers write when they 1) aren't writing, 2) are avoiding writing or 3) need a word count to convince their spouses they are writing.

Origami n' Stuff 4 Kids

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tribute to Mom



My mother taught us love, faith, and humility. She taught us that wealth is measured not by the car you drive or the house you live in, but in the faith you keep, the friends you meet, and the family you love.

By those standards, she was wealthy beyond measure. And she was equally generous, sometimes to a fault. What little she had, she shared. Even if it meant that she had to do without.

Growing up, we didn’t have the latest toys, but Mom made sure we never skimped on books. She splurged on a set of World Book Encyclopedias for us. I spent hours leafing through the gilt-edged pages. Beginning with A for ancient Anatolia, I trekked through the gardens of Babylonia, immersed myself in Cleopatra’s man troubles, and explored the ziggurats of Mesopotamia—all in a single afternoon.

Mom was an avid reader, burning through Harlequin romances at all hours of the day. When she came to live with me, she lamented that she couldn’t find any good Indian romances. I thought she was referring to books like "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri. But she was referring to "Comanche Moon" and "Sweet Prairie Passion."

I said to her, “Mom, they don’t publish Indian romances anymore because they’re culturally insensitive.”

But she persisted, so I introduced her to Goodreads and Amazon.com.Today, my Amazon account is still cluttered with embarrassing suggestions like, “If you enjoyed reading 'Cheyenne Captive,' you’ll love 'Savage Ecstasy.' ” It’s a sweet reminder of Mom.

She didn’t pass on to me her love for romance novels, but she did pass on a love for reading. She bought me a subscription to Parent Magazine’s Book-of-the-Month Club, and took me on frequent excursions to the Kapahulu library. After the library, we’d catch the bus to Ala Moana for Woolworth’s fried chicken and roast beef sandwiches, and browse through tin toys and Japanese teacups at Hotei-Ya.

Mom was also quite a trooper. In the summer, Dad would take my brothers frog hunting. They’d bring home a five-gallon bucket filled with croaking bullfrogs and empty it into the bathtub. All night long, I was kept awake by the wet slapping of frogs jumping against the sides of the tub, trying to escape.

The next morning, Dad would skin and clean the frogs. He stretched the skins over empty peach cans and dried them in the sun so that we each had our own little frog drum. And then Mom would bread and fry the frogs for dinner. As I said, she was quite the trooper.
She was also quite the foodie. She loved going holoholo with Auntie Ida, Auntie Ruth, and later, with her best friend Jean. She never gave up on trying to get me to eat chicken feet and hundred-year-old eggs.

As a know-it-all teenager, I rolled my eyes at her chicken feet cravings. I also rolled my eyes at her simple needs, and foolishly mistook them for a lack of ambition. I didn’t see how she put OUR dreams above her own. She put aside her business degree to take care of us at home, and later, to work as a school custodian.

It was only after I had children of my own that I saw the sacrifices she made. Because of her, I refused to allow anyone except family care for my children. When we lived in Boston, I made my husband Ric give away our front row tickets to Miss Saigon because I wouldn’t let his classmate babysit.

Cosmo, Popo always reminisced about how she would take your tiny hand and walk you from her Date Street apartment to Stadium Park. She would mimic your squeaky voice asking her, “Popo, can we go to McDonalds?”

Bob, Popo always talked about what a smart, kind, and well-spoken young man you are—and a snappy dresser, too! She was always trying to bring food home for the two of you, no matter how full our refrigerator was.

And Mom adored our bulldog, Roxy. Even though I reprimanded her, she was constantly sneaking lup cheong to the dog. It’s no wonder that Roxy watched over her and sometimes slept with her.

Mommy, your coming to live with me was the best thing. We had our challenges, but, boy, did we have fun.

And we had plans. I was supposed to ask you about growing up with Popo and Eng, and all your brothers and sisters—and I was supposed to write it down. I wanted more time. I wanted to go holoholo with you. Eat dim sum. Go to Red Lobster. And bring you home one last time.

But you had family waiting for you above. So you did what you do best. You brought together your family, here on earth, and guided us through love and faith.

It’s because of you that we are strong. It’s because of you that we are so united.

Mommy, do you remember our last day together? I came into your hospital room, ready to spend the night. I kissed your cheek and said, “Mommy, today is my birthday! You brought me into this world 55 years ago and you’re the best mom ever! We’re going to miss you, but we’ll all be okay.”

And two hours later, you slipped away. You were fearless, you were beautiful, and you were free. It was a blessed gift, that on the day that I was born, you were born into another realm. You couldn’t have written a better ending to a story.

Best of all, I got to kiss you many times over those last few days. I marveled at how soft and smooth your cheeks were and wondered, “Why did it take me 55 years to kiss you?” But at least I got to kiss you.

And I still talk to you. At stop lights. At home. In the middle of the night. In times of doubt, I will learn to summon your voice. Your love. Your acceptance. You were always so supportive. You were my biggest fan. Because of you, I gave away all my books to the nurses and doctors.

And when I’m hardest on myself, you will remind me.

That wealth is measured in the faith you keep, the friends you meet, and the family you love.

And I will find comfort remembering the softness of your cheek.

Thank you for teaching me how to live and how to die.
Thank you for being our mother.

I love you.

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