Amid all other influences

Amid all other influences
"reaching for the light"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother Remembered, a Tribute

This post will most likely be a lengthy one, so if you get bored or tired of reading the whole thing, you have my permission to bale on me. There have been Mom's that have made an impact in my life and certainly deserve their due recognition.
I would like to start with my own Mom, Florence. Born in the early 1920's, in a rural sugar plantation town or Ookala, to a Chinese immigrant worker and a Hawaiian mother, she was the third or fourth child in a family of nine children. Grandfather affectionately called her his little "LiChin". As the family grew in number, She was "hanai" to her aging Grand Aunt to help and assist and to live with her. This was a tremendous strain on Florence who took on the duties of most major household duties. She learned to love her Grand Aunt and developed a greater understanding of the gospel under her care. On occassion, she would travel by train to her family for weekend visits. Envied by some of her siblings, she kept to the family commitment to serve as the "hanai" for her Grand Aunt. Later as a young adult, she worked in a sandwich shop in Honolulu prior to the war. She was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked and had to live under curfew and marshall law many months after the attack. When it was safe, she secured passage back to the Big island to return to her family. Towards the end of the war, she contracted Tuburculosis and was confined to the old Pumaile Hospital. Though she was treated until no longer contagious, she never regained her full strength and vigor.

Several years later while attending a church dance, she met my dad. It was more like they were matched together by a missionary couple who grew to become among their dearest friends. It was remembered years later that Mom was somewhat less refined in the social graces of dating, while Dad was older, old fashion and shy. Mom and Dad married locally and a year later were sealed in the Laie Temple and I was sealed to them.
I think her life was a challenging one to begin with and even in the early years of marriage, she worked hard to help raise us children. Life on the plantation was a new experience. One of her redeeming qualities was that she had a great desire to learn to be a better homemaker. The luna's wife would hold homemaking get together for the neighborhood ladies, and mom would find new recipies. She would attend local university extension homemaking classes, all with us children in tow. When she learned how to bake, juice, preserve, etc., it became an instant family activity. The whole family engaged in picking the fruits and she would prepare them for juice, canning and freezing. After all, we lived in a home that was surrounded with most tropical fruit trees available that included mangos, bananas, macadamia nut tree, guavas, passion fruit, mountain apple, etc., etc. If we didn't have enough guava, she led the whole family out to the costal road to pick fruits along the highway. She directed and we picked.

Of her many accomplishments, she always delighted the family and extended family with her baking and fruit juices. As a way to supplement the family needs, we engaged in raising chickens, some 60 plus. It also became a total family project to feed and water them, collect eggs, butcher them for eating, and many memorable needs. Once nearing Thanksgiving, a close family friend were in need of a thanksgiving bird, so Mom had Dad butcher the largest bird we had, and it was close to the size of a normal Turkey. Needless to say, the bird did the job. Mom never successfully learned how to drive. She tried once but Dads blood pressure rose too high to continue the lessons and it made her too nervous. She looked out for the needs of the family. When we needed a new shirt, she shopped for material and took us and it to a dress maker friend who sewed the shirt. I have to say that a corn cobbed print aloha shirt is alright for Iowa or Nebraska but unreal for the islands. We were given chores to help around the house. There was the dishes, dinner table, cleaning the house, mopping, making our beds, yard work, etc. In her wisdom, she wanted us to learn some of the basic skills to be able to take care of ourselves when we grew up.
We grew up being very close to our relative, I mean, we visited, spent time and did activities together. It was always a time of sharing when you visited. Either we brought something to share or brought home something that was given to us. All of this was more in the way of food stuff, such as say bananas, mangos, guavas, vegetables, fish, etc. Eh! you like some? I can remember visiting Grandma Ah Ching when a major sugar strike was making people unemployed, as we were leaving, my Uncle James help haul a 100# bag of rice to put in the car as we were leaving. In many ways, we shared and help to take care of each other.
In the camps, families organized themselves to participate in feeding the community. When it was our camp's turn, she went with the other wives to cook and prepare meals for the community, sort of like a soup kitchen but the food was far better than a soup kitchen. Efforts like these brought families and the whole community together.
Later as a teen, we often thought that Mom lacked many of the social graces at times. It sometimes was evident that this was happening when she would show us her false teeth, more as a way to make us laugh or share a light moment. Her heart is always large for the ones she loved, he family.
Though she had a hard childhood, she still loved her family. When Uncle James passed away, all alone, Mom invited Grandma Ah Ching to come live with us. As I remember it, it was a relief to Mom's other siblings. i don't know if there was any other reasons, perhaps to recapture the life with her mom that she had very little of, but looking back on that time, it was the best decision for the entire family. I certainly remember that we children were given strict instructions to never ask Grandma for money, or to ask favors to buy something special for any of us. If she did, it was her decision and without any coercing. That was a great time for us. I know Grandma loved living with us. Wherever we went, she went. So things such as church attendance and activities, family activities, shopping, or holoholo, she loved it. We loved Grandma Ah Ching who was always gracious, loving, and helpful. Grandma would make visits to her other children but was always in a hurry to get home. Now, it wasn't because they treated her bad or anything, just that she preferred being at home.
As for family activities, we often went to the beach, if you can call Pine Tree a beach. It is more like a rocky coast where we would fish, a sport she dearly loved. In joint family activities with our relatives, we enjoyed fishing as a sport, and fun times for both the adults and the children. Sometimes we would pick kupipi's or sea shells from the large lava rocks. Later when we got home, Mom would prepare them and we would sit around the table eating them, along with whatever fish we caught. Her love for shore fishing was so evident when on several occassions, we would see the waves building and come crashing against the rocks she was standing on, swamping her at times but never dulling her spirit for the sport.
I don't think Mom received any special recognition for any accomplishments other than the most important, that of her own family. She's endeared herself to several close family friends, many distant relative, and many missionaries. I remember she doing laundry for missionaries who were assigned to our area. i don't know if she received any monetary compensation but we certainly grew up learning to befriend the missionaries and sharing our home and table with them. Still to this day, many past missionaries recall her generosity and aloha.
She was there for our sealing iin the Temple at Laie when no other family members could be in attendance. With the marriages of her children, she's visited and travelled many places to even go beyond the island shores, even to foreign countries. Most times, it was when a new grandchild was born, where she felt she could help around the home. Her visits have been memorable and a special opportunity for her grandchildren to get to know her. Since we lived in various places, she's come to visit us in Mississippi, England, and California, not counting Oahu.

With Dad's passing 10 years ago, her life has changed. She is lonely now because he was her love, support, and constant companion. Her health has deteriorated, her memory somewhat faded, but her presence is still strong. Her memories are now being filled with that of her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren. Boasting of the number of moopunas she now has is a favorite of hers. She inquires on the health and status of each grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. As the numbers keep increasing, she is ever so proud of her family.

Thank you Mom, for all that you are, and have been to me and our family. We love you.


Leslie said...

I loved learning more about Grandma - and your family as well. I never knew about the chicken raising! Grandma is definitely a special lady and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to live with her and Grandpa for a little while in high school. I have fond memories of her round bread (baked in the big juice cans), hanging the laundry underneath the house, taking me and others to her favorite Chinese restaurant, introducing me to all the other old ladies at church, and on and on.

OHANA said...

What a special mom!! She is definitely a great woman!!