Monday, August 9, 2010

Dreams of Peace

This collage was done by my artist friend Mizu Sugimura of Federal Way. Until I began writing on the Tacoma News Tribune blog I’d never met Mizu and yet although we were separated by only a few degrees. How I am connected to this soft spoken gentle soul, so unlike me and yet so connected, has been much on my mind lately as I have begun to climb the mountain of memoirs my father left. Mizu’s Japanese American family was imprisoned during WWII. My father was at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on the island of Oahu on December 7th, 1941. It is this chapter of his life that I have been working on to try to catch the eye of a publisher. That day changed the lives of Mizu’s and my father’s forever.

Recently I heard that an Atomic Museum has opened in Los Alamos, New Mexico featuring replicas of the Enola Gay and “Fat Man” and Little Boy,” the bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This year for the first time the United States sent representatives to Hiroshima for Japan’s Peace Day remembrance of what happened sixty-five years ago. I am happy that we can now acknowledge the destruction we wrought and fascinated and revolted all at the same time with the museum. Following WWII my father participated in Operations Redwing and Hardtack testing the atomic bomb on Eniwetok in the South Pacific. I am revolted that there’s a cathedral to an event that caused in the neighborhood of 240,000 deaths immediately and an estimated 350,000 by 1978.

I know the conventional thinking is that American lives were saved when an invasion of Japan wasn’t needed to end the War in the Pacific, but I cannot help but wonder if the same effect would not have been achieved had a bomb been dropped over the ocean as a demonstration of its destructive power. I am also fascinated to learn that Japan may have been in negotiation with the Soviet Union at that time to surrender to them because the government thought they would get a better deal with the USSR. I will be interested to find out more about that since I cannot imagine that any sort of occupation by the Soviet Union would have been superior to that by the US.

Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened before Mizu and I were born and yet they shaped our lives by creating the atomic age we grew up in. Both of our father’s went on to work for Boeing and both of us attended the University of Washington School of Communications, although we did not meet until some four years ago. Getting to know Mizu has put a face on the other side of a conflict and period of time that was pivotal in my father’s life. As I work at finding a publisher for my father’s memoirs and as we recognize what happened sixty-five years ago I wonder if we will ever universally understand how close we are as human beings. By the time he wrote his memoirs in the late 1980s my father expressed his hope that we were seeing the dawn of universal peace for all time. He self published his writing for the family and went on to live to see September 11th and our invasion of Afghanistan and his hope end. Do we still dare to dream of peace?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Grammy Summer Camp

I refer to days when my granddaughter comes to hang out with all of us as Grammy Camp days. Linda and her cousin Gabriel, who with his parents live with us, are finally old enough that they don’t squabble as much as they used to. They are within two months of being the same age and have adored each other since Gabriel’s mom took care of Linda as an infant. Cooperative play hasn’t always come easily so I was delighted last week when Linda came for a night and everything went so well I didn’t hesitate to say yes to another night. On several occasions we have taken the grandchildren individually to our summer home on the Long Beach Peninsula. Taking both was out of the question, especially before Dave retired, but they are getting to an age where taking the two of them will be plausible.

When I was the age of my two oldest grandchildren my cousin Janice and I began going to our grandparent’s house in the country outside of Vancouver, Washington. Janice and I were almost as close in age as Gabriel and Linda and the only girls in the family. She lived on a farm on Whidbey Island which was fun to spend time at, but it was also fun to go to our grandparents because as everyone knows grandparents are not your parents and will cut you more slack than parents would.

It being the 1950s there wasn’t much on television that a child cared about so our days were filled with playing outside in Grandpa’s little corn field or feeding the chickens and looking at the rabbits. An owl decided to take up residence in their yard which was also very entertaining as he seemed to not mind people in the least. One year our grandparents took us to the dime store and told us we could pick out a toy. We chose identical small baby dolls that came with little plastic bath tubs and baby bottles. As I remember Janice’s baby had a blue tub and romper and mine had a pink. There was one television show that we were allowed to stay up and watch. Our grandmother liked staying up to watch Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. We were even allowed to eat Cheerios off of TV trays before the television. That was our secret. I NEVER stayed up that late at home.

I treasure my memories of visiting my grandparents. Out of the total of my life they are precious few days, but make up such sweet memories they might have been months or years. I hope that I am making memories for Linda and Gabriel. They will be small for such a short time and soon will not want to own knowing who their grandparents are, much less hang out with us.

Yesterday their Uncle Nadir, who is here visiting from California where he is going to school, decided to do some ice cream science with the children. He went out and purchased dry ice, whipping cream, and vanilla. This wasn’t just a cooking lesson. Uncle Nadir explained how dry ice is made and what makes it different from the ice our refrigerator makes. They were not to touch it. They combined the whipping cream, vanilla and sugar in a large plastic bowl and took turns running the mixer while Uncle Nadir shoveled in the dry ice. Soon the mixture began to thicken and spoons came out for a taste test. More mixing and more ice ensued. When Uncle Nadir declared it done a little extra ice was thrown on top and the bowl went into the freezer. While their science experiment hardened their uncle let the children stir pots of “witch’s brew” with dry ice creating the bubbling, steaming effect. As a single young uncle is want to do, their let them have a dish of ice cream before dinner. His mother will remind him of this when he has children.

On the way to meet my son at Linda’s swimming class, she begged another night and it is very hard to say no to her so her clothing is washed and hanging out to dry and the children spent part of the afternoon decorating the front patio with sidewalk chalk to welcome our family friends Jo & Jon—or JoJon as they call them. We are celebrating Jon’s birthday. Jo and Jon have no grandchildren yet, but we let them borrow ours.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bridal Showers

It’s official. I’m old. I’ve started saying, “Back in my day….” Our current onslaught of family weddings is overwhelming mentally and financially. Currently I am having a problem with the notion of a wedding shower.

Back in my day the purpose of the shower was to assist a bride in setting up housekeeping in her own home. She was going from her parents’ house to that of a new home with her husband who presumably didn’t have a lot in the way of linens and kitchen furnishings. Showers had themes usually linen, kitchen or lingerie. Increasingly it appears that showers are a second bid at a wedding gift since the shower hostess will include the name of the store or stores where the bride and groom are registered. “I’m just getting something from their list,” my daughter-in-law said sanguinely regarding my niece’s shower. Not me. If I shop off that list it will be for a wedding gift. Shower gifts are supposed to be inexpensive and the party more about celebrating the bride. Nowadays many brides and grooms have had homes alone and together for a number of years before they decide to marry and there is no longer an actual need for a "shower."

I like old fashioned embroidered tea towels. My husband had no clue what a tea towel was when we married and I still have to constantly remind him that these towels are not for dirty hands. I don’t have the time to embroider them myself anymore although I did back in my day, but I shop enough antique and second hand stores to find them. So rather than purchasing something off of my niece’s Macy’s list I hit a couple of my favorite antique malls and got three beautiful tea towels, staying away from some that were really rather racist—napping Mexicans and pickaninnies. I admit to also purchasing some sweet measuring spoons, too.

There is a real possibility that I will not be buying off the Macy’s list for the wedding either. In the last few years I’ve begun giving family brides and grooms pictures of their grandparents. Family is important to me and so I will be scouting out a nice double frame for copies of the sweet pictures I have of my in-laws when they were young.
On the other hand, a baby shower, especially for a first baby is quite another thing altogether. Fortunately, we haven't any of those looming on the horrizon. Three engaged nieces and one engaged brother are quite enough, thank you.