We got the news yesterday that my grandmother (mom’s mom) (aka Obaachan) passed away. She would have turned 100 in July, but for the past few years she really wasn’t in good health, so it’s not as if the news is a surprise, or even bad news. But it is sad news, and I had a pretty terrifically lousy day yesterday. I spent some time over at mom and dad’s house searching for photos of her, and had no luck. There used to be a gigantic garbage bag full of old photos that mom was going to sort “someday” but I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was an unhappy defeat.
But then, in another little sort of twist of fate, Matthew asked if I could get the foot massaging machine from the computer room/office (now that Dad has left for Alaska, we’re totally horning in on the amenities) and so I headed up to grab it. I thought I might randomly find some pictures in there, and amazingly enough, I did. It literally made my day. Because what treasures!
Here are my grandparents on their wedding day.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the dates for these, because they were just photocopies that were in a binder. My favorite one is this one:
A family portrait. I’m not sure which great-grandmother is in the front (maybe my sister can help?), but my grandmother is on the far right and I’m quite certain that’s little Seiko right up front.
Another treasure (which doesn’t have my grandmother in it, but which I’ll share anyway) is from when my sister was born (mom decided to have her in Japan instead of the States since her english wasn’t that great). Mom is second to the left in the back row and the white guy up front is dad. My sister is chubbily posing front-and-center on an unidentified great-grandparent’s lap.
I also found a photo album mom had put together for me of our trip to Japan back in 2001 (ugh, I can’t believe that’s already 10 years ago!). She and my brother and I went and helped Obaachan celebrate her 90th.
I knew Obaachan best when I was little (probably about 7 or 8 years old) when she came up to Alaska for the summer. At the time she was in her mid-70s, but amazed everyone by doing the hard work along with everyone else, as well as cooking, looking after kids, cleaning, crafting, etc, and all the while constantly running everywhere. She was so quick several of our male helpers complained that they had to take especially long hikes from the compound to pee in the bushes (because that’s how we do up there) for fear of my grandmother racing up behind them on her way to do something and surprising them. One careless fellow was, actually, once caught in the act. Though she couldn’t speak any english, and we couldn’t speak any japanese, Obaachan was always good for a laugh.
(I actually think in that photo, she had just asked, “Wait, now, who’s birthday is it?” and we had to tell her it was hers. This was after all the toasts had been made and the presents been opened. She was like, “Oh, I was wondering what all the fuss was about!” In her defense, this was totally understandable, since we were actually there a few months before her birthday. But we had a good laugh anyway.)
I remember our last visit with her at her house. We took a picture in her garden before she walked us partway to the train station. Her garden, though tiny, was a magical little oasis, complete with sculpted trees and koi pond. It was a beautiful day, and I remember my brother and I having a few tears in our eyes, thinking that it might be the last time we saw her.
The last photo I found was one of mom and Obaachan and Obaachan’s sister, Setsuko-obasan, when they came to visit us in Chestertown. I can’t even remember how long ago that was – I think I was maybe just starting college.
I showed it to Alden and pointed at the picture of mom and said, “Who’s that?” She thought for a bit and then said triumphantly, “It’s MAMA!”
Which I think might be the finest compliment I could ever get.
I like to think that Mom and Obaachan are somewhere out there, having a good laugh.