Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

The Japanese Sunken Tea Gardens, San Antonio Texas vintage postcard.
Home to my mother and her family

Far left my mother Ruth stands with her mother Grandma Miyoshi, and her siblings Lillian, Rae, Jimmy, Kimi, Mabel and Helen standing on the bridge in the gardens of their home.

Sisters Mary and Ruth in the gardens

My mother is the little girl in the middle. She is pictured with her baby sister Rae on the left and her older sister Mary on the right. My grandfather and grandmother stand behind the children in the family home in the Japanese tea gardens in San Antonio Texas. There were eight children altogether and she was the second eldest child.

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have turned 92.

To say that my mom Ruth was a character is a bit of an understatement. Once people met her they would rarely forget her. She was memorable for so many reasons. She made everyone feel at ease from the moment they met her. She was joyful, friendly, exhuberant and so enthusiastic about life. She shared that joy with everyone. She was quirky and so funny in a good way. She, like her sisters, still had a bit of their Texas drawl even after years of living on the west coast. She could be heard to say "Hi Y'all" as though she had just arrived from Texas yesterday. She loved to laugh and tell jokes ,though often in the telling she'd forget the punch line or get the story so mixed up. But in the end she'd make people laugh even harder anyway just because she would say things in such a hilarious style. She'd loved languages- spoke conversational Spanish and took classes in French, Japanese and Italian. She would often interject a foreign phrase into something she was saying. To others it seemed quite random but to us it was just a "Ruthism". "Tempest Fuget" (time flys) was one of her favorites. "Que Lastima!" (What a pity!) was another. Then there would be the random, funny sayings she'd just stick into a conversation. Often, much too often you could hear her arrive at a party saying: "I just flew into town and boy are my arms tired!" or talking about meeting someone she'd repeat "it was love at first fright, I mean sight!" Stuff like that made us roll our eyeballs. But now we find ourselves saying these things just to laugh and remember her. We say it as though we are channeling mom ,to once again, be with us at a party.

Mom loved spanish music. That probably was because it reminded her of her childhood in Texas and the family Tea Gardens there. (That's a whole other story I will tell you about some other time). When we hear certain Spanish songs we think of her because they were her favorites.

Mom loved fashion, shopping for clothes shoes and purses, Vogue magazines and going to what she called "style shows" which in the 1950's and '60s were luncheons fashion shows, where models would walk around the tables showing the latest styles. She loved, loved, loved jewelry, learning languages, taking night classes at the local college, decorating cakes, butterflies, anything with animal prints, beading and making jewelry, travelling to places near and far like China, Japan, Russia, South America and most of western Europe and best of all she loved giving parties for family and friends. She had a huge impact on our lives. She was the one that sent me on my first trip to Europe when I had no clue about the world nor any interest in seeing further than my own backyard. She opened my eyes to the joy and value of travel at a young age and literally changed my perception of the world and my relationship to it.

Mom taught all of her children to see life as the glass half full and to count our blessings rather than our shortcomings. I hope to blog about her in more detail in future posts. She was so generous with her kindness, her hospitality and friendliness. She loved us unconditionally and was always there for her family. We were so lucky to have her for our mother.

When mom passed away my daughter Aria was studying in Italy. She could not attend the funeral services but she wrote the following message and asked that it be read at the service. I think that it really captures so much of how mom touched so many of our lives. Here is what

Aria wrote:

Grandma Ruth

"I wish I could be here in person to tell you all, “I just flew in, and boy are my arms tired!” In short, I wish I could be here with you today to be able to take part in what I hope turns out to be a celebration of grandma’s life, because most of you probably know that with my Grandma Ruth, you were always bound to experience “love at first fright…I mean sight.” In saying goodbye to grandma, in dealing, as we all must do from time to time, with the loss of something precious, I realize that I will never have to miss or to lose Grandma Ruth. She is only one of the many strong women in this family whose presence I feel constantly, not just around me, but inside of me.
It’s hard to individualize the things we learn from different people. Grandma was the first person who succeeded in teaching me how to blow bubbles with chewing gum. Yes, a little Japanese woman in her seventies wrapped a jeweled turban around her head and sat with me on the living room steps with a plastic jar full of gum until, one by one, all the pink gum balls it contained had been chewed up. The correlation between the jeweled turban and the ability to blow bubbles remains a mystery to me, but I have faith that such a connection must exist. Maybe it is only the key to forming lasting memories.
And between the ages of five and twenty-two, what else has my Grandma Ruth taught me? Most of our daily lives consist of the boring and the difficult moments in which we must, among other things, go grocery shopping, vacuum the living room, pay taxes, and get into arguments with our loved ones. We either let these things suck the life out of us, or we infuse these things with lots of life. Grandma put vitality into the most mundane moments, vacuuming her living room to Spanish radio and muttering “orders from headquarters” under her breath every time she found herself forced into a difficult position. If she were here today, she would say that open-mouthed frogs bring money and rubbing the Buddha’s belly brings good luck. But at the end of the day, it was she herself who made life rich and fortunate for those around her. It’s funny that when I think of Grandma, I think of false eyelashes, faux diamonds, fake nails, and imitation leopard print furs. And yet what these things add up to, for me, is nonetheless the most genuine person I have had in my life.
Grandma would often say that in old age she had shrunk from five feet two to five feet tall. And indeed, as time goes by, it seems I have a little less of her each year. And yet, every now and then, I feel a strange urge to walk up to strangers in restaurants or at parties—and whether it is obvious to me that they are French or German, Senegalese or Martian, this strange and subtle urge bubbles up into a great desire to approach them and say…”habla espanol?”. So I’ve come to realize that as the solid memories and the physical presence of my grandma is something that slips away with time, the parts of her that I most loved grow stronger and more evident in my own spirit.
In life and in death, Grandma was a free spirit. She was always ready for the next adventure, always prepared to get up and go. And whenever she was really ready, she got up, and she went. Well, she’s off again, and ready or not, I’m happy to wish her off on whatever adventures await her now, truly free, spirit. I only hope that whoever is lucky enough to encounter her first will have the pleasure of hearing straight from her own mouth, “Hi y’all. I just flew in. And boy are my arms tired.”Happy trails, Grandma. I love you."

This is a Happy Birthday remembrance to our mom. The song I have posted is "Sin Ti" a spanish song which mom would have loved. It means "Without You".

Thinking of you on this day Mom and of all the good memories you have given us.

Happy Birthday!


Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Barb~ what a beautiful tribute. I can see so much of your mom in you. She would be proud!

Deb R said...

What a wonderful post Barb....I love your blog!

Jane said...

Barb, you are your mother's child! And. you have given to your girls the same half-full glass. What a wonderful tribute Aria wrote to her beloved grandma. Smile today as you think of your mom.

Laurie said...

That was a lovely tribute. It helps me to see just how you got to be the way you are - you have a lot of your mother in you. It's bittersweet to remember our moms when they are gone, but you've inspired me. Hugs.

Maria I. said...

This post touched my heart. The photos of your Mom with her parents and siblings are priceless. What an amazingly beautiful place to grow up. I am deeply touched by this beautiful and heartfelt tribute to your mom.

Tahitigurl22 said...

awww..happy birthday to auntie ruth!! i loved this post!

Sandrac said...

Barb, this really is a fantastic tribute to your Mom. She's sounds absolutely fascinating.

I just love inside jokes and shared memories (my Dad was famous for his mangled quotes and my siblings and I love repeating them and laughing in fond memory.)

What wonderful memories you have.

menehune said...

What a truly wonderful tribute to your mom. Very moving, special. I hope you write more about this dynamic, colorful, unforgettable woman, your mother. Happy Birthday to her and the spirit she leaves here. menehune

Anonymous said...

Brought tear to eye!!! Happy Birthday Auntie Ruth.
I loved all the writings and the photos.
Love you,

Sandra said...

Barb, what a beautiful, moving tribute to your mother. I can certainly see now, that you are your mothers' daughter, and I know she was very proud of you. Reading Aria's moving heartfelt tribute to her dear grandma, brought tears to my eyes,and I can see that you have passed on the wisdom from your mother to your daughters. It was my honor, to be able to be here reading your blog, to learn about this amazing women. I wish her a Happy Birthday, and look forward, to more enchanting stories in the weeks to come. Thank you Barb.

girasoli said...

Barb, this is such a wonderful tribute to your mom. I can see so much of you in your mom. I thought the girl on the left in the family photo on the bridge was you at first. Very touching letter written by your daughter. It is obvious that your mom was a very special person. Happy Birthday.

Anne said...

Barb, this is so beautiful. I have tears in my eyes, but my heart is also lifted by the love and joy in your words, and in Aria's message. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman, full of light and hope and love. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of her spirit with us. Happy birthday in remembrance of your Mom :)

Holly said...

o how i wish i could have known your mom...but hearing about her and reading Aria's tribute make me feel that i have met mom's name is Ruth also...

Terry (teaberry) said...

Barb, without knowing your mom, I feel like you've given us all a beautiful window into who she was, and her legacy. Thank you for sharing this.

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