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UPDATE: 3/21/3026 "Saying Solly" Got published!

This will is my first officially published written work. My family is thrilled. I'm gobsmacked amazed and relieved at the same time.

Since it is nearly a year since I got my copy of the collection of short stories I am reposting my story here on my websie. Please buy the book if you want more stories of women and their mothers.
MyMother-Myself4/28/2015: My copy of "My Mother - Myself" came in today. My first published short story "Saying Solly" is on page 80. In the back there are write-ups  about all the writers and they left out one of my grandsons. I have four grandsons and one granddaughter.

This collection of short stories will be available at Amazon in a couple of months but if you want to order a copy before Mother's Day you can purchase a copy at...  
http://www.mymother-myself.com/

All the contributors in this collection of short stories have donated their work.

For me it is in memory of Edy Henderson, who passed away before she was able to see this book come to fruition. We all know she's whispering "It's about time..." since it took 8 years.
2/7/2015 "Saying Solly" is getting published! I don't know the title of the collection but it is supposed to be due out by Mother's Day 2015.

Because the agreement with the publisher is that the story is not already published I have to remove it from my website until after the publication date. Once it is published it will be returned to my website.

"Saying 'solly' " is a short story written in 2006, for a collection that was to be called "If it's not one thing, it's your mother".  The collection never found a publisher so I put the story up here on my website.

This will be my first officially published written work. My family is thrilled. I'm gobsmacked amazed and relieved at the same time.

Saying Solly

by

Nora Jean Stone

My mother is Japanese, born in Nagoya, Japan, 1931, and was a War Bride. My Father looked like Willie Nelson, White as he wanted to be, red hair with freckles, and was living in a trailer outside of Jackson, Mississippi, when he died. We're the original Rice Crackers. I'm like a Nissan Truck: conceived in Japan but manufactured locally.

Mom met Dad during the Occupation. She danced at the USO for hamburgers that she'd sneak to my uncles through the fence. She felt "to the victors go the spoils" and she was the best Japan had to offer America so she came here, on the same boat as Helen Keller. Mom thought the brass band at the dock was for the War Brides. Instead all the War Bride's paperwork was messed up and all of them landed in jail until it could be straightened out. Mom met oatmeal for the first time in jail, pregnant with me, my older sister Linda still a babe in her arms. I don't think Mom likes oatmeal to this day for breakfast.

When Mom is drunk she does a wicked imitation of Helen Keller addressing the officials, who couldn't be seen nor heard, but who nevertheless met her when the boat docked. "Why have a band for Helen Keller? She can't hear it, it's stupid." Mom said when she'd finish the merciless imitation. I can see her stabbing out a cigarette still angry at her reception to America.

Dad disappeared somewhere along the way when I was a little baby and it took me until I was 35 years old to find him. Mom didn't speak to me for a couple of years afterward for she had issues about my search for my Dad. She tends to take things personally instead of seriously, but that's Mom.

It was hard for my Mom, being a single mother, having couple of bad marriages, three daughters whose birth gave her no honor. "If I had known I'd have given birth to three weird bitches like you I'd have jumped off the bridge before my first period." She often said in frustration. "We love you too, Mom" we'd reply laughing, but her words still stung.

Sorry is a big deal in a family that's half-Japanese. There's this joke we have in the family that being Japanese means always having to say you're sorry. You're sorry for being fat, stupid and ugly. You're sorry for not being on honor roll. You're sorry that you weren't born a boy. You're definitely sorry to be half-Japanese when being anything else would have been much easier.

Through out my whole life I never remembered my mother ever saying she was sorry, except once. When she did we were traumatized. Linda, Mom and I were talking around my sister's kitchen table late one night. Holidays were always spent at my sister's home in the suburbs because it was a bigger place than Mom's and a much better than any place I had. So after cleaning up after dinner in a way that a Virgo sister would approve of we're sitting there, having tea, munching on Japanese tea crackers. Eating for entertainment as Mom would say.

The kids were asleep up stairs, 5 out of 7 grandsons were there. Mom once said, "If I lived in Japan I'd be given a medal for all these grandsons." I thought to myself, 'Yeah, as they stuffed our sons head first into the mouths of cannons to shoot at unsuspecting neighbors, no thank you.' My brother-in-law was hiding upstairs pretending to sleep just to avoid us.

Mom had this look on her face. A "bikuri" face, scary, like she was about to choke on a cracker.

"What's the matter?" I asked her, ready to do the Heimlich maneuver

She sighs, long and slow, pushing around some tea crackers with her long painted nails.

"I have to say sorry." She says with this pained expression.

"To whom?" I ask. I'm the English Major. I can say "whom" when I wish. Linda shoots me a look as if to say "Show off".

"To you two girls." Mom says. No matter how old we get we're still "girls" and we're always the "two girls". No individuality here, individuality is equal to insanity to Mom. That's why I'm always in hot water with her.

It's really getting bikuri now. Mom never says sorry unless it's for something small like bumping into you in a crowded kitchen. Not for serious stuff, which has always been an issue for me.

"Mom! What's the Matter?" Linda says, half getting up out of her chair. I thought she was going to go over and feel Mom's forehead to see if there was sign of fever.

Mom started to cry. Now that's just the limit. Mom doesn't cry at the drop of a hat like I do. Not like Linda when she's watching sad movies. Now we fear she has cancer or something awful and she didn't tell us in time and now it's too late.

"I'm sorry…" Mom starts, wiping her eyes with a dish towel, "that I was such a coward when you two were young."

Now where does all this come from? Linda was 33 and I was 32 years old. What sort of sad memory from our childhood is she going to dredge up? That she left our Father for no good purpose? That she picked a horrible Step Father for a second husband? That she was a cocktail waitress for 32 years and we had to run the home and care for our little sister at night? That nothing we do is every good enough? What on earth is she going to say "solly" for?

Truth be known, all that Mom had to go through, Linda and I felt took a lot of courage. Leaving Japan when she was a teen-ager. Coming to America and not knowing the language. Ending up in Mississippi where she discovered she was a "colored gal and a Jap." Striking out on her own with two babies. Being the first Japanese woman to be hired at "The Showboat" bar and restaurant. Being the first War Bride in her group of girlfriends to own or drive a car, to own a home, to retire early. Where did she lack courage?

Linda gets up and goes over to hug Mom and Mom shies away. Physical contact with a Japanese parent is a highly choreographed affair. Don't hug the shoulder; touch the forearm, that's enough.

"Mom, when were you ever a coward?" Linda tries to give comfort and is rebuffed with a wave of a dishtowel.

"Mom, you were very brave. You went through a lot that was difficult." I protested, but didn't try to give her physical comfort. I took "Intercultural Communication between Americans and the Japanese" in College. I knew better.

Linda gives up and sits down again. Doing the "Enryo-shimasu", giving Mom space out of deference. I decide to wait until Mom dredges up what ever is giving her that look on her face. We "girls" sit and wait with tight stomachs and pursed lips.

"I want to say sorry for not being brave enough to kill you and your sister and kill myself. Instead I was a coward and the two of you had shitty lives." Mom blurts out looking at my sister, and starts woo hooing in the dishtowel.

Linda jumps like she was bitten by a snake. I have to slap my mouth with my hand and hold it there hard, because I was about to call my mother crazy. Linda and I look at one another in that secret sister eyeball language that says "what's going on, I don't know, is she crazy, go figure, what should we do, you're asking me" all in a glance and a few eyebrow moves.

"Mom, is this some Japanese thing we're not understanding completely?" I ask, keeping emotional distance and hiding behind intellect. Mom's a mess and doesn't seem to hear me. I turn to my sister and whisper, "You got to believe in reincarnation to have these feelings and get away with it." Linda nods in agreement with eyes big as saucers.

"Mom, I'm sure that Nora and I are very grateful that you weren't brave enough to kill us and commit suicide." Linda says slowly, trying to sound sane while stringing those words together. I can imagine how Linda must feel having her life be called "shitty". Linda's been the perfect older daughter, did all that was expected of her, stayed with Mom until Mom's home was paid off, paying half of everything. Linda got a job and kept it, got a working husband and owns a home and rental property, only birthed boys. Where is her life supposed to be so awful? Linda takes things personally too.

This is getting just too surreal and I'm starting to split my personality just to deal with it. I look out the kitchen sliding glass doors. Linda's back yard is butt up against a cemetery. Bad Feng Shui, probably had an effect on that marriage. The light from the kitchen just illuminated the back porch, but you knew the graves were a stone's throw away, in the dark. The darkness was as impenetrable as my mother's despair.

I thought to myself of all the times Mom could have done us in. When Mom walked us along Lake Merritt in Oakland to feed the ducks. When she took us to the beach. When she walked with us along cliffs in Big Sur. When she drove about with us bouncing around in the back seat of that Impala convertible, in the days before seat belts and child safety seats. All the times she said it was OK to ride in the back of the pick up truck of my Step Father. Suddenly a free childhood looked like a reckless childhood, with my mother hoping we'd buy the farm in some accident.

Was she thinking all those times "Should I kill my daughters here?" Then stopping herself not out of concern for our lives but because she was a coward, then hating herself for lacking the guts to go through with it. Does Mom still feel that way? Is that what Mom's been writing in her diary in Japanese all these years? Did Linda and I have such faulty psychic ability never to have felt her dark thoughts?

Now I know I'm an American. It would never occur to me to kill my children because I went through some patch of hard times. I don't have such a low threshold of embarrassment. I would never think of killing myself because things didn't turn out as I had so ardently hoped. This is the land of opportunity and things can always get better. I would feel successful if I did have suicidal thoughts and got over it.

Mom's still weeping. Neither of us "girls" are making effort to comfort her. We don't feel like comforting her. I feel like giving her a smack. I'm reeling with the implications of her confession.

Linda's in shock, probably running through all the possible times when she and I were happily skipping along the beach, hand in hand, oblivious to our Mother's murder/suicide thoughts. If Linda gives it too much thought she'd likely to get angry and start a fight. There's been more than one evening that Linda and Mom's fights have spilled out into the softly scented Fremont nights, entertaining the neighbors on the Cul de sac. "There they go again." Is what I figured the neighbors said to each other while they watched.

It's not just our lives we were reviewing. We have 5 out of 7 grandsons of this crazy woman upstairs sleeping innocently. None of them would have been born had she been brave enough to kill us when we were little girls. I know my maternal protective urges were kicked up a notch at that moment of realization.

I got to do something to stem the tide of this escalating into a family brawl caused by the three of us falling into a gap in intercultural communication.

"Mom, you don't need to say sorry." I tell her. "We happen to like our shitty lives." I couldn't help but start laughing. "No matter what happens we only have to look to you to find our courage and keep on trying. So even though you were feeling like a coward we only saw you as being brave." I was proud of myself for coming up with that round about way of letting her off the hook and still saying what I needed to say. Linda is nodding enthusiastically in agreement, looking relieved at my making effort to stop this conversation.

"Really?" Mom says, sniffling. Leely… her accent echoes in my head.

Yeah, really. Since she never admitted to her lack of courage when we were little we only knew what we saw. All we saw was a woman who didn't take a lot of guff. We saw a woman who left her country and came to a land where she had lost all her previous status. We saw someone learn how to cook, when we knew she had a maid through out the entire war stand in food ration lines for her. We saw a woman who learned how to sew because buying off the rack clothing was too expensive. We had her teach us how to cook, sew, knit and crochet, so we'd be useful. More useful than she was when she got here. We had her teach us origami, ink brush painting and art appreciation so we'd be more than just useful. She had to learn a whole new language and that showed us that there was more than one way to look at life. She did everything she could to support us. We saw her become American when we were raised that way through cultural osmosis.

So as much as I still have "issues to address" with my Mother I realize it's because she's Japanese, who had to become American, and it took a toll on her. I'm an American who has a Mother who expects me to automatically understand what being Japanese is all about, and I have to take College classes to understand her.

This was one situation where I won't accept Mom's apology. I like my life no matter how much it doesn't live up to her expectations. I did share this story with my four sons and they all thanked me for living long enough to birth them because they like their lives too.

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