MOMENTS OF WONDER

A few days before Mother’s Day I came across this photo in my mom’s photo album. Although, taken a few(ahem) years ago, I still remember telling my mom that I had to dress up for Sunday School for her “Mother’s Day surprise card” (I’m much better at keeping surprises/secrets now though).

A few memorable Mother’s Day moments for me are from my first one as a mom.  Two weeks before this Mother’s Day, we had pictures taken of three generations-my mom, my daughter(6 months old), and I. On Mother’s Day, my daughter sat up by herself for the very first time! My parents also drove 40 minutes to my house to hand deliver their first Mother’s Day card to me. We had my mom and mother-in-law over the day before to celebrate them, but my mom insisted on handing it to me on the actual day.

Mother’s Day is also observed in Japan. In 1914, Christian missionaries introduced the second Sunday in May holiday. During WWII, the Japanese government briefly halted this celebration due to it being a western tradition. But now it is celebrated with cards of thanks and carnations are a favorite for this holiday because it is a sweet, enduring flower-like a mother’s love.

This was the second Mother’s Day without my mom, yet I still woke up with the notion to call her and then felt the now familiar ache in my heart when I realized I couldn’t.

I still have many moments like that, especially after I’ve discussed her book with a class or read an email from readers who say the main character Yuriko, is an inspiration to them. I’d like to share one of these recent moments:

Mrs. Park, a wonderful teacher at Cheatham Elementary School in Springfield, Tennessee, wrote me to say that her class read The Last Cherry Blossom, and enjoyed it. Not only that but, they had received a grant from the Dollar General Corporation, and they chose to buy a hard cover copy of TLCB for 125 Fifth Graders with this grant!! I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that-what an honor. If that wasn’t enough, she shared the various projects they did in relation to my novel. Here are a few of them: they learned to write their name in Japanese. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know how to do that, until my daughter recently showed me.(I also can’t cook rice on the stove without over or under cooking it.My mother loved teasing me about this-but that’s what we have rice cookers for, right?) 😊 The class learned about tea ceremonies, and how to use chopsticks.

But what made my heart melt, was when they told me they made origami flowers in honor of my mom for Mother’s Day!

I, of course, wanted to meet and thank this wonderful teacher along with her fantastic students. I arranged a Skype visit with the entire fifth grade class. My biggest Skype assembly yet! I’m very grateful to Mrs. Park for choosing The Last Cherry Blossom and the time she put in developing a lesson plan around it in the midst of standardized testing.

Visiting with students/readers is one of my favorite things about being an author. I’m so grateful for programs like Skype and Zoom that allow me to virtually visit schools that I can’t physically visit because of pain or monetary cost.

The awe I felt when I visited with Mrs. Park and her class reminded me of my mom’s feelings when I showed her the publication contract for my book. She was completely amazed and wondered why anyone would want to read a book based on events in her life. I hope that she looks down from heaven and she now can see why her story is important. That by talking about what she went through on August 6th can make a difference in the way people may view nuclear weapons. Readers can learn that she and other children in Japan had the same hopes, fears, and dreams as the Allied children had.

Each of us have had a mother or a mother figure in our lives that has given us an example of strength that goes beyond expectations. It happens even in the most mundane tasks that are done for the ones we love. Because some days the ordinary tasks can take extraordinary effort to push through any emotional or physical pain. It wasn’t just the fact that my mother survived the bombing that made her strong (although definitely a big part of it), but that she fought through her emotional pain so she could love and take care of me, and later my daughter. She risked opening her heart to love again, despite her constant fear of a loved one suddenly being taken from her.

I’ve been having more bad pain days then good, but on Mother’s Day I had a wonderful day with my daughter who introduced me to her new favorite drink-Boba. For those of you who don’t know what Boba is (and I was one of them), Boba (also known as bubble tea) is a Taiwanese cold tea drink. It comes in coffee or fruit flavors. The bubble is the tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink. It tasted okay, but sipping a drink and then having to chew the tapioca bubbles confused the senses. Or at least confused mine 😊. But it was fun to try something new. The best part was knowing she still loved having our mom/daughter days even though she’s a junior in college. It has become one of my new favorite Mother’s Day moments.

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SECOND TO NONE

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, hopefully you missed them. 🙂  I had been dealing with a lot of firsts: my first birthday without my Mom, first Mother’s Day, first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and her first anniversary in January. It took (and still does) grief therapy sessions, prayers, wonderful family and friends to help me make it through them. Not only that but they reminded me of the grace and joy still in those very days.

In the midst of these firsts, I began my first major round of edits for THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, with my publisher. It excited and overwhelmed me. Excitement because I knew that meant I was on the road to publication. That said, upon opening the Track Changes editing program with its maze of lines and comments, I did what any dedicated author would do. I closed it. I Grabbed a paper bag and began hyperventilating into it. My one thought- I was not capable of writing an email, never mind a blog post, and certainly not a novel.

But, I then made a batch of crispy rice treats, hot cocoa (to soften the blow) and opened it again. I read one comment at a time, instead of all at once (I ran out of paper bags). My editors were so helpful with their comments and directives for new scenes. They also had a lot to say of what they liked-that renewed my hope.

An interesting thing about the timing of these edits, aside from having a tight deadline around the Christmas holiday, recovering from a pain flare, and researching for the new scenes(OK I did enjoy that), was I could visit with my mom once again. I looked through some of my research books and found notes of questions I had meant to ask my mother but never got the chance. But I also found information about her family tree that I had forgotten about.

I could hear the catch and tremble in her voice when she recalled the sad, horrific times. But I could also hear her voice retelling me the joyful loving events of her childhood. I could see the smile on her face and the love shining in her eyes. I remembered the long and tight hugs she would give me afterwards.

So as I approach the second Mother’s day without her, I realize that with each presentation I give, with each person who may read my book, with each hug I give to/receive from my daughter, and with each pain flare I get through, my mother’s love and perseverance are there. These realizations do not erase the ache of losing her. But knowing and remembering that she will always be with me, begins to fill some of the cracks in my broken heart.

the three Ishikawas

Happy Mother’s day Mom, with love from your daughter & granddaughter.

And Happy Mother’s day to all of you Moms out there!

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