Growing up, my mother equaled my nightmare. We disagreed and fought. She loved ocha (tea ceremony), but I hated it. She often ended up saying to me, "I told you so."
I was like a young Amy Tan in the piano-lesson scene in "Joy Luck Club." In the scene, Amy starts crying while her mother presses on. She cries, cries, and doesn't stop. I didn't think the audience sympathized enough with her. That could be traumatic, I thought. I was her age and trying to keep my composure day after day. But if you put more and more air into a balloon, it goes "pop." So one day, I could no longer hold it. I burst into tear and cried as loud as I could so that all my neighbors would hear, and I was sure a good neighbor would come and rescue me. But not one neighbor came to help me.
That's why I came to the U.S. and didn't go back. I've written similar stories also in Japanese, but a Japanese writer friend of mine in Japan said, "You don't have to write about your own mother that way," and the rest of them gave me no straightforward opinion even after I had given them my detail reviews on their stories. They only said thank you, but didn't reciprocate.
I don't need negatives, so I continue to write in English. For twelve years, I've been writing and writing about my mother, and I'm still writing. By now, I should be really sick of it, but I'm still writing this minute. That's because I'm like her.
This morning, my daughter called me from San Francisco and gave me her advice. My son hasn't called because he has many mothers to take care of. It's possible he might forget completely. I like my daughter better this moment even after the advice.
For a few days, I was thinking about uploading my mother's photo to my blog and writing a fresh situation. Then, Japanese sentences popped up in Red Room. I clicked Eve Kushner's blog, "COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING: PART 3." It said, "Compare Your Height with Penguins." I love penguins, so I clicked again, and before I knew it, I was reading a user's and Eve's comments on a kanji 麤 (so or arai). A single kanji 鹿(deer) is written three times. Two deer are standing below and one deer, on top. Not penguins.
I've never used that complex kanji麤 before, but when I was young, I used the word "arai." I used to make up words and "arai" was probably the last word I made up. It means rough. So I became even more curious.
I was in the sixth grade. I don't remember exactly how I used it, but I was describing either about a consideration or feeling, not an object. My mother said,
"What did you say?"
"Arai," I mumbled.
"We don't say that. Where did you hear that? There's no such word."
"No? I thought it did."
"You made up a word again, didn't you?"
I blushed. Up to that time, she used to let it pass, but that day, she nailed me. That was probably because I was doing that often. The word felt just right to me, but I knew in my heart that nobody used it the way I did. I thought I shouldn't play this game anymore. After all, I was going to be a junior high school student soon.
Anyway, I looked up the word in my electronic dictionary yesterday. To my surprise, the way I used the word "arai" exists, and it gives sample sentences from a thousand year old stories, "Utsuho Monogatari" and "Makurano Soushi." Those stories preceded "Genji Monogatari." What a coincidence! My mother loved coincidence. I was using an ancient word with my mother. What a magic! I felt and still feel "Arai" simple compared with most-frequently-used words as "Araarashii" or "Oozattsupa" or "Kimekomakakunai." Well, Mom, I told you so.
Happy Mother's Day.