In the mad rush to celebrate our mothers, I forgot to mention my two grandmothers. Both, in my opinion, were pioneers, and adventurers in a strange, new world. Both were here by arranged marriages back in Japan. Neither spoke a word of English when they reached San Francisco or Seattle via ship. I cannot imagine what they must have gone through.
I know more about my fraternal grandmother, Yuki, since they lived across the street from the time I was born until I left for UC Berkeley in 1964. Perhaps most astounding, is that she took care of us four children for almost two years while my Mom was hospitalized in Auberry at a tuberculosis sanitarium. She rose to the challenge, taking care of four children, with myself the oldest at 7 years of age!
Another great memory of her was her small chicken coop in the backyard. We loved to watch her catch a chicken, chop the head off with an axe, and watch the chicken flop around the yard. Then she dunked it in a big pot of boiling water, de-feathered and gutted it. And how we marveled when she found an egg inside!! She was a great cook, but where in the Kingsburg countryside did she learn how to make American staples like pot roast, fried chicken, fried steaks, along with traditional Japanese dishes?
Another rare occurrence is that she was a twin. Her sister married my grandfather’s older brother, who became a Buddhist priest. As the oldest son, he followed the family “business” of the church, leaving my grandfather to come to America at the age of 16. In an ironic twist, they were childless, and the church ended up in the hands of my grandmother!!
On my Mom’s side, things were much different. My maternal grandmother, Takano, was a nice lady but experienced many health issues during her life. She lost her husband, and a son early in her marriage. She went on to raise the remaining three children, my Mom and an older sister and younger brother. They had a farm in rural Sanger, and managed it before, during, and after the war years, thanks to a family friend and the Sorenson family in Parlier.
She often suffered from migraine headaches, not the least of which occurred when my parents eloped from the Gila River Relocation Camp in Arizona to get married in Phoenix. Yet, she might have been the strongest woman I have ever known. Running a farm, raising three children, in pre and post war times must have been life’s greatest challenge. She had a strong faith in God. And she loved all of us grandkids unconditionally.
These two ladies, “obachan” in the Japanese language, were quiet, strong, loyal, generous, and loving. I can only hope some of their qualities have been passed through me to my grandkids.