Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday

January's Theme: Personal History

My Grandma * My Mother * Myself
The recent declining health of my grandma has had me thinking a lot about her life. Born and raised on the islands of Hawaii, her world, as a Japanese immigrant, was completely turned upside down after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Folks who one day saw her as a young and vibrant young woman wanted nothing to do with her the next day in the wake of the attack by Japan. But she pushed through, putting herself through college by working in an orphanage and eventually becoming a nurse. After marrying my grandfather, a mainlander, she moved with him to the Midwest where the only job she could get in any hospital was that of a janitor. The discrimination she faced on the islands was miniscule when compared to that she faced on the mainland. Three daughters and a son later, she was eventually able to return to nursing when the family moved to California. Since my grandma worked night shifts, my mom and her sister were responsible for all the household duties of cooking and cleaning. Though my mom married my dad, her High School sweetheart, at a young 19-years old, I suspect she was a much older 19-years old than I was at that age. I am now 32-years old with a 2-year old son. When I was 2-years old, my mom was 23 - just a kid herself - and also caring for a 2-month old baby. I don't know how she did it.
It makes me realize how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be a mom while also pursuing my career path and seeking out creative alternatives as my life's work. I spend my days working on different projects, taking on any kind of creative adventure I can get my hands into. I know that each and every stroke of a paint brush or scratch of lead on paper is a gesture made possible by the lives of my grandma and my mom. Inevitably, as one life reaches its end another begins its great journey. I hope to always have, at the core of my soul, the essence of survival that I associate with the lives of the women before me.
And looking at these photographs, I see something similar in our smiles - the way they lift our cheeks and round out our faces. Even once she's gone, I'll turn to my smile for comfort, knowing that grandma is there saying to me, "Look at that sunset. Quick, Dawn, paint it!"


Josie said...
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Josie said...

That was so beautifully written I almost cried! You may not have to make the same sacrifices your mother and grandmother made, but I can't help but think that the way you live your life has made some of their sacrifices worthwhile. You have managed to create a life that is so balanced it's amazing. I know your mom and grandma could not be any prouder.

mom on a wire said...

That was absolutely lovely. My SPT this week was about my grandma too, so your post really touched my heart. Wonderful.

Thrivikraman said...

Grandma's always leave a story behind them and its always a fact tht their grandchildren, even theor pwn children, realize them and their life only when they are in their last days... But your blog is wonderful ! :)