Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Auntie M

Tomorrow I am attending a memorial service/celebration for my late Auntie M.
Cousin A, her daughter, told me it has been therapeutic for her to arrange this, finally, since she had been putting it off for a few years - this third and final part of her mother's funeral after the original service and cremation nine years ago.

Auntie M is originally from Japan, as is her sister - my mother. I thought it was a loving and lovely idea, Cousin A wanting to scatter a portion of her late mother's ashes from the shores of Japan, as well as from the California coast. It seems such fitting symbolism to lay her mother to rest at either end of the vastness that bridges our dual heritage.

It must have been overwhelming for Cousin A to go through the funeral service twice, in two different countries. I can't blame her for wanting to take a break, even for more than a few years. She is an only child. She lived with Auntie M after her parents had divorced. To Cousin A, her mother alone was her family.

I feel lucky because I have so many good memories of Auntie M from before Cousin A was born, and also from after.

I was three when I had first lived in Japan with my family, in my mother's and Auntie M's childhood home. We stayed in my Ojii-san's (grandfather's) house near Tokyo, with Auntie M and her two cats, Pipi and Gohn-chan. I remember the two tiny goldfish that had been won at a summer street festival. I remember thinking they were exclusively mine. Auntie M had put them in a shallow but wide dish for them to swim around in. The fish were easy pickings for Pipi and Gohn-chan.

The second time our family lived in Japan, I was 8-years-old. Auntie M took me and my siblings to the circus in Tokyo. I remember that day because my aunt and I discovered then that we had a love of garlic-flavored potato chips in common.

There are photos of Auntie M and Cousin A's father from the day they took us kids to the Tokyo Zoo. And I was a huge Snoopy fan as a kid, so I will never forget the time that Auntie M took us all to see "Snoopy Come Home" at the movie theater. As an American kid who was sometimes homesick, it was a special treat to watch a movie in English.

Auntie M had a very memorable laugh. Truth be told, hers sounded a lot like the laughter of Arnold Horseshack from "Welcome Back Kotter," a kind of repeated honking sound that was half grunt and half gasp. This was way before the first season of that television show. Maybe the actor, Ron Palillo, stole it from Auntie M.

"Why don't you have any babies, yet?" I once asked her (this was before Cousin A was born).
"Becaus-zu," she answered in her heavily accented English, "I hav-oo you and-o you and-o you and-o you."
She said this while pointing to each of us in turn, me and my three siblings.

My favorite memory of Auntie M is how she would lengthen my name by three extra syllables whenever she was exasperated with me. It wasn't deliberate. She would just accidentally begin saying my siblings' names first, starting with the youngest:
"Teh -Ah -Dah - PEE-TAH!"

My middle name is Tadashi, after my Ojii-san, so it is fitting that Auntie M would inadvertently lengthen my name to a form of "Tad Peter."

Thanks, Auntie M, for the great memories, and for spoiling us kids, before and after Cousin A was born.

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