disclaimer or something

A mummy-hand holding, (former) biker gang affiliating, hippie influenced semi crunchy granola mom's ramblings and reminisings on an off-kilter life

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My mother, the stranger

My mom on the right, at about age 30

One might think I was scared to go to Hawaii in the spring of '45, with the war still raging in the Pacific. One might think I was crazy to leave to a foreign island at age 20, pregnant, alone. But who cared? My brother was in Europe and had survived the war and was already liberating some Jewish prisoners or something, helping rebuild Europe and the like. And I was the unwanted child, adopted and with a feeling I was the second-favorite child. Time to lead my own life as a grown woman! I was going to see my fiancé (he was in the Coast Guard) and have my sweet baby in Hawaii like a proper lady should do. I certainly was not going to do it at home, with my parents, and get judged the whole time.

Hawaii was under martial law, swarming with US military personnel , shipping out soldiers towards Japan and bringing their bodies back, dead or alive. But I didn't think of it that way; instead, that I was to start my life in Hawaii, if only I could get there. Unless you were a military person or family member, Hawaii was off limits.. It looked like I might have my baby in my childhood bedroom after all. No thank you.
One evening, my cousin who was a Lieutenant in the Air Force, came to dinner. I whispered to him, "Can you get me to Hawaii?" And by gosh, he did. Hawaii needed a troop transport plane, and I was the sole passenger surrounded by jumper seats. I even got to steer the plane for a moment, as it soared over the blue expanse of the Pacific. I thought that was quite swell, and I didn't even get queasy, which was a surprise for my pregnancy.
My husband and stayed at some simple hotel next to the stately Royal Hawaiian, both used for military housing. Nearby was a restaurant catering to the more elite men and their wives of the military, the expats, the few wealthy Hawaiian natives, and they were hiring a cocktail waitress. I had never worked before, yet I was bored sitting in a hotel all day while my fiancé did whatever military men do all day. I decided to apply and got offered the job on the spot! While I was too young to drink, and pregnant to boot, I enjoyed the fun atmosphere of the bar, with people winding down and letting loose after all Hawaii had been through, Pearl Harbor and the like. The military men came in crisp and fresh and left giggling, the elite women with their bouffant hair and pearls sipped drinks and disappeared into the night, and I served drink after drink until my shift was up. It wasn't anything too special, living in Hawaii. Sure, I had some fun, but I was to be married and have a family, so I had to act my age, I just worked, went home, slept, and repeated the process. Little did I know, Hawaii would matter to me again.
In summer, I married my fiancé in a simple ceremony at the hotel, with lots of servicemen in attendance. I knew very few at my wedding, surrounded by men in white uniforms. I didn't even write my parents, what with my brother coming home, and me, the second-best child, the Hawaii runaway, pregnant out of wedlock, I was on my own. 

Back in California with my first baby
My husband and I remarried in the states and set up home in California and raised three daughters. When my mother passed in 1977, I decided it was time to find my real mother and father. The Hall of Records was about to close for lunch, and an intern was there who illegally let me look up my birth. I jotted down names, went from library to library, and pieced together my mother's life. She was a social butterfly of the high society, all over the newspapers for being the belle of the soiree so to speak, a woman surely held to too high of esteem to have had little old me. I found the phone number of her best friend of decades, nearly dialed her number, and got scared, Call me chicken ,but after a lifetime of being teased for being "unwanted", I now feared speaking to my mother. My daughter got the guts I lacked, and called, and through the grapevine she found my mother. We spoke on the phone once, and sent a few letters to one another, but after a lifetime without her, what do you even say? Where do you even begin? We kept our letters brief, small talk and simple pleasantries, not like a mother and daughter relationship should be. She was kind of cold and business like, yet took the time to send me a photo of her and return my letters. It wasn't until I penned my second letter to her that the address looked familiar. I racked my brain and was struck with the answer. Her address was a block the restaurant I worked at in Hawaii. Being a social elite lady, I surely can say she came to my restaurant, as it was the place to be in Waikiki, a kind of place she meant to be seen in. But with three decades come and gone, I could not say if I remember her at all. I was young, naive, busy working and planning my life, so the patrons' faces looked all the same. Would I remember a woman with my grown daughter’s frame, my color hair, a familiar giggle? Would she have recognized me, as someone vaguely familiar, maybe reminding her of her sister? If so, she never mentioned it. I likely served her many times, touched my birth mother's open palm to accept a tip. I bet we looked each other in the eye at some time and never knew. Perhaps we were not destined to know, to meet, and to find one another. 

join us at the speakeasy...you know you want to!


  1. What a bittersweet story!
    I enjoyed reading that, was hoping for a happy end ;)
    You describe the different settings very well!

  2. What an interesting twist of fate! And I love the old photos, very cool.

  3. I was also hoping for a happy ending! Very odd to think of the contact without knowing. I liked the imagery you invoked.