Lessons for survival for a younger me: The sins of the mother…

  1. Your passport and ID are both a boon and a bust. Keep them close in case you need to get on a plane, keep them hidden in case you need to hide your identity. It might be safer at certain points to ditch them entirely. Your status as illegal as your feet stand on the Earth, and your standing with your children like some motherly sentinel, is extremely dangerous. At any point the world around you might turn hostile.
  2. You will never be allowed to live in peace and safety and quiet – you ran. The time you must spend being tortured and contained in Japan cannot be helped: there is no other way through it. No weeping and gnashing of teeth complaining that it isn’t fair. Fair has nothing to do with anything. Fair will just hold you back. You are forever in exile, and have been your entire life. Nothing new there. Let it go, don’t waste strength on things you have no control over. Instead live day to day in the beauty of moments, and treasure of days. That day you let go past wailing and weeping and protesting and getting yourself wound up in the unfairness of it all, could have been spent walking in Toshimaen with your babies. Don’t waste a single second, mama. Be better than that. Roll with those punches and keep on smiling. Pick yourself up and accept your fate – you will have to eventually anyway, why bother bitching about it so often?
  3. Your name is toast. Let’s face it, girlfriend, your name was dirt from the start. You are going to need a new name. You are going to need a name you tell other people, and not your nickname. You tried on lavishly mundane – Smith, Jones, Carpenter and Tyler. They do not suit you and hang improbably on your shoulders. They sound fake, and you fail to sell them as yours. Ditto first names. Did you ever think you were a Joan? A Mavis? Mia? Lisa? A Melanie for fucks sake! What were you thinking! Use a name you feel connected to, otherwise you will walk the earth wearing a name that makes you wince. Keep a stash of other first names to give strangers, so they don’t have your fake official choice. Make it believable and similar to other women your age. Go classic and forgettable. Names are power, and they will use it against you.
  4. You don’t know the rules of the game – survival. Take as much as you can silently, with a single quiet protest, a “please no.” Then be quiet. You never did fight back, and that was right. Don’t even put your hands up to protect yourself – it infuriates him. Go rag doll limp and in your head curse him.
  5. Bags. You need suitcases and bags. Help yourself out by making sure you have good ones that are always there under beds. Bags, a safe pouch to be worn under clothes for money and passports. You don’t want to be running for suitcases when the opportunity to leave presents itself, or else when you have to get out immediately. You can never have too many bags. You will spend a lifetime living out of bags. Waterproof them, check handles are holding up. Bags are your home. If you ever worry about buying that really good strong bag, don’t. It is vital and money well spent. Ditto baby carriers. You will find the money from somewhere. Get the really good baby bjorn that had the safer fastenings that free up your hands – you will do a lot of running with those babies. Running into the Tokyo streets at night to escape him trying to kill you. Running to airports, running when he ditches you in some place far from home and he runs with your bag and your money. Strollers and heavy car seats are just bulk that is hard to carry.
  6. Remember that photo you took of your Girl, but six weeks old, in her baby carrier, dressed in a matinee jacket you had knitted, and missed some stitches? Try not to leave it behind. It was treasure, and you will have no idea how much you mourn not having that picture – put it in your bag! The same goes for your photo albums, they are not too bulky. Forget clothes, you can get more clothes, take the irreplaceable photos. Your fake-mother said she would care for them and to take the clothes. She lied. She won’t, she will throw them in the trash instead of sending them to you. May she rot in hell.
  7. You will come not to like people in general. That’s ok. But don’t forget you need to sniff out those that will help, and also those that will hinder, or worse, use your situation against you if they know about it. Baby steps. You have to trust someone sometime: you cannot do this alone. Careful who you identify yourself to.
  8. Don’t be surprised by the inhumanity and cruelty of people to other people. This world is a cess pit, at least it will be for you. Be a little more guarded to start with. Keep your light carefully hidden, and your words light and airy.
  9. OK. So you are going to end up in the only place you have support and that is safe-ish for you and the kids, but you won’t be legal. Your plans will all fall through that would have legalized you quickly as you intended. It is going to be the long haul. Deep breath. Staying in Tokyo is not an option. You have to go. Don’t second guess your decisions. Go. You won’t be able to melt in as you thought – your accent will be a source of curiosity to everyone you meet. You have no idea how dangerous you will find that. It pins you down, it identifies you, and they will not drop their questions about who you are, and why are you in THEIR country and when are you leaving. Sweetheart, there is nothing you can do about it. Perhaps you should go with your uncle to Haifa. That is your decision and you chose no. You won’t be asked again. In time your accent will fuzz a little, you will fit in a little better. You are in exile and they won’t let you forget it. Instead meet their questions and their hostility with a straight look in the eye and tell ’em that you married an American. It shuts them up. Mostly.
  10. The ones that want to know your children’s racial heritage are slightly more difficult to shut up. Those you just nod to and smile and walk away. You will curse your dark hair and sallow skin, your green eyes and your somewhat strong features. If you were just blonde and pink and germanic or celtic all would be good, or at least you wouldn’t look so different to those around you.
  11. If you are going to hide from Pig you will need to keep track of where you say you are – which will have to be a lie, and that means keeping a phone with a number listed to a particular state. It might not be the state you are in. Certain providers don’t work across the whole country. Do your research, make your story that you will tell him believable. Make it factually possible.
  12. This goes against everything you will do in an attempt to make sense of it all, but you are going to have to be quiet and nondescript. You will have to tell nobody the reality of your situation. Don’t talk about your family you grew up with, otherwise you risk identifying yourself. Don’t talk about anything deep or meaningful about you. You will have to become grey and missable. Don’t have strong opinions, don’t irritate people who might delve into your past. You can’t help but be friendly, but try oh try to be more guarded! You are too reckless. It is too dangerous.
  13. In Japan you are a freak, an idiot gaijin for the most part. You can still have fun in the times you live for when he is out of the house. In those moments this is your playground. Ride every carousel, hop into piles of cherry blossoms, eat goma dango fresh from the frying oil, throw yourself into the life you can live in the cracks in between his existence in your life. You will spend a lot of life there, and you will come to treasure those moments.
  14. Don’t resent living, you will do it any way.
  15. You are going to get old without a home, without ties, without a base to anchor onto. You will hold onto who remains with every fiber of your being. Don’t give up. I don’t know how it ends, but there is time yet for victory, or at least a measure of success.
  16. Yes I know you loved pretty things, but you are going to be living in forests for five years. Accept sensible boots and waterproofs as essential to life. Slacks and jeans and tee shirts and sweaters. You will not be cool, you won’t even look like you, but you will be safe and dry and somewhat warm or not as the weather demands. Do not kick against the style pricks and end up with a bad case of poison ivy. Trust me, you don’t want to do that. These are not the streets of New York, Dorothy, and you can’t just click your heels together three times and fly away!

You won’t ever find romantic love. OK. Cry now. You won’t. It is best to just forget it. You won’t be able to take any more wounds to your body or psyche. You are just going to have to make it on your own. Curse your name. Any other fucking name, but they had to give you that one. It is ok. You get other gifts.

My heart breaks for you knowing the loss you will have to survive because you have the Boy, and he needs you. He needs you more than a child should ever have to need his mother. He needs you to be ok, he needs you to not give up hope, he needs your to protect him. He needs you not to break down. Hold your head up. Write. Do you what know you can do. Get him through with you. When you buckle under the weight of sadness, remember your beloved grandparents. Think of how your Grandfather would have chuckled at knowing you passed off fake papers to get out of Japan, saying you had permission to take the children. He would have slapped his thigh laughing! You are his granddaughter, and don’t you forget it. “You stole your husbands official seal (his hanko) and you stamped those papers, and found a friendly Japanese man who was dating your friend, to pretend to be him!” You would nod proudly, and tell him they dragged you into the back room of the airport and questioned you but you didn’t break and they had to let you go. He would kiss your head and hold your hands, and know that he didn’t escape for nothing. If you shut your eyes you can see him. The boy is the same age now, as he was when disaster struck and he had to run to France. See him hold his hands out to you, the years melting off him, and tell you that you can do it.

What else…don’t forget that Pig will try to starve you, but you must take something for you to eat, if you beg borrow or steal it. You will have to survive on one meal every three days sometimes, and yes, you will feed the kids first, but you must eat! Go through his pockets and liberate coins, spend 100 yen on a rice ball. You will find the occasional note in his pockets, so when you wash his shirts, search out all the pockets, go into his room when he is out, and hunt for stray money.

When you get the chance to take the children to Disney Tokyo, don’t make noises about detesting Disney. We all know he was a hateful nazi swine. You will have so much fun with the children. Just go and enjoy the day and their smiles. You will be so glad that you did. When they are running ahead of you on Tom Sawyers Island, laughing and shouting and looking for danger in the Fort, jumping on barrels across the water, and hurtling wildly across that summers day, do me a favor and take a photo and keep it with you. Girl’s pigtails flying, and the Boy following her laughing is seared into my mind forever. It was a perfect moment. It made life all worth it. Every single kiss on your cheek, every last hug and “I love you mama”, each and every single little hand in yours squeezed tight will be your treasure and comfort. Oh not to understand that so sharply.

You will pay for your mother’s sins. Try not to hate her for it. You never even knew her.

17 Comments

    1. The Paltry Sum

      I hope so, Sis, I really hope so! I end up trying to gather myself after attack after attack. It gets harder and harder as the years go by. With you by my side, I am immensely stronger. You made me feel accepted again, Ruth. Like there was a hope I would be allowed back into polite educated female company and not shunned, and I love you for it. xx your little sis xxx

      1. nickreeves

        Do you follow Slicethelife / hanspostcard on WP, D? They’re running a neat season of baseball card/players’ nicknames I thought you might be into.
        x

      2. nickreeves

        Lol. Oh, you’ll be in some kinda love there then! Yeah, all good – knackered, but warm. A day off tomorrow, then London for a few days.

        ps. x

      3. The Paltry Sum

        That bad, huh! You might feel right at home here….More work? All work and no play…make Reevesy a sad boy, it would seem. Looking forwards to the nonsense.

      4. nickreeves

        Haha! I could dip a toe in the bay area, no doubt! Yesh…a few more days and hopefully some normality will return next week – I miss the loafing life of the first part of this year…
        ps. thanks. x

      5. The Paltry Sum

        You might not want to tip a toe into the Bay, I dread to think what you might catch. It is truly a toxic soup out there. I watch the swimmers – yes people swim in it, and just wince thinking about the staph infections, ear infections, and goodness knows what else they must pick up out there. They horrify me. Maybe it’s time for a change in career? Dropping out? More loafing less trimming?

      6. nickreeves

        I won’t drop out – it’s almost impossible to do if you cut hair as there’s always someone saying, “Yeah, but you’re still cut mine, won’t you?” haha. I enjoy it as it allows me to be me. It’s just been a full-on return after the season of the loaf! Speaking of which… whenever I visit another barber (It’s nice to be the client sometimes; see what’s what) I have developed the habit of telling them I’m a baker – so as not to freak them out or have to talk about hair or whatever! It has been quite an educational ruse over the years as I have honed up on my baking knowledge so as to seem more authentic LOL.

        Eee! Maybe I won’t swim! The bay here is full of swimmers every morning summer or winter, though the winter swimmers are pink in colour on the exit from the water, they always seem extremely happy..Hm…
        🙂

      7. The Paltry Sum

        I guess there is no accounting for the masochistic swimming habits of others!
        You tell ’em you are a baker! Do you enjoy baking? I bet you go home and snip away a little….My son has strange hair – the front is frizzy curly, the back hedgehog straight Asian type hair with fine western strands mixed it. It always ends up looking like a mushroom, and I always ended up fixing it. Poor kid!
        One of the girls here I know cuts hair, I got her to look at the back for me, and fix the edges. It was very nice of her. I was very happy to get her approval, not a terrible job, apparently.

      8. nickreeves

        …’Maybe it’s time for a change in career?’ 🙂

        I have baked the occasional cake and I recall a short-lived period in the 90s when I baked bread unsuccessfully! But at the barbers I big it up like some pro! I live on the thrill that one day some barber is going to say something along the lines of, “Ah, my daughter is getting married. Would you bake the wedding cake?” !!

        I once burnt my hand, briefly and nothing too serious, as I took my dinner out the oven one night and, after swearing, my first thought was that I could show the barber, quite nonchalantly, as some kinda validation of my profession!

        Well, you gotta have a hobby, ain’t ya! x

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