Post Script: Contending with Fardles

I really appreciate all the kind comments to my glum post this morning. After I wrote it I got the idea that maybe I should tackle a doable project that’s been weighing on me emotionally and physically (to some extent) so I headed out to the garage.

I imagine we all have sadness and disappointment in our families. I have a niece I love very much but who has disappeared from my life completely. I worry about her, but I can’t find her. I know where her mother is, but her mother is mentally extremely fragile and her mother’s husband is a combination of carer and and and? I don’t know, but I can’t reach her through him. I guess they don’t really want to hear from me which is OK. BUT. My mom put together two beautiful photo albums — one for each side of my family; her family and my dad’s. They were for my niece.

This past week, a blogging pal wrote about finding a lot of random old photos in a Goodwill store. She wanted to know the stories. That made me think of a photo album my neighbor found long ago in a dump in a nearby city, an album from WW I with scenes of an army guy (the owner?) in Italy and various other places. The photos in that old album were wonderful, but I felt a little weird, a little like a voyeur. Anyway, I have had those photo albums on my mind for a while. Those and all the letters between my parents when they were young and in love, just starting their lives. With them I thought of my Aunt Jo who burned all the love letters between her and my uncle to protect their privacy. So, today I went through (and emptied!) 2 bins of family memorabilia and got rid of half of my Christmas decorations. I don’t put up a tree so????

I contacted my cousin’s daughter and asked her if she’d like the album from our mutual family. She was so happy to have it. I seriously feel like a huge burden has been lifted from my spirit. I’ve wrapped it up in brown paper and it’s on its way tomorrow. My cousin’s daughter also wanted a little nativity I bought in Mexico for my mom.

As I worked, my spirit felt progressively lighter. I have no problem tossing the contents of the other album after I take some photos to put on my Ancestry tree.

When I finished these labors I thought, “OK. Everything left is just my life,” and that’s, I think, how it should be and I’m a LOT less glum.

Another thing I found is a small silk mass-produced tapestry of a scene, I think in Hangzhou. In itself it might not be anything special, but its story is. When I was teaching international students in San Diego in the late 1980s I made friends with a Japanese student who had been a cook in a Chinese restaurant in a resort in Hokkaido. He rented a room from the Good X and me for a while which was great because he cooked. 😀 Anyway, his father and his father’s friend came to visit.

I was nervous. These men were both WW II Veterans from the OTHER side. Aki had warned me that his father was very old fashioned, very conservative and hated Aki being in the US with the “enemy.” I knew a lot more about the Chinese Anti-Japanese war than did most Americans and I wasn’t sure about having a Japanese soldier in my house. It was a little weird.

We picked them up at the airport. Aki’s dad was rigid but Japanese friendly/polite. His friend? Wow. Friendly, open, curious, outspoken. The first thing Aki’s dad did was walk through my (large) garden which was designed in a semi-Asian style (homesick). He came in the house and said, “I had no idea Americans garden!!!” The friend saw some of the Chinese hangings I had at the time (lines of calligraphy from friends in China). He said, in pretty good English. “You know China?”

I said I’d been there a year. Then he told me he’d been a guard at a POW camp. He was 18. He didn’t understand why the Chinese were enemies of Japan. Some of the guards were Chinese. The friend said a lot of things, including that Japan’s culture came from China (not totally true, but…) I can’t remember everything, but they made me think about the war — history in general — differently. I began to understand something about the intense worship many Japanese had of the Emperor and that while sides are enemies in general in particular? Maybe not. We all know that, I guess, but hearing it from this man was very special. “I had a Chinese friend at the camp. I like Chinese.” He had even been back to visit.

Their visit ended with the usual journey to “Glando Canyono” and “Ras Vegas.” Months later I got a package and thank you from Aki’s father’s friend. I opened it to find the small tapestry the Chinese man had given him. It’s a real treasure and I thought it was long gone.

Oh and yet another draft of the Pearl Buck Project… THAT’S hopeless.

Here’s a photo of the edge of the tapestry telling where it was made.

11 thoughts on “Post Script: Contending with Fardles

  1. There is a lifting-of-the-burden feeling when you finally toss things, but it is no match for the satisfaction of gifting things to people who you know will enjoy them. Isn’t it strange how certain things weigh on us emotionally? I know that feeling, and to have it lifted is an untold joy. Finding that tapestry–what a treasure, Martha.

  2. About your silk embroidery: as you said correctly, it shows a motif from Hangzhou, specifically the Nanping evening bell (南屏 晚鐘 Nán píng wǎn zhōng).

    It comes from the time when China tried to gain a foothold with handicrafts again. This kind was mostly sold in the friendship shops – you must have seen something like this in Guangzhou. In my collection of obscure stuff from China I have a portrait of Stalin of the same kind.

    Your guest’s statement about the roots of Japanese art and culture in relation to China is probably more correct than most of us realize. Sure, many areas have undergone significant changes over time or have acquired a certain life of their own, such as the tea ceremony or No theater (Japanese 能), but here too the common is stronger than the individual form of the performance.

  3. I’m sorry about your niece, Martha. I hope she’s safe. I love the wave of emotion I ride in your writing (it’s a good ride that has nothing to do with hormones, lol). From a tear of understanding family situations, to my complete awe in old photographs and beautifully stated perfect pieces of culture, to the amazement of your experiences~to which I always grin. And in it all I always learn. It’s so beautiful to pass things on~to surrender “stuff” that can eventually, and slowly, suffocate. When I uncluttered my soul and houses to move into an RV for 4 years I finally felt free~all that remained was me. All that remains with you is you. 💛❤️💚🤗

  4. I liked the story about your Japanese guests. I imagine that many soldiers who find themselves in that situation don’t really understand why they are fighting people who don’t seem so different from themselves.

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