Christy Nielsen - A Mother's Day tribute
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother”
— Abraham Lincoln
It’s often said — but bears repeating— a mother is the most important person in your life.
She will influence your character and shape your personality. Many of us are who we are today because of our mothers.
Sadly, not everyone is given a great mom, which is not to say that people with less-than-stellar moms are less-than-stellar themselves. On the contrary, many successful people came from turbulent, abusive homes, and overcoming those early experiences likely made them stronger and more determined to succeed in life.
But, happily, I was given an awesome mom. I’d like to share a little bit of her with you.
My mother got married when she was 18. The wedding was a small, family affair because my dad enlisted in the Navy and was on his way to boot camp. Within the year, she was pregnant with me.
She lived with her parents while she was expecting and, soon after my birth, we moved to Japan, where my father was stationed. We lived in a little house off base in Yokohama. Our Japanese neighbors loved me. They were very taken with my blond hair and loved to touch it. They didn’t speak a word of English, and my mother certainly didn’t speak Japanese, but they got along famously.
I am in awe when I think about my mother making that move to be with my father — she was 19 or 20 with a toddler and a husband who was gone for weeks at a time. She had lived a fairly sheltered, 1960s life. Moving to another country — not England or France or somewhere idyllic, but Japan during the Vietnam War era — seems so daunting to me.
Heck, overwhelming is more like it! How do you buy diapers at the local “kanbutsuya” when you don’t speak the language? She managed, though, and soon my sister was on the way.
Skip ahead a few months: Now she is nine-months pregnant and has a 20-month-old toddler. The Navy base in Yokohama didn’t have prenatal care, so my mom had to travel to the Army hospital at Camp Zama, some 20 miles away.
Keep in mind, this is rural-ish Japan. We didn’t have a car, so going to the hospital required a bus ride to the train station and a journey on the train ending with another bus ride to the Army base. Then, she rode back in reverse order — in the summer heat, not speaking the language, nine- months pregnant and with a toddler in tow. But she did it.
My mother is so many things. She truly is the nicest, kindest person I know. “Nice” is such a bland word, but it carries a huge list of attributes — attributes I strive to follow every day.
Being nice is a big thing for me. When I come home from work a little grumbly, I tell my family it was because I worked at being nice all day. I wish I was more like her in this area.
She is not easily flustered or frustrated, which is a good thing, since she lives with me, my husband and two daughters. Something is always going on in our house. From out-of-town visitors to home improvement projects, she steers our ship.
To say my mother is caring would be an understatement. She cares for all of us daily. She cooks and cleans, and works in her garden when she has time. She cared for her bedridden mother for many years, and then for my father when he was diagnosed with cancer. She does all these things without being asked, without a second thought for herself.
What stands out to me the most is that my mother is brave. I think that’s why my mom’s time living in Japan is so awe-inspiring — it was so brave. Not the hero-comes-to-the-rescue kind of brave but a quiet, inner fortitude type of bravery. If you ask her today how she did it, she’ll tell you in her self-deprecating way, “I was young and stupid and didn’t know any better.”
But I know better. She was brave.
I love you, mom. Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all mothers.
Guest writer Christy Nielsen is production manager at the News-Register, where she’s worked 19 years. She lives with her husband, daughters and mother in McMinnville. In her spare time, you can find her in the garden or at the beach.
CUTLINE: Gayle and Chris Nielsen lived in Yokohama, Japan, with their daughter Christy, lower left, from 1967 to 1969. Their second daughter, Carey, was born in Japan.