Jan 2019 07

Today is the 9th Anniversary of my mother, Yuki Shimamori’s, death. A strange tribute to a very difficult lady that I continue to get to know better even now.

“Hit him! Just give him a good clout, Bert.”

My mother was always appealing to my father for him to dish out some kind of physical discipline on me.

“Oh, and what’s that going to prove?” he’d say.

For what reason, I was never sure, but my mother was convinced that a good beating would knock me into line. Her line, whatever that was. I think I knew early on that there was no pleasing her. And rather than try, I think I caught my father’s sense of wanderlust and this infuriated her even more.

Coming in late, or dirty, or god forbid – just happy. Take cover. Yuki was coming after you.

Whatever it was that set her off, I can say my relationship with her my whole life was very volatile.

She was an angry person. I was 20 before I found out why – her Japanese-Canadian incarceration past. She was sarcastic. Distant. Acerbic. Controlling. Critical… Mean… I could go on and on – because she was a terrible person at times, and I realize I’m a lot like her at my worst (Fuck me, what a realization that has been). She was the most emotional person I have ever known – but certainly not in a loving way.

This is quite a tribute to her on the 9th anniversary of her death, huh?

Anyhow, it became clear to her that my dad was not going to be the disher-outer of discipline. In later years he told me that he once used his belt strap on my sister and I when we were very young. We shared a room at that time, and wouldn’t go to sleep one night, and I suppose my mom sent him in there ‘to be a man’. And he says he saw the sheer terror on our faces after strapping our legs, the look of fear and betrayal, and he swore never to do it again.

So my mother, she took on the role of enforcer with great gusto. It wasn’t random violence – there was always ‘Yuki logic’ for why you were in trouble, even if it made no sense. I can recall spankings, shoes being thrown at me, nails being dug into my arm (those hurt – and that’s some twisted shit), and verbal abuse that I have only relived in some therapy sessions, to be honest.

And then there was the salad tong incident.

Ah yes. The salad tong incident. Nothing would be the same after it.

For the record, I don’t know exactly what I did to set Yuki off that day. I mean, I wasn’t an angel child but I was certainly too young to be smoking, shoplifting, or skipping school at that age when this happened. I think I was maybe 9 or 10.

But her rage was unshackled and I was on the receiving end for some reason.

She was determined to beat me into submission that day. And in our house, just her and I, I ran for cover to escape her. She snatched whatever was closest at hand that looked like it would help her.

A salad tong. The flat spoon-like counterpart to the fork-like one, to be specific. Wooden, about a foot and a half long. She wielded it like a female Japanese warrior and came at me.

She grabbed me by the clothing and hauled me close to her and started hitting me with this salad tong.

Over and over. Whack! Getting hit by a salad tong isn’t like a fist, but each blow stung. Whack! Why did I aggravate my mother so much? Why did she hate me so much? Whack! On my legs. My back. My shoulders. And then my behind.

And then there was a SNAP. And the whacking stopped.

I looked back to see that she was holding a broken salad tong. It had snapped in two from the force of her attack.

My wailing stopped. Her shouting stopped. And we looked each other in the eyes.

And I smiled and started laughing.

I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t laughing at her exactly. I was laughing at the whole absurdity of this situation. I mean who beats someone with a salad tong, anyhow? And the fucking thing broke. It was a shitty quality salad tong.

And amazingly, Yuki started laughing too.

I don’t know why. Was it the same realization I had? Was it her realizing that she was bat-shit fucking weird? Was it her coming to terms with the fact that I was uncontrollable, the world was uncontrollable, and we were just two assholes thrown together as mother and son in a crazy universe?

Who knows.

But we had the giggle of our lives. Literally. Never before or after that did I ever share a laugh with my mother the way we laughed at that moment.

It was a moment full of understanding, and dare I say it – love. Mutual respect. And unexpected joy.

And then it was gone. I never saw it again.

She never laid a hand on me after that day. Oh sure, the verbal abuse kept going. She was still Yuki, afterall. There were no happy endings for her mental health.

But into my teen years, and dealing with her stroke (which made her more nasty), and then her final short battle with cancer – whenever I had trouble dealing with my mom, or needed to find some tenderness for her, I think I subconciously travelled back to that moment and remembered the real person under that terrible, difficult exterior.

If you have ever seen me laugh, and I mean really laugh down to the core of my soul and spirit, and it is rare I admit cause I’m Yuki’s son – I can count the number of times on one hand to be honest – it is all a pale imitation of that salad tong event.

Yuki was awful.

But she had a joyous laugh and enjoyment of life that she hid from the world.

I met my mother that day.

I met myself that day.

In my adult life, I have always made sure to own a pair of very solid wooden salad tongs. I think of her when I hold their considerable weight. They’re for spinach.