Just Call me Mom

Just call me mom
I would only call her mom for the month but really she would always be mom. I decided to spent some time in China town on the island of Oahu. The place that owns my heart and brings me home from my travels and spend a month capturing photos of China town.

I  started out by walking around China town like I was someone visiting I suppose. That is when I noticed this women just beyond my camera lens but soon she would capture me and that is when I became her student.
Mom was a retired teacher from China and by the time we met her vision was failing and she was almost blind. As I was capturing photo of someone praying  I felt a hand then an arm guiding around my arm and pulling herself closer as if she knew I was now the student.

Most of the time mom spoke Chinese and the few words she spoke to me in english was quiet, listen, look, eat, sleep here and sing and sometimes followed by a few slaps on the back side of my shoulder again followed by a quiet.

Everywhere we visited in China town we were always welcomed. Now, I myself did get some unusual looks like at a wedding celebration, and when a bunch of old men smoking and sitting in a circle when mother left me there in the circle like I was at day care. Yes, I waited till she came back to get me. I was her student.

We only left China town two times. Once we took "The Bus" that's  the name of the bus system. Anyway we rode the bus to the park at the ocean. We walked to the sea wall at Kaka'ko waterfront park. Mom stood up on the sea wall and summoned me to stand on the sea wall with her.
Mom stretched her arm out as far as she could but her reach felt as if she was touching the shores of her homeland and maybe even her students from her past.

Mom begins to sing to the ocean and I could see her tears as I looked towards her from time to time.
As I was slowly reaching for my camera I felt pain across my chest as mom "as moms can do" had drew back and let me have it across my chest with one quick wack followed by the words "sing". Sing what I said. "Sing from your heart" she said.
Well, I didn't know what to sing and my mind went blank for a second but after the next wack two songs came to mind.

Sounds of silence and Over the rainbow.

I went with Sounds of Silence. I had learned to play the song on the guitar when I was young. (here's a newer version) "Sounds of Silence"

Mom sang loud and proud with love to the ocean and in all my glory I was too. I suppose for the first few seconds I was feeling a bit exposed but then I felt the ocean was listening and we were singing our prayers.

The world only existed in China town and whoever you were just beyond china town was not who you were once you came home. You were family or extended family or you could remain a visitor but why would you.

Mother had left China to live with her daughter in Oahu. Daughter had flown home and not returned. I met mom after she realized her daughter was not returning and her vision was almost gone. In her days with me I become her student and her lack of vision retuned in her ability to teach.

She did not need her eye sight as mom had a faith. She just charged forward,  took me by the hand and continued being the teacher.

It took several weeks but we found her other daughter living in New York. One day, one month later almost to the day instead of singing to the ocean we took another direction to the airport and as mom was getting onto the plane I could see her taking the arm of the flight attendant and I knew she had another student.


Derek Wolf

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