Thursday, March 27, 2008

a life in beautiful tissue paper- slice of life day 25

It' s tax season and I came home to research some information requested by our tax guy, dreading this homework with a capital D. I hit the file cabinets, the piles of folders in the corner, the loose papers that have yet to be filed and anything else that looked like it had numbers and the date 2007 on it. Just as I was getting overwhelmed by the paper artifacts of our fiscal life I found some paper that completely took my mind off my chore.

I have a thing about paper. I like good paper. And not so good paper. I hold myself back when I see a new design at a stationery store. I have a collection of stationery and cards that was probably started 25 years ago. I have just the right color, texture and quality to fit any hand written message. I come by it genetically. Japanese paper makers have crafted beautiful papers from the most interesting plants for thousands of years, the finest still used for conserving and repairing the most delicate and historical of items. The papers I found were in a faux wood grain vinyl (remember when that was popular?) portfolio with an insurance company's name on it. I unsnapped the binder to see numerous opaque, sleeved pages filled with sheaves of brown and white tissue paper, neatly lined top to bottom with kanji, hiragana, and katakana in beautifully handwritten columns of print. Japanese writing has no spaces and is very difficult to read. I don't read Japanese but I know it is a mix of three main systems. Kanji is borrowed from the Chinese; Hiragana and Katakana (kana for short) represent endings and phonetic symbols and combine to produce an artform of expression. This art was written on the softest, thinnest paper I've seen.

The old portfolio contained my mother's somewhat faded, worn-edged family documents. I forgot I had them. I haven't looked at these items for at least fourteen years; the last time was when my mother died and I really didn't look closely then. I easily put aside my work to leaf and read through my mother's papers. Her Japanese passport, issued in 1959 just before she traveled out of Japan for the first time to come with her husband and daughter to the United States, contained the story of her travels in stamped dates and curvy signatures. Her birth certificate and marriage certificate were there. Her divorce papers were there. Her U.S. Citizenship certificate was there, which she finally sought, studied for and earned after living in the U.S. for thirty years and after her divorce. She had stashed her children's and grandchildren's birth certificates, our religious education documents and my college graduation announcement in the portfolio. My favorite find was her adoption papers. These multiple, odd sized pages are translucent tissue paper, partially hand stamped with an ink template and filled with a handwritten narration about her adoption. At some point after living in the states and not keeping in contact with her family through many military family moves, she lost contact with her sister (also adopted) and parents in Kyoto. She made an effort to find them in the early seventies so I got to read the translated documents from this attempt. I can see her birth parents names revealed as well as her lineage back to both sides of her birth and adoptive grandparents. I'm very curious about her seemingly open adoption. I didn't appreciate her history when I could have asked about it. Now I suddenly want to know about that and more.

Mitsue's life deserves a post all of its own. I didn't know that until this slice came my way. The proverbial flood of memories flowed out of all that gorgeous paper and now I really have to do something with it. Maybe some non-tax research?


Snippety Gibbet said...

What a most fascinating glimpse into your family history. Thanks for sharing it.

Cathy said... exciting! I hope you save and preserve those documents!

GirlGriot said...

Wow, this is really amazing. Clearly, this was the right moment for you to rediscover those documents. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your experience.