“But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in… I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all — it is very tiresome”
~ Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817)
Do you recognize this woman in the statue? How about her child that she is holding? You really should know who these two are, for they have achieved something that regular folks like you or I can only hope to accomplish in our life or even after our death: They have achieved immortality.
The curious part of this story is that this woman never set out to achieve what most folks merely dream of; she never set out to be anything more than "everyday." She never wanted anything more than what most of us want: To just be happy and to have a happy family. She was just a mother. You know her. You loved her, and she loved you. I guess a lot of us would just call her "Mom."
Throughout the history of mankind there have been many men who had their hearts set out on becoming "great." And there are a multitude of statues to them and to their accomplishments. But, when I stop to really think about it, I wonder how many women have been the object of such everlasting dedication as our mother in today’s story? Not many I suppose. Names that come to my mind quickly are Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, or perhaps, Joan of Arc. I’ve seen statues built for Cleopatra. I’ve seen paintings of Queen Victoria and Joan of Arc. I’m sure there must be also a statue standing somewhere dedicated to them.
But the difference between our mom and these women is that these women lead countries and crushed great armies; they built or fought against huge empires; stories and legends grew from their existence. Our mom? No. Nothing as spectacular as that, but she was just as special, if not more, to you or me.
Now do you know who this woman in the statue is? Not yet? Okay, here are a few more hints: She was married to a regular guy (just like dad). Dad worked hard everyday to make enough money to bring home and feed the kids and to try to scratch out a living. But back then, just like now, the economy was bad; so life was rough.
Mom didn’t care much for politics; she didn’t have an especially deep understanding of history and the world — nor did she much care. She had more important things to do than to worry about what was going on in faraway places. She had a family to raise and cook for; she had babies who depended on her for life’s everyday little things.
She was born in the country back in the good old days and moved closer to the center of town as that’s where there was money to be made. Her mother and father wanted her to get away from the hard life of farming and marry a rich man. Of course, she didn’t; she married dad. But that was okay as they were young and in love. And after they were married and you and I were born we were all very happy. Remember?
You do remember those special times, don’t you? Mom was a wonderful person and she was the best mom any of us could have ever hoped for. Sure there were times when things that weren’t all that great, but if you could do it all over again, would you want it any other way?
I didn’t think you would.
Now do you know who the woman in the statue is? She could have been your mom or mine. She could have been anyone’s mom. She is everyone’s mom. The reason that they built a statue dedicated to this particular mom was that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time: She lived in a small town that was famous for craftsman and artisans. It had been that way for a very long time. This small town was part of a larger city. It was in this larger city that dad worked. And it was in this city that the powers that be decided that this mom had to die.
No one knows what happened to dad. No one knows what happened to our other baby brothers and sisters. They do know what happened to mom and our baby brother she is holding: He is already dead. Mom would die a few days later.
And now she has been immortalized in stone. Her face in anguish, she cries to the heavens and asks, "Why?"
And when humanity has vanished and all is said and done; mom will still be there for us speaking mute testimony to the infinite genius, wisdom, and ingenuity of man. For her statue will still remain long after all of us are gone… For mom’s statue stands at Hiroshima.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.