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Museum Blog: On mothers, history and current events

It is May; Mother’s Day month. Many of you know that I have two wonderful children and one super wonderful grandson. But in thinking about mother’s day this year, I have to focus on a recent conversation I had with my son, Aaron.

I get this phone call from him one afternoon. He is all excited about the fact that they have opened up the application process to select 40 people to be part of the Mars exploration team. He tells me he is going to be working on his application this coming weekend and when I ask about how long he would be there, he replies, “Mom, it’s a one way ticket. I wouldn’t be coming back.”

My mother’s heart almost stopped on the spot. Never coming back? How would I be able to handle that?

Then I started thinking about all the other mothers throughout decades and generations of history that have stood and waved good-bye to their sons (and daughters) as they left for some unknown far away adventure.

For some, it was to get on a horse or into a wagon to begin the journey west, most likely to never return to the home of their birth. For countless others, it was to send their children off to serve in the military or to serve as missionaries in some far away country, all the while wondering about their return.

Then I think about this quote by Mrs. Itsu Akiyama.

“We sent him off at the front gate. I don’t know when we’ll ever see him again because he’s going to the war. I told him to be careful. We shook hands. When I’m alone in the room, the tears just come and I don’t know what to do. I pray and pray to God to have him come back to his mother alive. I trust that God will help me.”

– Itsu Akiyama (speaking of her son George as he left to fight in the 442nd Battalion, WWII), reported in the Hood River News Panorama 1996.

But for so many mothers over so many years of saying good-bye, I think if we truly love our children, how can we deny or not support their decision to do something bold and big with their life. How can we say to them, “don’t reach for your dreams because I just can’t bear the thought of you going?”

No, we set aside our personal emotions and recognize with pride that we have raised them to do something that most would not even consider attempting. And it’s that “pioneer” spirit that truly built this nation.

How would our history have been different had the mothers of Abraham Lincoln or Amelia Earhart or Samuel Coe not been willing to let their children go?

As we celebrate this month of mothers, I also think about a statement in an article that I came across recently while doing some research for a museum visitor.

In a Hood River News article (date unknown – but historical context puts it during WWI), Mrs. Gertrude Ingalls, spoke on the “Awakening of the Women of America.”

In the course of her address she said, “When in years to come the story is told of how the last and greatest war of the world was fought and won, it must be related how the women of America gave up luxuries, comforts, necessities even, to cheer and sustain their men and their allies while they freed the world from despotism.”

My personal feeling is that we, as citizens of this great nation, and as members of this community, need to recognize that there is nothing that we are experiencing right now that is any different than what our county has gone through for the past 237 years.

There have been other times in American history when we have struggled with economic crises and divided political opinions. Yes, the names and places and individual incidents might be different, but we all travel through life with it’s ups and downs and valleys and mountain tops just as our forefathers and foremothers did for generations before us.

What encourages me personally is to not just recognize that concept but also to embrace it as a reality of my life. Nevertheless I also want to tap into those old time values such as resilience, perseverance, faith, kindness and hope. And then maybe – just maybe – I can make a difference somewhere, somehow.

What better place to connect with the strength and stories from our past than at The History Museum?

We’re open on Mother’s Day and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by bringing the whole family down to see first hand the stories of some mothers from the past.

Come and learn the story of Martha Alick. Listen to the story of our Japanese American neighbors during WWII. See the story of the early orchard century farmers. It’s all here to explore and enjoy.

Be sure to visit our website (www.co.hood-river.or.us/mu-seum) for details on special events for May and June and also information about Cemetery Tales coming up in September. Like us on Facebook or Twitter to get weekly posts and notices about everything that’s happening at The History Museum.

For Mother’s Day this year maybe I’ll get a telescope so I can watch Mars a little closer.

That’s all for now ... from my desk.

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