Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy (Very Unusual!) Mother's Day

So I called my mom on Friday, concerned that today might get consumed with the mom at hand -- Incredible Wife -- and I might not get a chance to call her before Inside the Beltway time gets too late.

My mom was unusually special; I'll tell you one story.

When I was in seventh grade and we lived in Japan, my mom, brother and I took a trip through Southeast Asia. The last stop was a several-day stopover in Hong Kong; by then we had been to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bankgkok and even a quick airport stop in Saigon, seeing the puffs of bombs exploding as we flew in and out. The war was raging back then, as was evident as we watched the non-stop stream of fighters on the other runway, taking off laden with bombs, landing without bombs.

When we were checked into our room in Hong Kong, Mom gathered my brother and me together and told us she was leaving us alone for a couple days so she could go to Cambodia to see the temples at Angkor Wat.

Let's do one more take on this. The Vietnam war is raging, spilling over into Cambodia, where our Air Force is actively bombing stuff. Two boys, seventh and ninth graders, left alone in Hong Kong, and all that city has to offer. A woman traveling on a journalist visa slipping illegally into Cambodia where, if she was captured, she might be considered a spy.

Why would she do such a thing?

"I was afraid they [as in we, the U.S.] were going to bomb the temple," she said.

That's pretty much her in a nutshell. An adventuress with an unquenchable curiosity, a mother who had perhaps too much trust in the maturity of her sons, and, despite her 20 years as a Navy wife, someone deeply distrustful of America, especially America at war.

I don't think she would have been a mom had she been born later, when not being a mom was not such a big deal, but even so, she did a good job at it, especially her dedication to making her kids worldly, urbane, capable of being ambassadors some day, as was her dreamy ambition as a girl.

As it turned out, she became something of an ambassador. For a few decades, her column in the Japan Times was the most popular English-language column in Japan. It served as a go-between for foreigners in Japan and and the Japanese world.

And as it turned out, her boys became something of ambassadors. My brother now is sake's ambassador to the U.S., finding the finest boutique sakes in Japan and bringing them to fine restaurants here (those he doesn't drink first; pity his poor liver!).

And while less glamorous by far, my ambassadorship is the respresentative of the land developer to the public. I think my brother got the Paris assignment and I got Somalia, but I love my posting nonetheless.

When Mom was about 80, after being divorced for 40 years or so, she got her wish, sort of. She became the wife of a man who was next to the ambassador. Bill was chief of station at two embassies, Rome and Tokyo, the guy who actually ran the embassy behind the figurehead ambassador. [Here's a correction provided by Bill: Small corrections: I wasn't Chief of Station (They are the CIA heads) I was the Deputy Chief of Mission. And I surely wouldn't want to cite the great Mike Mansfield as a political figurehead ambassador. He was probably the most beloved US Ambassador who ever served in Tokyo. In Rome I was just a First Secretary (more or less equivalent to a LtCol) and our ambassador then was career. I was, however, the only contact for the Embassy with the Vatican which was sorta unique. I don't expect your readership will care much about these little professional details but I wouldn't want a former colleague to think I was bolstering my resume.]

I'm very lucky to have been formed so much by the maternal hand of my mother, and one day a year is hardly enough to honor her.