When it comes to family history, what I think of immediately is how my mother and father got together.
My father had a store in Steveston, on Moncton Street, a grocery store, and of course, he couldn’t… he was first-generation Canadian, so he couldn’t speak English that well, and he did have—well, they were called hakujin. Or white. I shouldn’t say “white,” but haha!—uh, Caucasian customers would come in, but he [my father] wouldn’t know, he didn’t know what they were saying sometimes. ‘Cause he wasn’t proficient in English. So, he asked a nakodo to find him a wife who spoke English—and Japanese! So, the nakodo found my mother, Ruth Oyama, and they, my mother and father, were married [in Steveston]. So, she could deal with the Caucasian customers, and my father could deal with the Japanese fishermen. I thought that was interesting.
It’s interesting to me because I don’t know how that came about—their relationship, I mean. And how they felt about each other? Or I guess they… they were alright with it because they did get married. But I always wondered, afterwards, how they felt, after the fact. It looks as though it turned out fine. And they had six children. But they were so far apart, in, um… custom? ‘Cause my mother went to high school up to Grade 11, until her father died, and then she had to go to work because her mother had died a long time ago, from cancer. They [Ruth Hamaguchi’s (neé Oyama) parents] both died from cancer. But I wondered how, you know, the two of them… sooo wide apart in… well, in everything, almost!
Because apparently—or, well, I don’t really know, because he didn’t practice it—but I thought my father was a Buddhist. And my mother’s father was a Minister—or, somebody said he was a Brother, one down from a minister—and, of course, they [Ruth’s family] were Christians. So, I’m wondering… what they thought, how they thought, after a while. They had to get through with six children! There’s no other way to think about anything but to survive with it! But after a while, you know, I wondered: how did I get to this point? sorta thing. But of course, I never asked them, so…
When I was growing up, I really didn’t think too much about it. They seemed to be getting along fine, and I guess… I guess I was just too wound up with my own life that—you know, you don’t think about how your parents are coping? You’re trying to get on with your life, at least when you’re in your twenties. But um, you do, after the fact, after you have more time to think about it… then, you think about these things.
I wonder how they… how they were, and how, what they think… you know, about it, after… um, everything happened, you know, so… but those are questions you don’t know!