Being a Mama in Japan

After the 9.0 earthquake hit Japan last month, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to be a mom there.

I’d say “I can’t imagine,” but I realize I often say that, and then I find myself imagining.  Sending myself through make-believe scenarios.  Wondering what I’d do if my children were with me.  Wondering what I’d do if we were apart.

I guess when I say, “I can’t imagine,” I really mean “I can’t know.

So when I read Holly’s story about her earthquake experience, I found it beautifully written, and, perhaps oddly — ’cause I’ll admit I’m a weirdo — I found it comforting.  Comforting because Holly’s story means I can cease my imagining and rest in her experience.

In addition to being a beautiful writer, Holly is an artist.  Or, maybe more accurately, in addition to being a beautiful artist, Holly is a writer.  Her blog, Love 2 Scrap in Japan, showcases her truly lovely digital and paper scrapbook pages.

See?  Beautiful.

With Holly’s permission, I’ve reprinted a portion of her April 8th post below, reflecting on her experience being a mama in Japan on March 11, 2011.  I thought you, like me, might find it amazing.

Hugging my kids,


For the Record

by Holly in Japan

I don’t keep a diary. I keep most of my memories instead on scrapbook pages. My blog is about my scrapbooking, so here is where I choose to record my small version of the events of March 11th, 2011. I record this more for me than for others. Because I don’t want to forget. Not that I would. Its not something you forget, much like “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” “Where were you when the space shuttle Columbia blew up?”


Four weeks ago today, at 2:46 p.m. I was home alone, brushing my hair and refreshing my makeup in the bathroom. My work starts from 3:30 on Fridays so I was getting ready for my students. My children get home from school around 3:00. I heard a noise, like a scratching on a window screen. My kids and I sometimes play little pranks on each other when the other is unsuspecting, so I thought my son had gotten home a bit early and was scratching at the window screens near the front door. I kept hearing the noise, expecting it to stop and for him to come in. But the noise just continued. I put down my brush and starting walking toward the front door. It was then, and not until then, that I noticed my Benjamin Ficus tree in the living room shivering. “Hmm, it must be an earthquake,” I thought. You see I’ve been here 19 years now so I have become a bit immune to the little shakes that go on sometimes. The shaking had stopped for just a bit, so I was about to go about my happy little way.


As I was standing there watching my tree, the real quake came. It might have been sudden, but in my memory it all happens in slow motion. My tree – lovingly named Fiona – started shaking in earnest. But it isn’t so much her shaking that I remember, I remember the sound of the walls around me, the ceiling above me. Creaking, groaning. My dining table just to my left shaking, the shaking growing more intense by the second. I was ready for it to stop. I kept waiting for it to stop, but it didn’t. At some point, I no longer felt safe standing there, but had no foresight to run outside. So I ducked under my dining room table. I was on my hands and knees, waiting, waiting for the sound – the horrible sound, the shaking – the endless shaking to stop. I was holding on to my dining room table legs to keep the table over me. It’s a very sturdy table, but it was wanting to make its way across the floor, as if it too were trying to run away. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember was screaming out to God, “Oh dear God! Make it stop! Oh dear God, where are my babies. Oh please, please keep them safe!” The shaking, the creaking, the groaning continued. Tears streaming down my face. Where were my kids? Why was this taking so long to end? And then it did. The shaking of the earth had stopped, but my own body could not. Shaking, crying, praying. I ran out the front door. I needed to find my children.


As soon as I was outside, I was surrounded by other mothers in my building, holding their babies, searching for their children returning from school as well. “Oh wow, that was so scary! Are you okay??? Is your house okay?” That was all we could talk about. Just then I saw my boy. My boy! He came up the walkway, smiling just as he always does. “Cool! Did you feel that?” he said. “Yeah, I felt it,” I answered. “I was over there on the bridge. It felt like I was surfing the ocean at first. But then it really starting rolling like a wave and I got scared and ran off.”


Oh thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for keeping my boy safe. Thank you for sending your angels to hold that bridge up. Thank you!


Back in the house about 10 minutes later. My son and I had calmed down quite a bit. His positive and carefree attitude is contagious and I was feeling better. We had survived. We were safe and as far as I knew at the time the worst was over. Enter my daughter, a little bit late getting back from school. As soon as she walked in the door she started screaming and crying. “I was so scared mommy. I thought I was going to die. I thought I would never see you again.” Just those words opened up my own tear ducts again and all I could do was hold her and cry with her. She told me that she was still in her classroom when the quake struck. The kids have earthquake drills all the time so they know exactly what to do. Duck down, get under your desk. She and a friend were chatting at her desk. When the quake struck, the teacher screamed out, “Get under your desks!” Her friend ducked under my daughter’s desk. All my baby could do was put her head under her chair. She was scared – she told me she was scared that she would be crushed and all that would be left of her was her head. Oh that girl has such an imagination. I wish I could have been there with her. I would have gladly shielded her from anything. At least I could hold her now.


Thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you that my baby girl is safe and back home with me. Thank you that her school walls were strong enough to hold up around her.


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11 responses to “Being a Mama in Japan”

  1. Well well well, what a small world. Holly is a dear friend of mine, and you’re right, she’s uber talented. I read her blogpost the other day and bawled my eyes out. As for Miss Kelleigh Ratzlaff, well you need to keep an eye on that one, or she’ll suck you over to the hybrid side in a snap. 😀 I’m starting to think I’m in good company here. Your regular posts emphasise my own lack of effort when it comes to updating my blog…. must get on to that this week. (Don’t hold your breath).

    • Oh, Jacinda, you are already sucked over and you know it!
      I cried my eyes out when I read Holly’s blog posts, too. I also stalked her facebook wall in March, looking for updates. Holly was my “real person” connection to the events in Japan, so my husband knew exactly who I was talking about when I mentioned that Beth reposted her blog post. I think it’s wonderful that we live in such a small world!!

    • Hooray for the small world!

      And double hooray for sucking people in. 😉

      Gorgeous scrapbook work, Jacinda!


  2. Thank you Beth for putting my version of events here on your blog. You are too kind with your compliments, but thank you SO much.
    Hugs to you,

    Hey Kelleigh! (not that she’ll see this or anything) its because of you that I found this blog!!! (^_^)/

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