Mayo Jar, Christmas & Moving

Posted in Love Letters | 4 comments

Oriental lights

October of 1969, was passing by quickly for Frank and me in Okinawa.  We had met lots of couples who lived around us in off-base housing and had become friends with an Okinawan family that lived across the street from our home.

Sometimes while Frank was at work, I would see the Mamasan cleaning her home after her children and the Papasan had left for work.   She would drag all of their furniture out into the yard, then sweep and washout the whole house.  All of the mats that they slept on were shaken and then hung out on the fence to air.

The Mamasan did not speak very much English, and all I knew in Okinawan was “Moshi Moshi”  which meant “Hello” on the telephone, only when I said it sounded more like “Mushey Mushey.” Still, somehow we learned to communicate by using our hand gestures and smiles.

One day, she invited me to come into her home then showed me all of the rooms inside.  It was indeed an impressive sight.  The family did not have beds to sleep on or chairs to sit on.  Beautiful mats were on the floors in all of the rooms in the house and a short-legged table which was big enough to seat the entire family around it, set in the largest room.

Mamasan was very sweet, but Papasan had a little problem, which was his love of sake’.

The Mayo Jar

Frank was working days, which meant he had to get up very early in the mornings to get to work at Torii Station. We had gone to bed around 10:00 p.m., but in the wee hours of the morning, we were awakened by pounding and yelling sounds coming from outside the house.

Frank and I got up, looked out of our bedroom window, then saw Papasan beating on the metal door to his home across the street from our house.  Papasan was yelling loudly at the door. It was very evident that Mamasan had locked her husband out of their home and for a perfect reason.  Papasan had a Sake bottle in his hand and was very drunk.

Amused, we watched from our bedroom window for a while, but after he sat down in front of the door, we went back to bed. Just as we were falling back asleep,  new noises started from outside.  Our front gate was shaking, there was singing, and Ralph was loudly barking all of which woke us up again,

We jumped out of bed and looked out of the bedroom window again.  Papasan was awake, shaking our gate, and singing loudly. Finally, after a few minutes, Papasan stopped shaking our gate, walked back to his home then sat down in front of the door again.

After calming Ralph down, we were headed back to bed when suddenly we heard a bottle crash against our fence.  Evidently, Papasan had finished drinking his bottle of Sake’ and had decided to throw the empty bottle at our fence. Not amused, Frank got out of the bed then walked out of the bedroom, heading into our kitchen, telling me, “Nancy, I have had enough of this!”

Sake' Bottle and empty Mayo jar

The “Sake’ Bottle Mayo Jar War” in Okinawa 1969

I followed Frank to the kitchen to see what he was doing.  He opened one of the kitchen cabinets then took out an empty Mayo Jar that I had washed and saved.   I asked him, “Frank, what are you doing?”

Definitely, on a mission of his own, Frank did not answer me but just laughed as he walked to our back door carrying the Mayo jar in his hand, opened the door, and went outside.  I followed closely behind him because I knew he was fixing to do something that would either go horribly wrong or be totally amazing, but either way very memorable.

After he was outside, Frank sat the Mayo jar on the roof then he climbed himself up onto the flat roof of our home.  I could hear him quietly walking across the roof to the front of our home suddenly there was a loud crashing sound,  lots of loud laughter, and Frank came running across the roof of the house and jumping off the roof then he grabbed my arm pulling me into the house with him.

I asked him, “Frank, did you hit Papasan with that, Mayo Jar?”

Frank replied, “Nope!  I threw it like a football with a lot of high arc on it.  It landed just far enough away to scare him but not close enough to hurt him.  He won’t be messing with the fence or the gate anymore.  He probably thinks that jar fell from the sky above.”

We did not hear any more noise from Papasan the rest of the night, which was an excellent thing. The next morning,  I went outside to clean up the glass on the road and discovered Mamasan outside beginning to clean the glass up too.

We worked together, getting all of the glass picked up and laughing together without any words spoken. After all, we both knew what had happened the night before with our husbands having  “The Sake’ Bottle Mayo Jar War.”  Of course, no record of this short war recorded, so it will not be in any History books, but believe me, it happened.

October ended, then November came swiftly and passed by for us in 1969.  Frank and I were now facing our first Christmas together without being around our families.  Early in December, we bought gifts from the Okinawan stores, boxed them up then mailed them to our families in Texas.  We wanted them to get our gifts before Christmas.

We bought lights at one of the stores in Koza City.  They were beautiful lights with Chinese Palace Japanese Oriental covers.  I still have the beautiful covers to these lights in my cedar chest.  Also, we bought a small tabletop artificial Christmas Tree which already had lights on it and came with small ornaments to put on it.

“Christmas 1969”

Frank and I decided that we wanted to invite all of our friends over for Christmas Dinner.  Early in December,  Frank told everyone at work that we were going to have a big Christmas dinner at our house. He told them to bring their favorite dish, chairs, or folding tables, and we would furnish all of the rest. Frank told them that we would fix all of the Turkey, Dressing, Giblet Gravy, Homemade Rolls, Sweet Potatoes, and Fruit Salad that they could eat, plus Boiled Custard, which is also known in the South as drinking custard, which can be served warm or cold, booze or not, and is much like eggnog only better.

Letter with recipes

My Ninnie’s Letter We Received with her Recipes in Okinawa 1969

I wrote a letter to my Grandmother, who I called Ninnie, asking her for all of her recipes.  I had always helped but had never cooked an entire Christmas Dinner by myself.  She wrote me back with all of her recipes for everything I would be making.  I have this letter in a box with Frank’s letters from Vietnam.

A week before the Christmas Dinner, Frank and I went to the Commissary on Kadena Air Base, where we bought a huge turkey and all of the other groceries that we need.  We had no idea how many people would show up Christmas Day, but we didn’t care; the more, the merrier.

A few days before the dinner party, people were bringing chairs, tables, silverware, plates, and tablecloths to our home, helping us set up.  We moved our living room furniture into our spare bedroom, which let us have two enormous rooms for all to eat and visit in.

Frank had to work evenings Christmas Eve.  He helped me with as much of the preparations for cooking as he could before he left for work, but it was quite evident that I would be up all night cooking while listening to the music on the Reel to Reel.

About 9:00 p.m., I took a break and went with Ralph outside for a breather.  A Papasan with a bundle on his head came up to the gate motioning to me to come to the gate and let him in the yard then saying, “Mamason need baskets?  I have pretty baskets for you.”

Two Woven Baskets From Okinawa 1969

My Baskets Which Were My Special Gifts from Papasan Christmas Eve in Okinawa 1969

Papasans and Mamasans had been to our home many times, and we had bought some beautiful knick-knacks that they had carved or woven by hand.  I decided to look at what he had in his bundle.  I motioned to him, and he came in the gate, placed the bundle on the ground in front of me, then untied it so I could see the treasures that were inside it.

There were so many beautiful things in his bundle, including two oval-shaped baskets of different sizes but one cradled inside the other.  Papasan saw the way I looked at those two baskets then asked, “Mamasan need baskets?”

I told him, “They are beautiful, but Mamasan has no money today.  We are cooking for many people.”

He shook his head, understanding then bundled up his wares, putting the bundle back on his head, then went out of the gate closing it behind him, then Ralph and I went back into the house.

A couple of hours later, I decided to go back outside with Ralph again, and there on the concrete sitting next to the front door were the two baskets that Papasan had left for me.  Tears come to my eyes as a type this story remembering the beautiful kindness of a Christmas Eve gift, which was unexpected being left for me by the fantastic soul of Papasan.  I would never see him again while on the Island, but I will always remember him or his kindness.

Christmas Card

A Special Christmas Card From One of The single GIs

The next day, our house was full of people laughing, eating, and having a great time. There was so much food, and everyone had brought different dishes of excellent food. The single guys had brought anything they thought we might need and food too.

We ate all day then everyone helped clean up, and we all sat in the stereo room I listen to music, laughing, and enjoying a very fantastic Christmas Day.

Some of the single GIs ended up crashing in their usual places on the living floor.  Thinking they just wanted to be in our home with the warmth of family around them.

Frank and I may not have been with our family in the states, but we were with our family in Okinawa. Christmas is about being with family, and sometimes it means making friends that become new members of your family.

We were not looking for another home, but a couple who we had become best friends with told us about a home that had become available across the street from the entryway to Torii Station.  These friends lived in the house next door to the one they told us was vacant.  Frank and I were thrilled at having the opportunity to move next door to them, so we rented the new home, packed up our stuff, and moved.

Being across the road from Torii Station meant that Frank could walk the eight blocks to work, and I would not have to worry about him driving “Ole” Bondo in the rain.  The only thing that concerned me was making sure that we watched Ralph closely because we would not have a closed-in fence with a gate to keep him safe.

Early Spring had come to Okinawa, and more fun is to come.

<<<<< Beginning | Next Chapter >>>>>












Hits: 1095


  1. the beauty of meeting different cultures and working through the language barriers….meeting and making friends who are thrown together by circumstance…. wonderful memories

    • Thank you, Kim. Living in Okinawa was a Beautiful experience and one I will never forget.
      Thank you for your comment and reading what I am writing.
      God Bless You. Kim

  2. What a wonderful, memory-making Christmas. I’m sure everyone appreciated your hospitality and open home. Those baskets were a beautiful gift – God’s gift to you for your generosity to others.

    • Those baskets are so special to me. Everytime I look at them, I thank about that Papasan and his big smile. What a Beautiful person. I still use those baskets every Christmas and I tell my Grandchildren the story of the Papasan and the Baskets.
      God Bless You, Diane,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This