Blood is thicker than water. True, but culture, era, structure, class, all matter when dealing with the complexity of a family’s relationship. Last week I discussed the importance of Willa Mae Beede’s songs in Getting Mothers Body, and this week I want to understand the importance of Yummy’s letters to her parents in All Over Creation. This analysis is much more complex than what I thought the purpose of Willa Mae’s songs were because Yummy’s character is more complex in the culture she was raised in, time she was raised, family structure and her family’s economic status. Although there isn’t a specific correlation between Willa Mae’s songs and Yummy’s letters aspects of the books, these are important aspects of the book because it allows us to understand more about these characters and their relationship between their family and friends. One’s understanding of the role of a parent and child is an important part in analyzing these complex relationships in the story which may be different than a reader’s own experience. Yummy having decided to run away from home, made her a distant character to not only her family but readers. What we want to find is whether these letters are an attempt at trying to reconnect with her parents despite the very factual based updates on her life. During a discussion in class, classmates of mine noticed her letters had a lack of intimacy and the very surface level information, and formed the opinion that her distance with them made her disrespectful. Yet what I got out of her letters was an attempt at staying connected to her family despite their ideals were very different. So with a closer examination at these letters, we can find that the letters were an attempt at trying to build a relationship with her parents.
First, Llyod and Momoko grew up around the 1930s-40s in Japan, which comes a whole set of ideology that may differ from modern society today. So when we think about why Yummy left it is crucial to remember that the philosophies from one generation to the next can be drastically different. Being faced with the challenge of not being understood, especially by one’s parents, can be especially draining and a heavy weight on one’s shoulders. So in Yummy’s case I think this is why she left in the first place. Yet when she reached out to her parents, it was with a sympathy for how they might feel about her leaving. She mentioned in her very first letter, “You probably still think I’m an evil sinner and I’ll go to hell for all my wrongdoings, and if that causes you grief, I’m sorry… The shame was yours, and I knew if I stayed, I’d be poisoned by it” (37). Thus it seems as though she still has sadness for leaving but her ideals were too drastically different to keep her to stay. Lloyd and Momoko were accustomed to a certain lifestyle that Yummy did not live by. So when she initially ran away, although it can be seen as abandonment, she would have lived with the shame that her father had of her while living at home. By writing this letter at least it showed what mindset she had about leaving so it can give a better understanding of what she was thinking and push away some of the judgements we make about Yummy leaving home.
It is necessary to address that the role of a parent and child in a family relationship is what makes understanding this relationship between Yummy and her parents so difficult. In this relationship, Lloyd, her father had much more drastically different ideals than Yummy causing friction between the two. Lloyd was pretty strict with his ideology and Yummy wanted only a life where she wouldn’t be subjected to the views her father would put on her. An important part of this particular family structure is that she is the only child which puts more pressure on her to try and be the ideal child her parents wanted her to be. Fortunately Cass, Yummy’s childhood friend, was there to be a caregiver to Lloyd and Momoko in their old age but this also made Yummy’s abandonment more apparent. As the only child, it made this situation more complicated because everyone looked to her to be the one taking care of her parents. In an idealistic world, this is how it would happen but she once again the shame that came with seeing her parents would burden her too. Yet once she found out the condition they were in, she did come without hesitation, because she still cares for her parents. She even brings her three children along to meet them, which also shows her longing for them to reconnect.
Yummy had been pretty blunt about what was happening in her life, but there were a few more letters that I think she truly wanted to connect. The first was when she sent the tickets for her parents to come to her graduation. She made it seem like they could come only if they wanted to but it is clear she had a yearning for them to be there because in the next letter to them she was upset about them not attending. She wrote first, “I am enclosing two round-trip plane tickets for you and Mommy that I bought with my prize money. I hope you’ll come.”(40) then a month later she wrote, “I hate you,” (40) and this was her way of showing her ache to have her parents apart of her life. Then when she had Phoenix and her other two children, it seemed like she would really like them to meet. She even specifically says, “I wish you could meet him,” (42) about Phoenix in her letter. I think she tried to give all this information to them because of the yearning for her parents to want to be apart of her life, but does not work up the courage to go see them herself.
In conclusion, Yummy’s letters were her way of trying to reconnect with her parents despite her lack of expression of emotions. It shows through her letters that she still had a real love for her parents and wanted to stay connected, but felt that their ideals and her life choice would continue to distance them. This kept her away from them all those years. To some readers this is no excuse for not taking care of the parents that raised her. Again culture, era, structure, class, are a significant factor in understanding how Yummy’s relationship between her and her parents. Though she seemed distant, her letters were her way of bridging the gap that she felt she could not achieve in person.