I’ve talked about my two cultures a lot. I’ve certainly spent a lot of time in my life explaining my precise racial and cultural background.
(Can I get a nickel every time I tell people I’m Japanese and Irish, by the way? And maybe a dime every time someone reacts with, “Really? Wow!”)
But my mixed background never becomes as apparent as when both sides of my family get together. It doesn’t happen very often; we’re usually with one side or another.
My grandfather died three weeks ago. He was my mother’s father, my Japanese grandfather. In accordance with Japanese tradition, he was cremated. We had a memorial service at my grandparents’ house.
I don’t know how it works in other Buddhist sects (my mom’s side are Nichiren Buddhists, but even there, there are a million different sects), but in my mom’s, we chant and then there are some ashes that you lift to your forehead three times as you pray, and then there’s incense. I have the basic prayers memorized, although I have no idea what I’m chanting or what the words mean. So we did that–my mom’s side of the family, some family friends, majority Japanese.
My Irish side–my dad’s two brothers and their families–came, too. Now, they’re Catholic and they’ve never been to a Buddhist memorial ceremony, so it was all new to them. And they don’t get to eat Japanese food a lot.
My cousin: “I don’t usually like sushi, but this is sooo good.”
(Did I mention that my uncle’s a sushi chef?)
And so, I found myself being truly mixed and biracial and all that jazz. On the one hand, I’m having conversations with my younger, white cousins. On the other, I’m talking to my grandmother in Japanese. I’m translating from Japanese into English and vice versa. I’m explaining Japanese food to my white relatives.
Like I said, it’s rare for both sides to get together, but when they do, I’m really glad that I’ve been raised in two rich cultures and that I can blur the lines between them–because when the two come together, there I am.
Also, completely random note: I’m being interviewed over at Michelle Tran’s blog today. My first author interview!