Fall is in the air, my favorite time of year! Except I’m not so happy. Today is my mother’s birthday and she’s no longer with us. As the leaves begin to turn my thoughts turn to my mother’s last days. She became ill a few weeks after her birthday last year and did not recover, passing into another existence days before Thanksgiving. With her passed a big piece of my life and a piece of my heritage.
I have enjoyed celebrating my Japanese roots ever since we moved to this area and found a good-sized group of Japanese-heritage people. There’s even a big festival and a big Japanese garden! I’d be happy to celebrate my Dutch heritage, too, but I don’t know anything about it. My dad’s family didn’t do anything particularly Dutch – except go to a strict Dutch church – even though they were immigrants. The Dutch heritage was absorbed into American-ness by the first generation.
Since I’m being melancholy missing my mom, I have been wondering how fast our Japanese heritage will disappear. One daughter looks entirely Caucasian and will probably marry a Caucasian man. She has some interest in things Japanese, particularly in Hello Kitty and Totoro and certain foods (she can make tempura). Will her children (if she has any) be interested in the one-eighth Japanese heritage hiding inside them? Will my daughter sing the Shojoji song to her kids? Will she take pictures of her white toddlers in hand-me-down kimonos and feed them rice with seaweed sprinkles? We’ll see. This daughter may relate more to her daddy’s Southern family in the Tennessee countryside, but she is very much an American Midwestern city girl.
My other daughter does look like she has Asian heritage and has some interest in things Japanese, but about as much as her sister. She did try to learn Japanese with me one summer with a private tutor, but quit in frustration (I didn’t last much longer). Recently, though, she surprised me by saying she wanted to teach English in Japan and maybe live there for a while because “It’s not that interesting here.” We’ll see. She was referring to culture in her statement. American culture can seem rather bland compared to old cultures with colorful customs and traditions and thousand-year-old buildings.
If my younger daughter follows through with her plans (she’s only in high school), then the Japanese heritage might live on. I’m not holding my breath. I will be sad to see the richness of that heritage wash away, but I may not be around long enough to see. No matter what, my mother and I will smile down upon our future generations from behind a veil, our whispers blending in with the wind, knowing there is a book that tells our story.
A few yellow leaves
Drifting from the locust tree
My mother left this earth
When the maples burned red