Thanks to someone on the Hafu Facebook group I recently joined, I’m participating in BlogHer’s June NaBloPoMo in which participants will write daily blog posts about their roots. “Hafu” is a term meaning half Japanese (the Japanese have trouble saying the English word “half” correctly), and I am one. My other half is Dutch. The book Dutch Chicago by Robert Swierenga has a photo of my dad’s family in it.
The original NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is November, coinciding with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). BlogHer has apparently decided every month is NaBloPoMo, and gives each month a different blogging theme. I liked the idea of June’s: Finding Your Roots. Today’s blog post prompt asks how many generations can I go back in my family. My family trees on both sides have their roots, trunks, and most branches overseas to countries where I can’t understand the language, so I’m out of luck finding my geneaology. My mother emigrated from Japan after she married my dad. My dad’s father and maternal grandparents emigrated from Holland.
My mom and dad met at dance lessons at Johnson Air Base near Tokyo, when Dad was stationed in Japan in the late 1950s. My mom’s family stories are written into her memoir, Cherry Blossoms in Twilight. She never met any of her grandparents and didn’t even know their names. Her father had family somewhere in Japan, but they lived too far to visit. Her mother’s sister and brother lived in the area, but she didn’t remember their names. I could ask one of my Japanese friends to request a koseki, an official family registry document, from my cousin Kyoko, but then I’d need it translated and it probably wouldn’t mean anything to me. I like stories to go along with names.
On my dad’s side, his father died when I was very young, so I don’t remember him. My Dutch grandpa was a quirky guy, I hear, and had a quirky older brother, my great uncle Ben. Uncle Ben’s wife Bina was a bit quirky herself, and had two scary Siamese cats. Grandpa Peter and his brother Ben had a quirky father, who died before I was born. It’s a wonder my dad is fairly normal, although he did marry a non-Dutch girl and then divorced her, so the rest of the conservative family probably thinks he’s quirky, too. My Dutch grandma was a nice lady. I still love those windmill-shaped cookies she used to serve. She prayed for the souls of her younger son’s family since we didn’t follow the strict Dutch Reformed religion. She was worried we wouldn’t go to heaven. Her older son took after her since he’s not quirky either (he married a Dutch girl). I’m trying to get my dad to write all his stories down so I can see exactly how quirky his family was. He says he’s working on it. He probably just doesn’t want to scare me.