Friday, July 03, 2009

Family history

Leiya (and BrendaLou) was asking me about how my parents met and some of their background. This is just some family history here.

My parents met in Chicago not too long after WWII. My father was always sort of a rebel and he thumb nosed anyone who didn't think inter-racial marriages were appropriate. I have a feeling that my mother's parents didn't expect her to marry at all just because of the times and race issue so when my father came along they were concerned but pleased. I recall my mother telling me that HER mother commented that it was all fine and dandy for two people in love to get married regardless of what anyone else thought but that life might be difficult for any children (it wasn't).

When I was five my parents moved to Southern California and made quiet inquiries about the acceptance of Japanese Americans, but that was never a problem for them in California either. My brother and I have passed as almost any nationality possible. I've been mistaken for Filipino, Hawaiian, Thai, Eskimo, Italian. My brother is most commonly mistaken for Mexican and American Indian. My kids pass for Japanese and yet my brother's kids definitely look Caucasian and my mother has always been overjoyed to have all four grandchildren by her side with coloring so different.

There was one summer when my niece was still 4 or 5 and we were in Sam's Club. My mother and I were pushing around the shopping cart with Kiana in it and Leiya by our side. Marcy and my brother were in some other aisle when Kiana suddenly wanted Mommy and started screaming. You know how unreasonable little kids can get when they get upset... Well, Grandma and Leiya and I couldn't calm Kiana and one of the clerks came over to see what the problem was. Kiana was screaming to high heaven and the clerk figured this might be a case of child napping. None of the rest of us looked anything like Kiana and we kept pointing and explaining

"I'm her aunt. This is her Grandma!"

Apologetically the clerk carried Kiana away still screaming until Marcy could be found.

In this day and age with mixed marriages and adoptions and blended families it must be hard to figure out who belongs to whom...

My choosing to marry and live in Japan was not so a difficult a choice probably because my parents had already blazed the trail of inter-racial marriage. I remember considering the same things my mother had said HER mother had asked her to consider. All find and dandy for Tetsu and me in love but what about our future children? This is a legitimate concern in Japan where homogeneity is the norm and bullying is a serious problem for a child who shows too much individuality. But I don't think my children were ever confronted just because of their racial background. (At least I never heard about it.)

My parents were married for 25 years when one day my father walked out. That was such a blow to my mother but my father visited her occasionally for the rest of his life and took her out to lunch whenever I was in town.

One Christmas Eve, my dad called me and at the end of the phone conversation said,

"I love you. I love the kids. I guess I love Tetsu. I love your mother too."

I relayed the message to my mom that night and she laughed and said

"Well, it's a little late for that!"

The next day my father died of a heart attack in his apartment.

Sad story? Happy story? My father's eccentricities have always given my family a lot to laugh about and I think my mother chooses only to remember the happy times with him.


Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Certainly you are able to put all of this in perspective, which is precisely why you are such a blessing to one and all! Your family is diverse and wonderful, congratulations!

Allie said...

Your grandmother was right - if two people love each other, there are no boundaries. Thank you for sharing these stories, Tanya. GREAT picture, btw!

Elaine Adair said...

I read with great interest, as I always do, your post today. The end was REALLY getting interesting, and then, the BLAM! My goodness ... good end, bad end??? I guess it was Ok, as you have told the story well.

Thanks for the positive post, as yours posts always are positive. You must be a happy person because your posts are always upbeat. 8-)))

Christine Thresh said...

Life's odd twists and turns. Your family is an example of true love.
That was a surprise ending though.

Christine Thresh said...

P.S. Happy birthday.

Beth said...

We took a family vacation to Canada when Drew was about 2. We had to bring not only his birth certificate but his adoption papers. The whole time we were there, I was constantly referring to family ...Come to see your SISTER.... Where is DADDY. He is from Korea, my husband and older kids are blond/blue eyed...and I'm dark haired/blue eyed. Even now, his best friend is mistaken for our kid...we have to say..No, this one is OURS..THAT one is the loaner kid! My Mom still calls him "the grandchild I thougth I would never have"

BrendaLou said...

Thankyou Tanya for the story. You have such a gift in the telling. I'm so glad to know that at the time of your parent's marraige that they had the courage and the counsel to procede. I think that is one of the things that in this country wars have been fought in order to help us all blur the lines of race....bigotry of all kinds. You mother is a rare one, indeed.

meggie said...

Thankyou for sharing your story. I love reading other people's lives. Your father must have had a premonition, & I am glad he made it clear he loved you all.