In all my childish capacity, I wished to wake the next morning different. But my impossible wish never came to fruition, because it was in fact, impossible. Impossible for one to change her skin color.
I am the “white sheep” of my family. My brown eyes are the only visible trait I share with my dad, and that makes me sad. If you are Japanese-American then you have brown eyes and brown skin, right? Not in my case. I remember kids at school calling me a liar when I told them I was Japanese. Teachers, employers, and restaurant hostesses constantly added an apostrophe to my last name, making me even further from whom I wanted to be.
Being a Japanese-American, with white skin, makes me feel incomplete. I know Japanese-American culture, I grew up in it and am raising my son in it. I learned the appropriate way to make onigiri, cut kamaboko, and save the best two mochi and leafed orange for the Kagami Mochi.
Obviously, there is more to our culture than food, but the kitchen is where I grew up and did most of my learning. Garnishing each dish so it presented as “too pretty to eat” was simply expected. I remember washing, cutting, and placing individual parsley leaves until they perfectly surrounded a large platter of amazing tasting meat. Nothing left the kitchen without proper presentation because the external impression is a powerful one.
I am physically unable to make the external impression of my culture. So, I held tight to the only thing that identifies me as Japanese-American, my last name. I kept it through two marriages and passed it on to my son. I hope he is as proud of it as I am.