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Thursday, May 7, 2009

An American Daughter

Yesterday my 18-year-old Rachel and I were loading up my Jeep to
carry her dorm room items home from East Carolina University.
As we made trips from her room to the parking lot, I was amazed
at her collection of shoes, purses, body wash and shampoo bottles.
I don't remember having so much of those when I was a freshman
in college, I thought. I made do with little; my daughter has
made many trips to Walmart.

However, I did commend her for a few of her purchases. She wiped
the room's mini fridge and microwave with scented wipes, something
I don't think I would have thought to buy at her age. A roll
of pink Duck tape came in handy when the bottom of a box fell out.

I didn't know about Duck tape at her age nor did I know that
a girl needed eleven different purses and bags.

Congratulating her on her first year at college, I thought I
also need to be congratulated. While I did go to college
and well remember the feelings of relief and happiness
after an academic year, I didn't grow up as she has. I
was a foreigner in an American setting. While classmates
lived in homes with basements and TV shows that blasted
out Laverne and Shirley and Mash, I'd lived in a small
house in a neighborhood in Osaka where on winter nights the hum
of the sweet potato truck selling the hot tasty goods
could be heard. Home for me was ten thousand miles away
from Harrisonburg, Virginia where I spent four years
of "higher learning". I had no driver's ed in high school
and graduation did not require wearing a cap and gown.

"You have an American daughter," my mother recently told me.
"And you don't know what it's like to be an American growing up
in this country." True, my daughter and I do not share American
childhoods. For that matter, my own mother was an American child
and later as a mother in Japan, raising my brother and me. We
certainly weren't like she was at our age.

"There were no drama queens," my France-born husband tells me of
his experience in a high school in The Netherlands. "And we weren't
all from America. We lived in a foreign country with
classmates from all over the world. We weren't typical
Americans."

He explained it well. Our ideas, experiences and environment
caused those of us living as Americans in another country
to shape us into something other than Americans. To this
day, as adults living in the US, we still do not feel
American.

My daughter, and her siblings, however, do and will. Born
and raised in Durham, North Carolina, they will think like
those around them.

I like to think that my children are privileged to have a mom
and step-dad who have seen the world, and although we struggle
with where home really is, we have a lot to share and offer about our rich experiences.

Meanwhile, I will realize that yes, my daughter is different from
me in may ways. While I don't always understand her American
attitudes or her vast shoe collection, I do embrace her for who
she is becoming and the potential she has. I like to think that
her world view is broader than most kids her age due to having
me around---a mother who loves sushi and eel, sings
karaoke songs in Japanese and is still figuring out many things
American.

1 comment:

Alison said...

I hope that one day you will all come to visit me in Africa.

Love
Alison