NaBloPoMo asks today: How much does your culture come into play in your day-to-day life?
I think of culture and I think of little petri dishes with blobs of organisms growing together in a delicious medium. Or the stuff that makes ordinary milk into something extraordinary. Or I think about the arts and history the heart of the city has to offer. The good stuff. The stuff that, if pay attention to it, becomes yours. It’s free for the taking.
I grew up in a different kind of household than anyone else I knew. My dad is Archie Bunker. My mom was Japanese. She never said she wanted us to retain anything we were living through. I got any culture from her by osmosis. It was like licking that petri dish. We didn’t listen to Japanese music. I remember when the news of her embarking in hospice care hit the streets, someone sent a CD. It was purchased at the Smithsonian Museum Shop. It was sounds from Japan. Children laughing, beautiful koto music, flutes. Music performed in one note. If you closed your eyes, you could see cherry blossoms floating down to the street. This was one of the few times Mom wept and told me how homesick she was.
Our house was always decorated with western furniture (my mom stopped just short of the plastic slipcovers). Every other thing on the wall was from Japan. It was either something she kept all these years or it was a gift from traveling family. Little dolls with heads that aren’t attached (the original bobbleheads). Elegantly dressed dolls she made decades ago. Little statues with exaggerated body parts. Dishes, so many dishes. A bowl for rice, a bowl for soup, a plate for this, a condiment dish for that. Some of these things have found their way into my house. I think culture means that if you had to reduce your belongings to a minimum, thinking about what you would choose to keep IS culture. The things you can’t live without, because they give you inspiration and guidance. When the world seems out of sorts and the weather is not behaving, it is your culture that keeps you in check. My culture shows up first thing in the morning. My coffee cup has no handle. My soap is sitting on a little plate made for the soy sauce people dunk their sushi in. (you should dip the fish, not the rice side btw) I have a pair of chopsticks in my purse. I tie plastic bags into a knot. It’s an efficiency thing. I waste nothing from the fridge and pantry. (that is so Japanese, Obachan would say, “Don’t Waste”) My mom had a funny habit of flipping the porch light on and off as you pulled away after visiting. My porch doesn’t have a light. I am, however, compelled to stand in the driveway until my visitor is out of sight, waving. Some things from our daily life have Japanese names. If it’s little, cute and furry…it’s chibi. Rice is gohan. Chopsticks are hashi. Your backend is your oshiti (seriously, I know).
As my mom’s passing is further and further away, I wonder if the fade will include the culture she left with us. I don’t think so. Even when I consciously use the correct word for something, my brain has a little movie playing in the background. She seemed to make sure the best parts of her would stick.