Secret Saturday – 2/25/12: "Changing Colors"

February is Black History Month. Some of my fondest memories are of a black family that lived across Coolidge Street, where I grew up:

     When I was a little girl, some of my friends wanted to be Cinderella. Some wanted to be a nurse. One even wanted to be president. Me? I wanted to be black.
     On Coolidge Street in California, we lived across the street from a black family who, like my family, had five kids. But they had five girls, and we had four girls and one lucky brother. (Though he’d probably disagree.) I didn’t really know the three older girls, but Maria and Nina became good friends of my younger sisters.
     Being the mean-no-fun-prudish-brainy-band-freak-oldest-sister, I wasn’t included in most of the fun, and usually watched them “play” together from afar. Maria had the best laugh in the world, and Nina moved with the grace and spirit of Tinkerbell. When I say they were two crazy girls, I mean it in the fondest, happiest way.
     Perhaps I noticed these things about Maria and Nina because of my upbringing by my Japanese mother. I was brought up to be hypersensitive to what others would think of my behavior, overly cautious not to do anything that might cause me to “lose face.”
     Maria and Nina laughed, danced and joked with such unabashed joy and freedom that it drew my sisters out of their cultural shells. I wanted to join in the fun, too. But, often, I couldn’t make myself let go.
     So, I stood by and watched. And sometimes I wished I was black.

Thanks to Facebook, I’m still in touch with Maria and Nina, and have even gotten to know one of the older sisters, Donna, through Facebook. Maria is currently helping me with the voice of my Broken Dolls character, Terrence. Someday soon, we hope to have a reunion.

We were lucky to have grown up with a family like Maria’s and Nina’s, lucky to experience a culture different from ours.

Do you have cultural stories from your childhood to share?

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This entry was posted in Black History Month, Broken Dolls, Japanese-American, nostalgia. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Secret Saturday – 2/25/12: "Changing Colors"

  1. Luna Zega says:

    I grew up in a lily-white town and longed to go to school and meet kids who were “different” than I. I think that explains my desire to teach English as a Second Language. I loved meeting people from different countries and learning of their cultures. There's nothing wrong with the culture I was raised in. As a matter of fact, I think I was raised with good values and appreciation of the uniqueness of every person, but it just seems like all those other cultures so much more interesting.

  2. Jan Morrill says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Luna Zega. In my recollection, I might have sounded like I was critical of my cultural upbringing, but not at all. I too, appreciate my heritage and the pride associated with it, but as you said so well, “all those other cultures seemed so much more interesting.” How bland we'd be if we were all the same.

  3. I totally loved your family too! I soo wanted to live with you and in your very cool teenager decorated bedroom. It was decorated Black, Red , White and oh so very “Mod”. 🙂
    – Maria

  4. Jan Morrill says:

    Maria, that brought back another memory! How could I forget about Cyn's and my very cool bedroom? 🙂 That's why we need to have a reunion — so we could all remind each other of stuff like that. Thanks for the memories. 🙂

  5. Starlina says:

    WOW! Thanks Jan…reading this put a HUGE smile on my face! It took me back to the good ‘ole days of spending time at “The Marler residence (as you all used to answer the telephone) and the fun crazy sleepovers we’d have in your Dad’s humongous motor home! It isn’t possible for me to reflect on my childhood, and not have a fun/funny memory of you & your family…oh, and I can’t forget your dog “Chimney” Your family made a huge impression on me & I was so sad when you all moved away…It’s so funny you wanted to be black, because I wanted to be Cyn…I thought she was so pretty, funny, had the best clothes and an “exciting” life! I hated my name when I was a child and I used to BEG my mom to change it to Cynthia Rae! hahaha! I am so thankful for FB for connecting our families. YAY!! I'm soexcited we're “neighbors” again…virtual neighbors!

  6. Jan Morrill says:

    Starlina, your comment brought back so many memories, too. I remember that we had to answer our phone, “Marler residence, Janice speaking.” Funny that you remember that. I'll pass on your compliment to Cyndie, too. 🙂 I'm surprised you didn't like your name. Though we called you Nina, (which I also love,) I always thought Starlina was one of the prettiest names I'd heard. Still is! REUNION!!

  7. Pingback: Martin Luther King Day Mashup | THE RED KIMONO

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