i. When I left for college I had a huge lump in my stomach. My nerves were tempered with ecstasy. Here was a space for new adventures, new lessons learned, new wisdom gained; yet, the new made way for cravings of the old. You can only eat school cafeteria salad for so long before you long for mama’s home cooking. While my classmates pined after their mothers’ chocolate chip cookies, mac and cheese, and casseroles, I dreamt of my 媽媽’s tofu with century eggs, squid stir fry, and curry. My understanding of casserole was elementary school lunch: the grey-green sludge made of canned green beans. Something tells me that is not the type of casserole my peers yearned for.
ii. I was four years old when we moved from Utah to a small apartment in West Carrollton, Ohio. Our family of four slept on a single mattress, lain on the floor. Where my parents came from, bed frames weren’t a necessity. In America, they now call it “cosleeping.” To us, it wasn’t a new-age trend; back then, it was just sleeping. Eventually, we got our own beds, but I actually think fondly of those days when we all counted our sheep together. Maybe we push for independence too soon. Maybe it’s okay to enjoy codependence, just for a little while.
iii. I was never trained by my parents how to explain where I came from. But “my parents are from Taiwan” quickly became my mantra. “I’m from Ohio” wasn’t enough. “I was born in Utah” wasn’t enough, either. The people who badgered me for answers had the best of intentions, I’m sure, but what it said to me was that I couldn’t simply be an American. I had to be an American with a caveat, a disclaimer that read “American, but…”
What followed the “but”?
“But not fully American.”
“But not part of us.”
This was what it was, to grow up in a country that wasn’t fully mine to claim.