Though I was born in Hawaii, my family moved to Japan when I was still a baby. My American grandmother (who lived in Missouri) wrote to me regularly and sent me books and devotionals. Though I did not grow up in a religious family, I read them faithfully, eager to connect to anything that she shared with me. When I was seven, my grandmother came to visit us in Japan for several months; it was a visit that fulfilled every fantasy I'd had of what an American grandmother would be - she was warm, cuddly, patient, always smiling - a wonderful lady!
One of my grandmother's favorite stories about me was how I switched back and forth from English to Japanese in the course of a conversation without realizing it AND fully expected her to follow what I said! That was the norm in my house, and it never occurred to me that other people didn't speak both languages.
And what an impression she left on me! I insisted that we "practice being American," after she left, which meant we had to eat hamburgers, french fries and pizza because that's what "Americans ate." I asked my mother to buy grits because it seemed like an American thing to eat - bleh! Forget the sushi and miso soup, we were going to be authentic Americans! My Japanese Mom started baking pies from scratch, and I just KNEW we were as American as, well, the apple pies she was making.
Until we moved to the States. We spent the summer in Missouri visiting my grandmother and American relatives. They met our family at the airport, hugging and kissing us...what a shocker! In Japan, people don't touch each other - you bow, if anything. So all of this ooey-gooey, mushy affection was overwhelming.
I had one mission that I HAD to accomplish to seal my "American-ness." Having read many books, especially stories about family and life in America (never mind that many had been written in the 1950s), I was desperate to get to a "Five and Dime" Store to order a quarter pound of some kind of American candy. I kept asking my relatives to take me to one...puzzled, they finally inquired about what it was I wanted and took me to a mall kiosk with bins of assorted treats. I ordered my quarter pounder bag of goodies beaming with joy. I had arrived. I was a genuine American girl.