Family Relationships*

Growing up in a nuclear American family, I thought that my parents, my brother and I composed a family.  In Japan, I’ve come to learn, “family”  includes everyone living under one roof, and sometimes those who are not living. This came to light last week when, for homework, my daughter had to make a list of people that she would be buying souvenirs for on her school trip to Kyoto.  She was supposed list each person’s name, a possible gift, and the price of said gift. She was then to work out a budget for the trip.

My daughter likes shopping, and giving gifts, so her list was rather long and way over budget. Of course she listed her twin (and the toy sword she would buy for him), her parents, and her grandmother. Surprisingly, she also listed her grandfather, whom she has never met. He died before she was born, but my daughter is familiar with the shrine in my mother-in-law’s quarters, and she has seen my mother-in-law put out offerings for his spirit. My daughter knows that he is dead. She wrote the Chinese character for “death” next to his name. And while I tried to persuade her (in the interest of saving money) that her grandfather didn’t really need a gift from her school trip, she refused to remove his name from the list.

We finally reached a compromise. Instead of buying separate gifts for all of her immediate family members, she would buy a box of individually-wrapped sweets, and leave one or two at the family altar for her grandfather. And then the whole issue became temporarily moot when a typhoon swept through here last week and her trip was postponed.


*”Today I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit The Muffin ( to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese’s website  to find out more about the author.”


2 thoughts on “Family Relationships*

  1. i’ve always been fascinatd by the japanese concept of ancestors and honoring them as if they are still with us.

    the mass blog looks cool. i think we writers are always exploring our family relationships even when we are not fully aware that is what we’re up to in a given piece

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