If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever. Winnie the Pooh

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jai Ho! Dios Mio!

What does Slumdog Millionare, "brown" bread and running all have in common? I'll do my best to weave it all together....

We are a 'mixed' family. Chris' mom is Japanese and my mom is Mexican-American. Our dads are gringos (what? they are!). On any given day of the week you'll hear our kids asking for more seaweed for their sushi rice or asking for more of Nana's yummy enchiladas. I love it. Once a lady stopped me when Claire was a baby and asked, What is she? People are curious, still, I love it. Claire has asked me: Why isn't my hair yellow? and What color is my skin? I love explaining our heritage to her. I never wanted them to feel self-conscious about being different, so from the get go I've tried to build their fragile egos to be confident and proud of who they are. I thought I had done a great job, that is, until Claire started kindergarten.

One day she came home wearing a different clip. I found the bow I put in her hair that morning stuffed inconspicuously into the bottom of her backpack. Another day I noticed her favorite meal: sticky rice and tonkatsu hadn't been touched. She asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I made it and the next day that too came home untouched. Finally she confessed: I want white bread. I don't like brown bread.

Let me pause here. My kids have never even had white bread. Claire has a quasi-health nut of a mom (cough cough, quasi because I just confessed to a friend that for the last week every night I've been eating ice cream and M&Ms, don't want her to call me out on that) so I was a bit taken aback when I heard her saying that. Now either Claire is noticing what other kids are eating and wearing and doesn't want to be different or someone is pointing out her differences. I suspect it's a mix of the two.

This has been weighing on my mind and heart. I didn't want her to cave to peer pressure or want to be the same as everyone else, and yet I found myself caving to 3rd party peer pressure when I went to the store on a Thursday night to buy white bread. Pleasantly surprised and relieved when that too came home untouched. Fine. No more PB&Js and no more white bread. And yet still, I have a daughter who is worried about being, well, different.

So Sunday morning I set out for my 19 mile run. The perfect time for me to reflect, think and pray. Yes, it's just a small issue of bread and hair bows now, but what would this issue snowball into when she gets into junior high? High School? I figured I'd have about 3 hours to run this issue out.

Within the first quarter mile of running a song that a friend recommended came on my playlist: Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman, you know, from that great movie Slumdog Millionaire. I have a confession. When it's come on in the past, I've listened to the beginning and then skipped over to the next song. Why? Because it's, well....different. I don't speak Hindi. So I erroneously assumed I wouldn't like the song. It was then I had a moment of clarity. Why not give it a shot. Listen to the whole song and then decide if I liked it or not. So I wasn't even a full mile into the run when the singer didn't so much as chant Jai Ho but sang it. Whooo-eeee, I felt him singing from his heart. It touched me. The next thing I know I'm crying. No, crying would be tears trickling down my face. I was sobbing. I had a hard time catching my breath. (I'm sure I looked like an idiot to the two walkers I passed, chest heaving and sobs wailing from me as I ran like a blubbering fool). I was getting His message. Just because something is different, doesn't mean you can't enjoy or appreciate it's beauty. I swore I heard Spanish lyrics in the song. In a Hindi song? Surely I must be mistaken. And yet when I looked up the lyrics there were indeed a section of Spanish words. I felt like I could see how we are all tied together somehow, by this invisible thread, be it through something as a simple word like Baila! or Jai Ho (which ironically, loosely translates to hallelujah).

My words are getting muddled and I'm afraid I'm not expressing my thoughts as clearly as I should be, so I'll end this blog with the realization that I had during my long run: Be careful of being open to trying new things. Whether it be music, food, whatever...you likely have little eyes watching every move you make. And with that, I finished my run and as soon as I got home I blasted Jai Ho for my whole family to hear. We love dancing and singing to it, try it out, you might too.


  1. Love it! Ethan is beginning to notice colour and insists he's white like his daddy and not brown like me. Heartbreaking

  2. Poor sweet Claire. Do you have the book "Yoko" by Rosemary Wells? It deals with this issue. Be strong, and eat whatever you want, baby girl! :)