By Laura, age 16, California
I sighed and smiled, "Saki! If you don't hurry I'm gonna leave ya behind." The figure's pace quickened before it finally stopped in front of me, anger and exhaustion clearly written upon the young girl's face.
"Rawra, don't leave me like that ever again, you big meanie!"
I looked at her questionably for a second or so and chuckled. "Hey, I told you I was leaving but you clearly didn't listen, huh?"
Saki looked away then back at me. I couldn't read the expression on her face, but she seemed rather calm. "I was just looking at the pastries while you bought the fireworks. You know how I love sweets. Didn't you say you and your sister love sweets too? You should completely understand why I didn't hear you," she smiled triumphantly, rather proud of herself. She was right. I couldn't hold that against her; Melanie and I do love sweets.
Saki yawned as she began to walk at a normal pace back towards her home. I guess it would be considered my home too. Saki was part of my home stay family for the weekend during my time in Japan. I consider her as my little sister too. She reminds me of my sister back home, although Saki is fourteen and Melanie is four. A family is defined as people closely related by blood; well, I have that, but I also consider my home stay family as my "family away from home." It sounds silly, especially for only having been with them for three days, but they reminded me so much of my own family. Families are part of people's identities, shaping them into who they are, and I feel the same way about both my families.
During our walk back home I started to compare both families in my head. My mom - my mom does not act like a normal mom. Heck, I don't even know what a normal mom is. She acts like a kid, an immature, irresponsible one who is incredibly lazy and completely open with people. Well, I have to give her some credit. She can be mature and responsible when the time calls for it. She cares way too much, but at least it's better than not caring at all. My home stay mom is pretty similar, except she kept herself more together. I think she was only like that because I was seen as a guest in their household, but nonetheless she does remind me of my mom.
My home stay dad wasn't around much; he was usually working, but always had time for his family just like my dad. Saki, my home stay sister, she's like a combination of my two brothers and little sister. She loves video games, television, and playing outside, but most of all she annoys me so much just like any real sibling. Saki likes what my brothers like and she has that perky upbeat attitude of my sister's, along with that snarky side of hers.
That weekend was like being with my own family. Even though they are similar, they are still different. My parents come from Mexico. My home stay family comes from Japan. My siblings are Mexican-American. Saki is Japanese. Two different worlds collided right in front of me and I couldn't do anything but watch. By blood I'm Mexican and Spanish, by birth I'm American. By interests, friendship, and acceptance - what am I? Who am I?
Saki tugged on my sleeve, insisting I hurry so we could play with the fireworks her mom wanted us to buy. Rushing over to their two-story house, we informed everyone we had returned and immediately settled ourselves in the backyard. Lighting each stick, we intently watched the fireworks dance about, the lights sizzling out in a matter of minutes. Back at home fireworks usually symbolize the freedom the U.S. gained after the revolution. To me it simply reflects the freedom I've won over the years.
Society cares way too much about labels. I am who I am. I am who I want to be. Categorizing myself won't do any good. So what if I'm a certain age? So what if I'm this or that ethnicity? So what if I'm this particular gender? I suppose my culture has an affect on who I am, but I can adopt a culture. No law says I can't.