One of my childhood friends was Tamawa. She had come to America from Japan with her family for her father’s job. She was friends with me and the other girls in the neighborhood who were from many backgrounds very different from hers. She played with us and went to school with us, but she also spent her Saturday mornings at Japanese school.
As we played together, she shared bits of her culture with me: she taught me how to carefully fold origami and made me wish for a Japanese pencil case just like hers, with all of the brightly decorated pencils lined up just so and the sweet smelling eraser with a cute cardboard cover. And similarly, she always wanted to play with my very American Barbie dolls–Malibu PJ and Ken– so that we could dress them up in all their brightly colored clothes and take them on very exotic adventures.
Our childhood friendship tells me something important. Something that we can and should all take from childhood into our adult years–sharing our differences, enjoying the cultural melting pot around us, learning from each other and growing together makes us a greater and stronger America.