“Asumi, your dad wasn’t angry because you took the test on your own, or even because you didn’t tell him anything.
He was angry because the little girl who used to talk about her dreams has vanished.”
-Lion, Twin Spica Volume One
I should probably begin by explaining that my parents are two highly intelligent people. In fact, my entire family is full of intelligent people. It’s a bit intimidating, really. My parents are two stereotypically left-brained people as well; that is to say, logical, straightforward, and neat. You can imagine their surprise when they realized that they had a flighty artist for a daughter.
When I was very young, my artsy ways manifested themselves in anecdotes involving drawing in library books. In elementary school, I did the best I could to impress my parents the only way I knew how: through my art. For the most part it succeeded; I won a few town and scholastic art awards, a drawing of mine ended up in town hall for a bit, I soloed in several school plays, and never doubted that my parents were proud of me.
I still remember the day that my mother told me I couldn’t be an artist. I now know that what she was really trying to explain was that it wasn’t a lucrative career, but at the time, it hurt me badly. It was while I was in third grade and home sick with pneumonia. I remember fingering my frayed, crocheted afghan as I cried in her arms for what seemed like hours. If I couldn’t be an artist, then what could I be? How stupid it had been of me to think that my parents had been proud of me this entire time.
Sufficed to say, once I hit middle school and really started developing my own personality, my parents and I began to butt heads more often. By the time I entered high school, our communication was non-existent. I felt as if nothing I did would ever be good enough for them. Everything was for naught if I couldn’t be the best, and it seemed as if I would never be the best at anything but art. For the most part, I just stopped trying. I coasted through high school getting fairly good grades with little to no effort. I applied to colleges because I was expected to attend. None of them were art colleges. I fixated on journalism because I thought that I could write decently enough if I tried, and I loved sports. I decided that I would be a sportswriter and proudly told my parents this. It was an acceptable, reasonable job. However, when I went to college, especially when I ended up as an intern in the sports department of a newspaper, I found that I hated it. After a rocky senior year, I switched my major last minute to fine arts with a concentration in oil painting.
It’s no exaggeration when I admit that, at this point in my life, I thought that my parents would hate me.
The above quote is by the ghostly friend of female lead Asumi in Twin Spica. Asumi, like me, had assumed that her father would disapprove of her decision to become an astronaut and therefore had hidden her application from him. When he discovers that she had applied, he becomes very angry, slaps her, and doesn’t talk to her for days. Finally she goes to his work to bring him an umbrella, and he tosses her a wad of money, explaining that he’ll do whatever it takes to make her happy, and allow her to reach her dreams. He admits that he’s kept a piece of paper that she had given him as a young child, allowing him one free pass on her rocket ship.
My parents’ response when I finally admitted that I wouldn’t be graduating college on time and had switched my major was not an enthusiastic one; however, my mother said something that has always stuck with me since that day. “We always wondered why you didn’t apply to art school, but we’re happy that you now have decided to do what you love.” Later on, we had a highly emotional conversation where she admitted that, until college, she honestly hadn’t understood me as a person. She then apologized. I was floored. Here I was, having thought that she and my father had resented me for being a disappointment when they seemingly had known all along that I had wanted to be an artist. I apologized for being such a terrible daughter. She simply said that she was glad to have “me” back. Much like Asumi’s father, the thing that had upset her the most was that I had stopped talking to her about my true ambitions and dreams.
I visited my family recently, and during this trip I went out to dinner with my brother. We spoke about all sorts of things; however, one topic of conversation that kept cropping up was my parents. Through comparing experiences, my brother and I started to notice a pattern, especially in my mom’s speech. She would always add off-handed comments in conversations like: “See, I’m not as stupid as you think I am?” or, “I know you think I’m dumb but…” and the incredibly common, “You mean I didn’t do such a horrible job of raising you?”
My brother had already noticed this, but my mind was blown. How could I have not realized that my mother was inserting the same self-preservation techniques into her speech patterns that I had employed for years? All this time she, like me, had been reaching out for approval and affirmation that she hadn’t completely failed. When we went back to my parent’s house, I immediately gave her a big hug and told her that I loved her. Later on that night, I noticed that my parents had framed an oil painting I had given them and hung it in their living room.
On one of the flights back from visiting them, I re-read the first volume of Twin Spica. In addition to making me cry (and look fairly stupid to everyone on that airplane) I’d like to think that it helped me to understand my parents’ feelings a bit more. I may never know exactly how it feels to be a parent, but I’d like to think that my parents and I understand each other a bit more now.
“I still have the letter that you gave me all those years ago. As long as I have that, your dreams are my greatest treasure.”
-Mr. Kamogawa (Asumi’s father), Twin Spica
Also, as an aside, one should try to cherish their siblings. After all, they’re the only people who are really going to understand you when you try to explain your family.