Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.


“I assume you’re Buddhist?” My face twisted in bewilderment. I didn’t immediately know how to answer this question.

It was Good Friday 1982, the day I first met my in-laws-to-be. My future brother-in-law and his wife had driven to the family farm in northern Indiana, ostensibly to observe the spring ritual with family, but really to observe me. My soon-to-be father-in-law raised his wine glass in a toast “to all of us who celebrate this Easter season.” He then turned to me and dropped his bombshell, “I assume you’re Buddhist?”

My mother’s maternal grandfather was one of the founding fathers of the First Chinese Church of Christ in Honolulu, Hawaii, where my parents were married. My grandparents sent their five sons to Saint Ignatius and their five daughters to the Convent of the Sacred Heart – schools that would provide their children with the best obtainable education in Hawaii.

Although born in Honolulu, I grew up in San Francisco. There, half of my mother’s family gathered together throughout the year to celebrate an indiscriminate canon of American, Christian, and Chinese festivals: New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year’s Eve, Easter, the Dragon Boat Festival, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, the Harvest Moon Festival, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Forty or more of us – aunts, uncles, cousins, and calabash relatives – would gather to prepare and consume an equally diverse menu. There was the standard American fare: turkey and pumpkin pie, Easter eggs and roast leg of lamb. But there was also dim sum, poi, sushi, steamed sticky rice wrapped in ti-leaves, and moon cake.