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Turning Point

(by Kaylee Correa)

Christmas time is a bittersweet season for my family: It’s sweet because I get to take a break from law school and travel 4,000 miles back to Maui. But it’s bitter because the season represented the loss of several beloved family members, including my maternal grandmother. For a time, there was a barrier in my relationship with my mother because I was a moody teenager, and she was grieving, having lost her mom. Yelling replaced talking, and I had no desire to spend time with her making the holiday meal.

We celebrate Japanese New Year in my family, with specific meaningful foods: ozoni (a miso-based soup) for longevity, kuromame (sweet black soybeans) for health, and nishime (a root vegetable stew) for good fortune. My mother learned the recipes from my grandmothers and great-aunt, who were all 100 percent Japanese, and she continued their traditions after they had passed. Being in the kitchen with her to learn these recipes marked a turning point in our relationship.

I went through two painful orth