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Superman, Nakama, and Me} ?> The last person I thought I would be able to relate to is the Man of Steel. I’m not inhumanly strong, nor fast as a speeding bullet, nor have I x-ray vision or super hearing. For the longest time I didn’t care much for Superman. When my sister and I were kids, my parents bought us a DVD containing a bunch of vintage cartoons, including the original 1940s Superman. Even from a young age, I recognized that he was overpowered and always won the day with barely any opposition.
Years later, I watched the show Smallville, a program that focused on his growing up with an adopted family and learning about his Kryptonian origins. However, not until the release of Man of Steel did I truly care for Superman, mostly because of his parents.
I am adopted. Though my birth mother is living, my birth father passed away shortly after I was born, just like Superman’s. My adopted parents couldn’t have children, just like the Kents. Growing up, many people have asked if I knew my “real parents.” I don’t like that question, because it undervalues the ones who raised me. My adopted parents are my real parents. Just because I don’t share blood with them doesn’t mean they’re not as important as my genetic mother and father.
Like Clark, I sometimes felt like an alien among my family. I could never relate to my friends when they spoke about how they inherited their parents’ features or quirks or when their mothers spoke about their pregnancies. Often I kept the fact that I’m adopted hidden until someone asked why I didn’t look like my younger sister or my dad.
My birth father’s life was unknown to me until only four years ago. It hurts to know that I’ll never know a person who contributed to the creation of me. I’ve known my birth mother my whole life, but our relationship is estranged because of the circumstances of my birth. Yes, my birth parents are the reason I was born, and they are forever a part of me. I have their eyes, hair, and parts of their personalities. I obviously look like I’m theirs, like Clark is obviously Jor’El’s son, but genetics aren’t everything.
My adopted parents are my “real parents” because they shaped me. They’re the reason I am a writer, artist, and pianist just like Jonathan and Martha Kent are the reason why Clark grew up to be a great superhero. Some of my favourite parts in Man of Steel are the glimpses of Clark’s past. I love seeing those pivotal moments in his life, such as when Martha helped focus his super hearing, and Jonathan told him about his parents, and about how Clark needs to be responsible with his powers.
These key moments were with the parents who were there to guide him. They reminded me of when my mother created a story just from the carvings of an old wooden chest, when my father showed me my first Star Trek episode, and when both of them took my sister and me to church weekly.
Family doesn’t necessarily mean blood relation; that’s what being adopted has put into perspective for me. That applies beyond adopted parents to friends as well. The Japanese have a good understanding of this with their word “nakama.” It is translated as “a friend who is like family.” This word perfectly suits how I see my close friends.
Nakama are rare. It isn’t often we can say that someone is like our sister or our brother or our second father, mother, or grandparent. But sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water. Sometimes the best people who are in our lives are the ones we have adopted into our lives. Unfortunately, often the reason for this is because our blood relations have let us down or have passed away or just can’t be there for us for whatever reason. This is hard, but this is why we have nakama.
Real family are the people who are there for me. Real family doesn’t check out when the goings get tough. Real family give me counsel when I need it. Real family shapes me for the better. Real family wants what’s best for me. Even though my mother isn’t by blood my mother, even though my best friends aren’t actually my sisters, they are my nakama, they are family.