Loving, With Choice

Sunday, January 22, 2012 / 4:24 PM

Inside my grandparents' home: the cross-stitch my mom made with all nine grandchildren's
names and birthdates; the mantle lined with all of our graduation photos; the wishing tree from
Mel and Kim's surprise baby shower we threw them back in August.
Families are frustrating. I think they're supposed to be, or else we couldn't learn to appreciate them in times of crises and need. I was born into a strong community full of strong individuals. It's a large family, full of aunts and uncles and cousins who feel more like a second set of parents and siblings. I think one of the saddest things about being away from all that now is the realization that if I ever had kids, they won't get to experience that too.

I've never thought of myself as much of a family person, but the more time I spend with them as an adult, the more I miss them. As the youngest, I never really got to bond with my cousins the way I wish I could have. Perhaps this is why 'communities' are so important to me: because they remind me of my most significant, yet distant, one.

Thanks to a persuasive New Yorker review of Parenthood, I marathoned through all of the episodes up until the latest one and found that the strength of the show lies in the irritating characters that you can't help but care about (except, maybe, Kristina). Watching Parenthood makes me homesick, and not just because it takes place in Berkeley, but because it's the kind of community I can only see now through photo albums. We're all so spread apart--and yet, when there are celebrations or holidays that reunite us, it makes me yearn for that community to exist year-round. Despite the frustrations and the arguments and the drama, there's still a love that can't be tossed aside.

Mom always told us that her father reminded them that family is the most important thing because, at the end of the day, that's sometimes all you have. And I think it's true. Sure, you don't have to love them, but you choose to because they're yours, and whomever you choose to date or marry better appreciate that too because my family is made up of a fierce love that radiates toward everyone who enters our home. Be prepared to be engulfed with passion, care and encouragement. When it comes to birthdays and holidays and every little milestone, we go big. We'll love you because someone in our family loves you, and that's all we need to know.

Being far away from my family makes me feel less connected to my identity and culture. It's tough to go from being surrounded by it, to never having it around. And because I didn't seek out similar communities in college, I had friends who would joke about me being whitewashed which, secretly, really upset me. They have no idea, I would think, of who I am or where I came from. Maybe it's my fault for never saying anything.

Anyways, the point is...it's difficult for me to articulate how important my family is to me. Each one of them has something that makes them special and unique, and I could spend pages and pages just writing about them. It makes me sad that I won't have the opportunity to bring new people into this community while I'm thousands of miles away.

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