By Qin Sun Stubis
(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)
A family is not really an organism, and yet it acts like one. It doesn’t contain cells but is made of many small pieces, can grow, or be injured, and is quite capable of regenerating. Though not part of the biological lexicon, it is very much a living thing. No matter where it exists and how it grows over time, the family is the nucleus of our lives.
Each time it adds a new member or experiences a loss, everyone gathers to share joy or grief, demonstrating their unity. That’s what a family is for, as everyone says; we are here to share the good moments and the bad. Family is all about being one.
We use every opportunity to cultivate our bond, enrich our lives, and define the milestones and purpose of living, whether it is a birthday party, a beach vacation, or a holiday dinner. Not that every uncle is our favorite and not every aunt loves us, but they are still part of the family. And families are only strong because we are together.
The family has undergone many changes over time. In the old days, for instance, many generations lived under one roof and relatives often stayed in the same village. When I was little in China, I could walk to my grandmother’s house the same way I walked to school. Several of my aunts and their families lived with my grandparents.
Now I reside in the D.C. metro area while my sisters are spread all over the world, from Shanghai, China to Cleveland, Ohio and Auckland, New Zealand. Staying connected very much relies on telecommunications, rather than physical contact. And yet, the strength of our family bond defies time and space.
Though we are apart, we are often “teleported” together, our voices caressing each other and emotions reaching across time and space to remember old dreams and melt our hearts. Though we have not shared a holiday meal for many years, we carry each other in our thoughts as we sit at different tables on different continents in different time zones. Family stays connected no matter where we are.
These days, the family has often acquired a definition far beyond mere blood relations and matrimony. It has expanded to include others we care about and love, whether two- or four-legged. It extends to those who make us happy and give meaning to our lives, transcending biology, religion, race, and gender. Family, we realize, is capable of adapting and flourishing in all kinds of circumstances.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather around our dinner tables sharing a special meal to celebrate our heritage, don’t forget to give thanks for all the loved ones around you, and for those who can’t be physically present, but are always there in your hearts.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Qin is a longtime columnist of ours who lives in Bethesda, MD.