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This is a narrative essay about a family and how the meaning of a family has evolved to me over the years. I will show the difference of my family life in China when I was growing up and how the meaning has been shaped since I came up here in the United States of America.
My name is Sze Ki and I grew up in china before I immigrated to the U.S. in 2006. I am now in college in San Francisco but in my earlier life, I schooled in rural China. I am the first born in a family of two other girls. I stayed with my grand mom, my father and my mother. This was to me my family and I enjoyed every bit of it. A family thus was defined as a married mother and father and their biological children living together. The free dictionary defines a family as a fundamental group that consists of one or two parents and their children (the Free Online Dictionary).
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A family to me now has changed its initial meaning. My family now consists of my friends, my teachers and neighbors. These are the people who have assisted me whenever I have difficulties, taken me to hospital when am sick and tend to me when I need them to. Thus I can define a family as the people you spend time with, despite their racial or ethnic background.
During my childhood, my family used to indulge in a weekly ritual that took place in the night. My family used this night time to perform various activities. The ritual, called family night, was used to hold family councils where each of us was given time to have a say in important subjects that affected us. For us kids, we could play games and learn such important lessons and other moral lessons like being kind to your family members, the art of giving and obeying your seniors. We could also sing songs, hear stories from my grand mom, my dad could rival Mark Twain in storytelling often transmitting what his late dad told them. We could also spend time eating ice cream despite grand mom’s advice that it was not good for our teeth.
I am the first born in a family of three children. I stayed with my father, mother and grandmother and my two small sisters. This was a large family and thus the get-togethers did not go unnoticed. They went on with some type of fiascoes as sometimes I could kick my younger siblings. My two younger sisters also had a hair pulling fight which was more of a fist fight and one that was like who-can-pull-more than the other. But we loved each other so much and these were just friendly fights.
Precisely five year ago before I immigrated to the U.S. and in one of the family nights, my dad announced that we were not going to have our usual night out but we were going to watch a movie. We wanted to protest but a stern look at my dad’s face told us not to. Later that day he came home with a movie named The Wonders of Lingo. The movie lasted about two hours. Its storyline was simple; a ten year old boy who whose story was filled with magic and hope.
The boy’s name was Chi. He was a quiet and frank but he was so short- pigmy like ad very skinny. He spent most of his time hiding because other boys used to tease him on when he was going to grow. His parents nicknamed him Chiong meaning ugly. Chi resided in the nearest Island to avoid being called names. Despite all these the boy grew and his time for marriage arrived as with all other peers. Looking for a wife was his greatest nightmare as most of his age mates scolded him that pygmies do not marry people.
The king’s daughter was in love with the young man, Chi. One day she gained courage and told him how she felt. At first he thought she was joking but she remained adamant about her love for Chi. He wondered what he will pay for dowry, but she promised to help him. The king was upset by her daughter’s choice but he had no way of preventing her wishes. Chong, the king’s daughter married Chi and together they went to stay in the island. Time passed and a year later, Chi’s father went to visit them in the Island. He could hardly recognize his son. He looked taller than he used to seeing him, he was so handsome and clothed in the finest clothes. Hi pale skin now shone, he had even developed some of his lost personality traits like his confidence and assurance. Chi’s father thanked his daughter in-law for helping Chi discover some of his best traits. He also apologized to Chi for mistreating him. And they lived happily ever after. That was the end of the movie.
I did not understand the movie at that time. It was not until some few years later when I understood what my dad wanted to teach us. We lived in the rural province of Zhejiang, south coast China. It was very hard for my dad to secure a job in this place and as a result he left home to try his luck in the capital city. This was the time I was almost leaving China for the U.S. and felt like it was my hardest year- leaving my family and going to a foreign land.
My dad was and is still a man who has an already smile on his face and am sure that he felt the pain I was going through. He always loved waking up very earlier and work on our garden to cultivate tomatoes and cabbages for sale. I enjoyed going out with him and spend a lot of quality time together. He taught me about farming tricks- which bugs were not good for the garden, which insect we needed in the garden (like we used o leave spiders to kill aphids). From him I learnt about life.
Shortly before my departure to the U.S., one morning dad took me and we sat at a woodpile. He then sent me to cultivate and water the plants as he watched. After an hour, he called me to where he was sited. He pulled a handkerchief from hone of his pockets. He opened the cloth and exposed an Indian bracelet. He gave it to me and said, “this is your bracelet and wear it always in remembrance of your family, know that we are will ever been with you.” I seemed confused and he explained how the bracelet would remind me. That am worthy more than anyone on the island and I had an inner beauty that was just waiting to come out and that I was important to him. To me, my dad represented my family and as the head.
When I arrived in the U.S., I do still recall my family back in China but to me the meaning of a family has changed. To me now, it is no longer a mother and father living with their children in the same roof. Here in the U.S. I have my family- the people who love me and whom I love back no matter what. These are the people who have defined my stay here and I could be nothing without them. In a recent New York Times, several people were interviewed to define the word; family. Several and varied answers were received and this shows that the meaning of a family is slowly changing (Schulten, K.).
But one thing is clear. My family back in China does love me, this I know by the calls they make. My family here in America does love me too, in fact I feel more loved by them because I get to spend more time with them than my family in China. Thus in any family despite its definition, love is fundamental. Love is what will keep a family united. I have two families and I love both of them.