This I Believe

Zhan - Iowa City, Iowa
Entered on April 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family

I believe in the strength of the bonds of family. It is in those bonds that I first experienced the pleasures of warmth, happiness, and belonging.

When I first learned of the word “family,” I did not understand its meaning. I remember asking my grandfather at length about the origins of the word, only to receive philosophical replies which added to my confusion. Two years old and living with my grandparents in a small, quaint town on the edge of the Yellow River, I had no recollections about who my parents are and what they looked like. At the time of my birth, my parents lived in a cramped apartment with other downtrodden families and they did not have enough money to raise me. Desperately wanting me, their only child, to survive his first few months on this beautiful planet, they looked to my grandparents for help. To their relief (as well as mine), my grandparents agreed to raise me.

The next two years was an enlightening period of time for me. Not only did I learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk, I also learned the basics of calligraphy and music, even though I never excelled in either of the two subjects. The two years was also an idyllic period of time for me. I spent my days sitting in a stroller, pretending that I couldn’t walk to gain sympathy (and candy) from neighbors. With my grandmother close behind me, I stormed through the morning markets and pointed out the various ingredients for that day’s lunch and dinner.

One day, on a typical excursion through the markets, my grandmother stopped and waved to a middle-aged couple whom I’ve never seen before. As a common courtesy, I called them “uncle” and “aunt.” When tears streamed down their faces, I panicked and attempted to make up for my mistake by stuffing the neighbor’s candy into their pockets. When I turned around, I noticed that my grandmother was also crying. Perplexed, I did what anyone would’ve done in a similar situation – I cried too. It was not until we arrived home (along with two boxes of Kleenex) did I find out that “uncle” and “aunt” were my parents.

I’m not sure that I experienced anything close to an emotional breakdown at the time, but now, when I look back at that day, with pictures of my family – my whole family – I realize just how lucky and how wonderful it is that I have people who love me in this world. I understand now that the love parents have for their children (and the love of children for their parents) is unconditional. No matter how far apart they may be, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, will always love each other. Forever and eternally.