A family eating pozole at their home in South L.A. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Vistamar School

Column: Family — Our happiness and our responsibility 

I waited three years to celebrate Christmas with my entire family.

I live in California, almost 6,000 miles away from my family in Germany. Only visiting two to three times a year makes it difficult to maintain a relationship. We try to text and call as much as possible, but that doesn’t make up for experiencing moments together in person.

I remember it was a cold December morning in the little town of Oberstenfeld: the geese were flying south, the trees were crackling, the quivering wind was striking against the walls while the aroma of my grandmother’s freshly baked cookies and the lyrics of Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” drifted through Ostpreußenweg #10.

I woke up to the sound of my door sliding open and saw my grandmother’s eyes staring at me to check if I was still alive at 9:30 in the morning and greeted me with “Frohe Weihnachten” — Merry Christmas in German.

This was the moment I realized how important it is to have people you can call family. This year was my aunt and uncle’s turn to host Christmas. And at 5 p.m. everyone arrived nicely dressed with all of their presents at my uncle’s house.

The evening started off with a creamy potato carrot soup and then moved onto a light arugula salad with feta cheese. For the main course, we were served roasted goose, gravy, “Knödel” German potato dumplings, and “Spätzle,” German pasta, and ended off with my aunt’s famous Mousse au chocolate tasting like pure heaven.

Not only did we have an amazing dinner, but the room was filled with candlelight, golden ornaments and the delicious pine tree scent along with lots of laughter and giggling. I remember sitting at the table in complete disbelief while tears of happiness were rolling down my cheeks.

Now I know that having a family is essential while at the same time it is our responsibility to be there for them too. Having a family means supporting each other and learning from one another. Children depend on their parents and family to keep them safe and provide for them, but adults depend on their children just as much.

When parents teach their children how to count numbers, their children teach them the importance of patience as well as resilience. We need people whom we can call “family.”

The definition of family isn’t merely the family you were born into, it’s who you choose to bring into your life and who picks to take you into theirs.

A person I would call “family” is someone that I can feel secure with along with whom I can always count on, whom I can share my problems with, who make me laugh, etc. It’s the people that choose to be there for you during both the good and bad times. 

Since the pandemic started, traveling has become a lot more unsafe and risky. For this reason, I have not seen my family in almost a year.

It has been tough being separated from them. I was reminded how much I miss being with my family while listening to Manoj Sigh, a rickshaw driver, talk about how joyful his family makes him in the documentary film Happy. He says, “I feel that I am not poor, but I am the richest person.”

Rich was what I felt on Dec. 24, 2018, because I was satisfied with all the love and support I received from my family. Many people complain about not feeling accomplished enough, however having people in your life that love you is already a huge achievement, and more than others have attained and own. Never underestimate your accomplishments. 

In the dictionary, it says that “family” is a group of people related by blood or ancestry. According to the documentary “Happy,” Denmark, the happiest country in the world, argues differently.

Denmark’s most unique quality is that it has more of its population living in cohousing communities. A young girl living in a cohousing community described it as “a big family,” in the documentary.

I understand this to mean that it is not necessary to surround yourself with people with who you share the same ancestry with as long as you are with the people that you love and who love you back.

I agree, the family does not have to be just my mom and dad, but can also be my good friend, Nora, who lives in Germany and whom I haven’t seen in years, but have stayed in close contact with.

True family is the sense of love, loyalty, genuine care, selflessness and concern for others. 

“Family” ultimately means importance as well as responsibility. While having our own family is essential, it is our duty to be “family” to someone else as well. Others need to have their “family” just as much.

Finally, treat others the same way you want to be treated.