FAMILY

How do you define family?

Family members had always surrounded me for the first 8 years of my life, aunts, uncles, cousins. My circle of people was only family at that period in life, as I do not remember a single friend. They were a huge part of my life and having to leave them behind at the age of eight, to travel to a completely new country was hard. I resented it.

On reaching Malawi, I was bitter, angry and felt alone for the first few months of my life there but I soon learnt to get over those feelings as I met Kamwendo. Employed by my parents to work in and around the house, he pretty much became our babysitter and teacher of Malawian things. Being four extremely naughty and curious little children who loved the outdoors, keeping an eye on us was no easy task. Nevertheless, he was there for every step we took at the beginning of our lives there! He caught us when we fell of trees and walls, which was often. He wiped the tears off our faces when we bruised our knees and elbows. He plucked us mangoes too high for us to reach, bought us sweets from the coins we’d give him. In short, he was our hero! He was with us for the 15 years we spent in Malawi and watched us grow up. He dealt with all our tantrums through the teenage years, watched over us like a guard whenever any boys came around. He was like a father to us. He was family. I miss him. I miss having him frown at me when he disapproved of something I did, I miss the glares he gave any boys, I miss him still breaking mangoes for me when I could not reach, and again on coming back to Sri Lanka, I had to leave family behind!

Many others made such an impact on my life in those 15 years that I spent in Malawi, that I considered them family! On coming back to Sri Lanka, I came back to the family I had left behind and had resented leaving behind but in honesty, they felt like strangers, and I left behind another family, not tied to me by blood but more by shared experiences of joy and heartache. They knew who I was, what I had been through, they had seen it, been there through it, and helped me through it. No wonder the family I returned to felt alien. They had no idea of the person I had become, they only remembered who I was and all their expectations of me were based on a distant past. I had changed and they could not accept it as that would mean they had missed a huge chunk of my life.

A year and four months later, my family here is starting to feel like family. They no longer feel like utter strangers and reconnecting with them has been good. Sometimes I still do get a little frustrated at how they seem to forget I’ve grown up! On getting to know them I have realised they were not the only ones with ideas based on a distant past. I too, had forgotten that time had passed, that alot had changed in their lives as it had in mine. I had to learn to accept them for who they were now as much as they had to accept me for who I am now.

Don’t think I have forgotten my other family. I miss them daily. I keep in touch with as many of them as I can. One day, I hope I can get to go back and see this family. It would be utterly amazing if both my families met! I wonder what they’d say to each other.

I define family as those who love and accept you for who you are. Who will defend you and fight for you without a second thought. Who will walk with you through the hard roads as well as the easy ones, they will remain loyal to you even in the darkest times. Family does not have to be those people who are related to you by blood, they can be anyone you choose to accept as family. We have a family in Christ, we have a sort of family in friends.

We are told we cannot choose family but that is not always the truth. Sometimes we can choose and sometimes we get chosen. Family is another word for ‘together’ in my opinion. 🙂 I am glad for my big family. 🙂 Moreover, I am happy to say, my family is still growing. I have met people here in Sri Lanka who I’m glad to have as family! 

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