Columns, Opinion

WILSHERE: Time abroad exposes importance of family

I’ll be coming home in less than 10 days, a thought that brings tears to my eyes even now. Even so, this week my dad wanted to take a vacation and bring my brother, who had never seen the United Kingdom, with him. These past few days have been spent exploring, walking up and down the different streets, taking Tube lines more crossed than subways lines and taking in the history of it all. We spent Easter in an 18th century church and later spent the night at a Blues Brothers-themed night at a jazz club. I am grateful to have the experience of being able to explore the city I love with the people that I love.

Being from New York, and promising to never let anyone forget it, I am lucky that my family is so close when I’m at school. My parents never left Long Island with the intention that their children would grow up with their grandparents. I always took the expression “it takes a village” to mean that it just takes a well-rehearsed family: weekends would be spent shuffling between grandparents’ houses, summers were for seeing the cousins, and random days were spent trekking into New York City to see various aunts and uncles. I was raised by a family, into a family. Holidays are spent together, dinner tables overflowing with food and laughter never running on empty.

My family isn’t without drama, as my cousin and I reflected when she came to visit me in London about two weeks ago, but it also isn’t without love. We send each other postcards and travel emails, we reflect upon and compete with each other with the amount of snow each one of us gets. Somehow, this is a competition my aunt and uncle in Texas have been unable to win. Family is the most important thing, even with two parents that work full-time and family members that are no longer just a train ride away. We make time for each other, even in a world where minutes are lost as easily as pennies on the sidewalk.

When I was observing the Vincent van Gogh paintings in the National Portrait Gallery, my dad caught me as I was silently reflecting upon their beauty. “Have I ever told you that I love you?” he asked. I was sure he had, so I responded “I’m sure you have.” He did love me, he assured me, and I knew he was telling the truth — it was always just something that we usually say to each other. I know my dad loves me, but I couldn’t recall the last time he had told me. This moment changed all of that.

Even though my parents are divorced, they made the decision to ensure everything that they did was with a consciousness of how it would affect me and my brothers. Although the later years of my high school experience were spent within what some would describe as some variation of a “broken” household, it never felt like it. After watching play after play about toxic families and how they hurt each other for my Modern British Drama class, I realized how lucky I was that my family is a relatively stable one. Even after spending these past few months gallivanting around Europe surrounded by my supportive best friends, a smile still flashed widely across my face when I saw my brother in South Kensington. Even after all the self-discovery and maturation, I still laughed at my dad’s bad jokes.

All of this isn’t to brag about how great my family is and how lucky I am to have such a supportive system. This is to say that although sometimes we take them for granted, our families — no matter their composition, big or small — are important entities to us. Sometimes we make our own families with the people we surround ourselves with, with the people that have raised us. Family, aside from our biological family, can be anyone we believe to be our cousins, our sisters or our brothers. Sometimes we make our own families. We should never take our families for granted. Our families have helped shape up, raise us and educate us. Our families, no matter who that entails, will be there for us.

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