“People you can always turn to, and if you don’t know where you are, family is always there.” According to a nine-year-old, this is the definition of family.
A forty-two-year-old would say, “Family means children, Mom, and Dad,” but neither of these define the true meaning of family; it merely brushes the surface.
As noted, a family can consist of children, Mom, and Dad, and they also provide support regardless of your actions (they’re supposed to, anyway), but what family boils down to is this single sentence: Family, like branches of a tree, may grow in different directions, but their roots remain as one. This may not be my own fabrication, but that does not shake its truth. Family stretches much further than your Mom, Dad, sisters, and brothers.
We can all agree that we would gladly disown some family members when given the opportunity (don’t even lie, you all have one in your head right now), even if just for a second. Truth is that in cutting down that branch, all its descendants are bound to follow, and you are left with half a tree, half its shade, and half a family. Every single member is as important as the roots itself. We are but seedlings of a much bigger tree that we will never be able to climb. We must simply trust that the view is as magnificent as we imagine.
Quit pointing out what family should be and start being that family member to others. You can be the shade from scorching heat that some need desperately in their lives. You can be the oxygen and lifeline to those who don’t have any other means. Most important of all, when family — just as that tree — stands together, they can support not only one another but also anybody who hungers for a view enough to climb an infinite tree.
As far as the Christmas season goes, the family tree is just slightly shifted to take the form of the pines that smell of Christmas. Each gift in harmony under our branched wings is wrapped in holiday cheer and waiting in awe of Christmas Day. But let’s take a moment to contemplate the content of the gifts. In each bow-wrapped box, we crave to find one of the items scribbled onto a wish list or blurted out since the stockings were hung, not realizing that we crave perishables — none of which can promise a happy life or everlasting love.
Especially during Christmas, family is the one (and in most cases the only) chance you have at receiving a gift that can’t be wrapped; we must only have the courage, diligence, and patience to see it. It’s hidden in the small acts that we so easily take for granted: Dad having a smaller piece of pie to ensure that everyone else is satisfied first, little sis resisting the urge to rip open all the presents at once, Grandma helping with the dishes even after everyone has told her to leave it, or Aunt Anne telling you to sit and allow her to do some heavy lifting as well (even though she never lifts a finger in her own home). These are the gifts that family present to us — some conscious, some oblivious. These acts are molded into gifts by love, kindness, patience, humility, generosity, and integrity; this is the essence of Christmas: gifts, yes, but gifts that can’t be bought or traded.
Because no matter how badly you want to get rid of that branch, you always realize that it will contribute to your own demise and that no one keeps half a Christmas tree.