The Communicator

The Communicator

The Communicator

Bigger Than a Definition

Taking a closer look at the impact that different models of society have on us as individuals will help us understand how to better engage with each other.
Art by Bee Whalen.
Bee Whalen
Art by Bee Whalen.

I have never made a Father’s Day card. That may seem like an inconsequential thing considering all that I do have, but it was something that I thought about every year when in elementary school my teacher would announce that it was time to craft that year’s Father’s Day gift. I read whatever book I had immersed myself in at that time and watched as my classmates made cards, paper suits and ties. At the end of the day, I never had a gift to put into my backpack.

When I got home after my classmates had spent the last hour of school making Father’s Day gifts, I was greeted with open arms by my mom. Growing up my mom has been my rock. Every single day she inspires me as she takes the time to pay the bills, help me with household chores, and still manage to dedicate her extra time to me.

I have never once thought of my mom as simply “my adopted mom;” Since I could talk I have always called her mama. She’s the one who was there for me when I had a hard day at school and I needed someone to talk to. She was the one that makes sure we always celebrate Ethiopian Christmas, on Jan. 7 in order to honor my culture. She is the one I run to whenever I need a hug. On the other hand, whenever someone asks me how many people are in my family, I don’t know what to say.

Do I go with my “biological family,” the people that are blood relatives of my mom, do I include all of the family friends that I call my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and grandfathers? When I make a family tree, who am I supposed to put on it? Do I put Emily on the tree?

She’s known me ever since I was a little kid, she got me the blanket decorated with hearts and peace signs when I was little that I still use to this day. Or do I put my “biological cousin,” Athalia on that family tree? Ever since I was little we have always been close, especially since I jumped on her bed every morning whenever she came to visit at 6 a.m. Recently we had a family trip to Colombia, my mom had stayed home, and so my aunt and uncle were put in charge of me. At one point I walked around the streets of Colombia with my cousin in tow. We left a family dinner early in order to talk. I couldn’t help but ask her why she took pity on me, “Tía Karla’s poor little orphan daughter who wasn’t even biologically related to her.” With no hesitation she turned to me and said “Don’t ever say anything like that ever again.” She told me that it didn’t matter that I was adopted because we were family no matter what. It didn’t matter that we weren’t related by blood, because she was the one that wished me Happy Birthday every year, and held me when I was little after we had finished making Christmas cookies.

I was sometimes nervous about going to big family events like weddings or funerals. When my cousin Nioly’s wedding rolled around I was so excited for her, and although I knew there wouldn’t be anyone there my age, I knew my cousin, and she was a lot of fun. When it was time to take family pictures with the bride and groom, I stood to the side at first. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be included. Not only did my cousin make sure that I got in all of those family wedding photos, she personally took a bunch of selfies with me that I love and cherish to this day. While I wasn’t the person biologically related to my cousin, she viewed me as family and wanted to include me in her special day.

I suppose the meaning of family is different for every single person. Family can be your best friend, family could be your former elementary school teacher, your favorite tiny-business owner or even someone that you haven’t even found yet. One of the most crucial things in life is figuring out what the definition of family means to you, not a random dictionary definition.

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About the Contributor
Allegra Blackwood
Allegra Blackwood, Journalist
Allegra Blackwood has wanted to be a writer ever since she can remember. Her dream is to give a voice to people who are scared to speak out or forced to be silent. Joining the Communicator was a dream come true for her and she hopes to do more journalistic work in the future!

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