“This Is Us”

I’ve rooted for my parents all my life, ever since I could remember, even during those teenage years when I didn’t understand them, when they were unreasonable, when they were so strict that I just didn’t even like them. They raised us — both my brothers, my sister and me. In moments of clarity that I would not fully come to realize or appreciate until years later, as difficult as it was to be a teenager, I knew it was harder to be a parent. Except for my brother just closest to me in age, I remember the birth of every other family member my generation that lives in the States; that group spans quite a few cousins. I remember when they were born. I remember them growing up, from adorable, precocious little kids to awkward middle-schoolers to finding themselves in high school and college into adulthood. Almost every single one of them are now parents too. And I’m sure that someday, their kids won’t understand them, will think they are being unreasonable, will believe they are being so strict that they won’t even like them.

That’s where I’ll come in, and remind the next generation what my generation was like as kids. And what our parents were like when they were they were raising us. I’ll remind them how they played, how they laughed, how they joked around, how they fought, how they made up, and how they loved. I’ll remind them that we didn’t understand our parents, that they were unreasonable, that they were so strict that we didn’t even like them. And they will all say, “What are you talking about, Uncle Cecil!?!?!?! Are you talking about Ammachi and Appachen?” (i.e. grandma and grandpa??) “Hahaha, you’re funny and you like to tell stories!!” And I’ll tell them while it may not have been true, we thought it was; much like how they are feeling with regards to their parents. And someday they’ll grow up and appreciate everything my brothers and sister, my cousins have done for them.

I woke up to a dream this morning. It was still dark outside. Over two rainy days in December, I’d been staying up till a little after 1 AM to catch an episode of “This Is Us”, which of course turned into several episodes of binge watching. Last night, I rewatched the Christmas episode and the winter season opener. Few shows on television anymore capture family values, relationships, and drama the way “This Is Us” does.

The TV series touches upon so many themes: parenting, childhood and adulthood, sibling rivalry, self-worth, love, friendship, the loss of a child, abandonment, obesity, drug abuse, and so much more all in a story spanning two generations. And I love how their stories are told through two different time periods. With every episode, you become more and more invested in the characters… I loved this monologue from one of the main characters, in one of the episodes halfway thru the inaugural season.

“I painted this cos I thought the play was about life. Life is full of color and we just get to come along and add our own color to the painting. Even though the painting is not big, you sorta have to figure the painting goes on forever in each direction to infinity. Cos that’s kind of like life. It’s kind of crazy to think about a hundred years ago some guy that I had never met came to this country with a suitcase. He has a son who has a son who has me. So at first when I was painting up here that guy was part of the painting and down here, that’s my part of the painting. And then I started thinking what if we’re in the painting everywhere? What if we’re in the painting before we’re born? Or in it after we die? And these colors we keep adding just keep getting added on top of each other. We’re not even different colors anymore. One thing. One painting. My dad is not with us anymore. He’s not alive, but he’s with us with me every day. It all sort of fits somehow. And if you don’t understand how yet people will die in our life, people we that love. In the future, it’d be tomorrow. It could be years from now.

It’s kind of beautiful, right, if you think about it: the fact that just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting. I think maybe that’s the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no you or me or them; it’s just us. And this sloppy, wild, colorful, magical thing that has no beginning and has no end, it’s right here, I think it’s us.”

Watching this show, it’s easy to think back on my parents and my uncles and aunties of the previous generation, my grandparents before them. I think of my own siblings and my cousins and the current generation, running parallel but different lives than the ones before it, but in so many ways, the same as well. And I think of the next generation, the kids that give us so much joy right now. I think of their giggles.

I think of them. I think of us.
This is us.

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