The Weight of Family (feat. Senjougahara)

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I still haven’t shared much from my time in Korea–for reasons–and unfortunately, the poignancy of the trip has faded quite a bit since then. But there may be another way to share its individual stories, and this may just be a better method in that it gives me the opportunity to really flesh out the themes. And of course, I’ll be going back to the basics: using anime to help me talk about things that are otherwise difficult.

So I just got off the phone with my aunt in Korea, and what I didn’t know was that it was also Thanksgiving there–thematically equivalent to our Thanksgiving. And in that short, 12 minute phone call (Kakao Talk), I reconnected to the experience of ‘family’ that I had felt in Korea.

What I learned only after my trip–from listening to my friends–was that this experience of losing ones family is quite common for immigrant families. And I mean families aren’t just your mom, dad, and your siblings living in a house. It’s your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and all of their children spread across the country. And I have like 30 cousins. Apparently.

In Bakemonogatari, we learn about Senjougahara’s past when she chose to cut off her ties with her mom, which is how she–literally, in the anime–lost her weight. Now, I’ve seen this arc a couple of times, mainly while trying to get people into Bakemonogatari, but it never hit me as hard as it did when I watched it after my trip to Korea.

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You see, I had lost all my ties with my family back home. I mean, my situation wasn’t as intentional, but rather as a direct result of moving far away. But there definitely were some heavy stuff in there as well. Like the fact that I didn’t always get along with my family. Or that identifying as Korean became difficult and embarrassing to do as I grew up on Vancouver Island. There’s brokenness for sure. And for the past 5 years since I’ve moved out, I’ve completely lost knowledge of the bond known as family. I mean the way I saw everyone, they were either my friend or they weren’t. Even at church, forming a family centred around Jesus–as special and amazing it is–was simply the idea of companionship and sharing life together. And not to undervalue the church but to reveal my capacity to understand the depth of relationships.

When I met some of my relatives back in Korea, I could physically feel the weight of our bond. It was actually too much, because it was deeper than anything I had known. It was heavy and I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand it yet. And by no means I’m saying it was bad, but to think that I had lived most of my life without this? It was really sad but at the same time, I’ve never actually missed my family because… how could I miss something that I don’t know about? I was overcome by this new feeling familiarity, unity, bond, and support.

And that’s when the weight of my family came back to me–good and the bad. And tonight, I felt it again. It’s not fluffy (fuwa fuwa) or pleasant like that, but it’s certainly something I will treasure. And for sure, it’ll be a long journey and a healing process that will undoubtedly be painful, but like Senjougahara, I’ll desire it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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