Visiting my relatives was a rarity. I could only see them once every few years, during our summer vacation. As a result, I treasured every moment with them and kept these memories with me, because even at a young age I was able to comprehend how precious family was.
My first memories of Taiwan are muddled, as I was only 5 years old at the time. I vaguely remember riding an old rusty bike with training wheels up and down the street, terrified that I would fall off because it was just slightly too tall for my feet to touch the ground. I was jealous of my cousins and my sister, who rode bikes that were just the right height. This was the summer I learned about perseverance and the unfairness of life.
The next time I went to Taiwan, I was 7 years old. My cousins and I rode around doing stupid tricks while riding our bikes and falling down many times in the process. We set up “stations” along the street, designating a large parking lot as the gas station, and an old woman’s hanging laundry as the car wash. Needless to say, she was not impressed, and we quickly rode away before she figured out who we were. This year we learned that others' property was not at our disposal.
Three years later, we flew back. This time, our second cousin came to spend his summer with his grandparents. Our extended family resided in three houses next door to each other, so we spent countless hours together playing tag, UNO, and other games that can only be played for so long until the youngest member gets hurt and brings our foolish actions to the attention of our aunts and uncles. After listening to a long lecture about how the game of tag is unsafe and could cause severe physical damage in these crowded streets, we played it again the next day. That summer I learned how tempting disobedience was.
I returned when I was 12. This was the year we gained our parents’ trust. We now had the freedom to walk by ourselves to buy breakfast, run down to the 7-Eleven that was less than 5 minutes away, and cross the road with heavy traffic to buy ice cream at a nearby Family Mart. We were ecstatic, and joyfully volunteered to buy anything, from groceries to the day’s breakfast choices. Every single day, without fail, the four of us would wake up early just to skip happily down the street to get breakfast. That was the time I learned how powerful self-motivation could be.
It’s been almost three years since I last returned. Each time I leave Taiwan, I come home with new memories, as I helplessly watch the old ones float away like balloons - slipping out of my hand and disappearing into the sky. I know that I can never get them back. Each year slips away quietly, taking with it any chances of seeing them again. I have seen the joy on my grandparents’ faces when we rush to greet them at the airport, I have watched their tears fall as we leave. This is why I know that family is important, and every visit, every reunion, should be treasured forever.