What a Hiking Holiday With my Parents Taught Me About the Meaning of Family

When we finish the hikes, at the end of each day, we discuss the big topics, like how my dad would envision his life if he won the lottery. Or the small topics, like my parents’ experiences trying cotton candy for the first time. I ask them if they were happy during their first years in America. Life was harder for them, my dad says, and some of his worries will stick with him for the rest of his life. That worrying is a part of Chinese culture (he later contradicts himself by saying that I worry too much). My dad and I are extremely similar when it comes to how we react and process things emotionally, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to empathize with all of the ways that he tries to take care of us, however counterproductive they may be at times.

Courtesy of Michelle Li

On our penultimate day, it rains. We stop in a quiet bistro in Chamonix’s city center, and I want to try fondue, but I hesitate because of how big the portions are. My dad agrees to split the fondue with me. Even though I know he wants to try something else, he assures me that he’ll like it by explaining that he loves cheddar cheese on his burgers. I’m touched by the gesture. We end our meal with a coffee and dessert, a special treat that my dad has loved since I was a kid—and a scene that I always think about when I’m in New York City and missing my dad. I go to bed early every night, exhausted, replaying and trying to catalog every memory and conversation from the day. Most nights, I happily fall asleep to the sound of my parents talking and laughing in the other room.

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