The COVID-19 pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down. For many of us, our jobs and educations have been disrupted, our social lives outside of a Zoom screen have been put on hold, our emotional life has been severely challenged. One of the byproducts of the coronavirus is that many of us have a newfound appreciation of family connection, what it means to be bound together by those ties. Thirteen-year-old Hai-Bien Tran Nguyen shares his remarkably wise insights about what family truly means.  

This fall, Hai-Bien Tran Nguyen will be entering the 8th grade at the Gordon School in East Providence, RI.

My grandfather had already died a long time ago. I didn’t really know him. You don’t feel as sad if you don’t know the person who just died. I had never talked to him, or even seen him. It was like he was a stranger and the only thing I knew about him was that he was my grandfather. There was a conversation about three years later. About the same topic, but with a different grandparent. 

My mom and sister were in the next room talking about going back to Vietnam. Both of them wanted to go back to their home country, but getting there was easier said than done. It would take a huge dent out of my mom’s savings and I’d lost all my Vietnamese ever since I started going to school so I couldn’t communicate with my relatives, who couldn’t speak or understand English. As far as I know the entirety of my family, except for me, was born and stayed in Vietnam. They originally lived in a medium sized house with a super messy pig pen, a lush garden, and some noisy chickens. We came to the U.S. because my dad wanted a better education to get a better job and then we’d go back to Vietnam. That didn’t happen. We ended up staying in America. We were like a family of birds who couldn’t get back to the nest. 

They continued to argue. The conversation turned into one about me and language barriers. They were talking about how I might never get to have an actual conversation with my grandmother before she dies. They were extra worried because it happened with my grandfather. During this argument I had been reading quietly. I finished my book and opened the door to my mom on her phone and my sister in her room, like nothing had happened. They’d heard me coming and went back to their normal routine. I had heard them too. 

This is why I believe in tying knots. Tying them and making sure they can’t be untied.

I believe that if families are not connected it causes grief, I believe that language barriers disrupt a family, I believe in tying knots and making sure they cannot be untied, I believe that a kid should be able to talk to his grandmother and understand her, and I believe that a bird should always go back to the nest.