May 21, 2013
Written by Carter Johnson
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 23:00
January arrives with a characteristic thump, and waking up on New Year’s Day we face an inevitable winter and the year to come. Ahead are months of bitter cold, and days leaving and arriving home in utter darkness — the warmth of the holidays is gone, replaced with a heavy blanket of snow and work. It can be hard to find something bright in the early days of January, but one image in particular stays with me from the holiday season.A scene from a certain Norman Rockwell painting, it is a family seated around a table, comfortable in their intimacy and with each other. The painting is titled Freedom from Want, and it is one in Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series. Of course, it is idealized and can hardly be called reality. It was a work of propaganda created in the early years of the Second World War, aimed at enticing buyers of war bonds and re-instilling some concept of the now fragmented American Dream while citizens everywhere still reeled from the Depression. The painting speaks to me, though, not of freedom or want or both of those things together in a New Deal idea of America. No, to me the painting speaks of something much simpler, and the most important thing one can have in life: family.
I don’t mean to sound like The Godfather’s Don Corleone, but he did manage to say it very simply, in that rough growl of a voice: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” And so I can say without any hesitation that the most important thing in any young adult’s life (or indeed anyone’s life in general) is not school, work or friends — it is family. It is when one comes home, exhausted after a drawn-out winter’s day, and finds loved ones waiting for and expecting them that the importance of family is truly realized. It is above all a support system, a bulwark against a cruel outside world and proof that there is more to life than cold, calculated materialism.
Anyone who says coming of age was easy obviously does not remember it — to be sure youth can be considered a time of innocence and even naiveté, but perhaps more so a time of innocence and naiveté lost. And so a family should provide what school cannot: a respite from the judgment that comes along with these formative years, a peaceful domain amidst an often brutish social sphere.
Seated around the dinner table each night, my family often find ourselves talking, well after we have finished eating, engaging in the most basic and profound way of communication: merely conversing, swapping stories, news and jokes, as the conversation weaves its way from President Obama to Woody Allen to Warren Zevon. It is here where I have learned things truly important and formulated my own ideas about every conceivable topic. Often people say one must travel outside their comfort zone to learn new things, and that is true, to be sure — I myself recently wrote of going “outside the box” in order to discover new and exciting things. But one cannot discount an even bigger truth, one that proves particularly important for teenagers of any time or space: The greatest satisfaction, gratification and ultimately fulfillment will come from no place but family.
Carter Johnson is a junior from Greenwich at Brunswick School.
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