This Is Us


noun: A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household; a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage; the children of a person or couple; or all the descendants of a common ancestor.

If you were to google the definition of the word family this is what you would find. A basic description of what many people may consider what constitutes a family. However, many would agree that family is a term that has changed throughout history and continues to be an evolving concept today. It is even very common to hear individuals speak about their school family, work family, and church family. Do all families look alike? Of course not! Each family is unique and constantly changing.

Now that you see where this post is going, you may be thinking that I consciously stole the title above. And the answer is…absolutely.  Recently I started watching the newest NBC phenomenon, This is Us (3 Golden Globe nominations this year). A show that continues to exceed the expectations of its viewers with each episode pulling on the heart strings, capturing the essence of family dynamics, and portraying the unforgettable moments or harsh realities of life. But since this blog post is not being written for the purpose of being a spoiler or to just give it more praise than its awards have provided, I just want to take a second  to tell you if you haven’t watched it, it is most assuredly worth your time and tears (because if you’re anything like me, there will be lots of tears).

And so, because this is probably one of my favorite topics and due to my current obsession with Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore (obviously my favorites in the show); I thought it would be fun to introduce and share a little about my own family and all of our  loving, wild, dramatic, loud, exuberant, and loyal characters.

So without further ado…

The Brooks [Valdez] Family

When I was a child and someone would ask me about my ethnicity, I was often confused. Well I knew my dad was white and my mom spoke Spanish. So what did that make me? It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that I wasn’t just one ethnicity and I didn’t have to chose between my parents. I am a true result of the vast melting pot of the United States, with a family tree going back to stowaways on the Mayflower, a loud Spanish speaking family, and a weird mix of American/Mexican/Filipino food at our dinner table.

Having roots in a Hispanic culture, it is can be assumed that my family is large, loud, and full of traditions. Growing up with aunts, uncles, and cousins living close by it seemed there was always a birthday, event, or everyone just over for pozole night. My Ita (we called her this because when we were little we couldn’t say abuelita) was born in Tala Jalisco, Mexico and moved to the US in her early 20s where she met my Grandpa Andrew, a Filipino immigrant. They had five kids and worked in a farming community of a small beach town in California. Its hard to imagine what life would had been for my grandparents back in the day. Full of adventure and excitement, living out their dreams of living in the US and of all places, sunny California; but at the same time, facing the hardships and realities of being in a new culture where they barely could speak the one language they had in common. In addition to being many miles away from home, my grandparents did not have family or remain close with their families throughout their lives. So it was up to them (and my aunt and uncles) to form family traditions laden with the closeness they all desired. My grandpa Andrew passed away before I was born, but his Filipino recipes have remained in our odd mix of traditions.

My father’s parents were much of a different background, with stories dating back to the Civil War, Daniel Boon, and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. My Grandma Gloria was the daughter of a family Doctor and worked hard her entire life to support her family. My Papa was a Korean War Veteran, awarded several purple hearts during his time of service. Now while I may not have grown up as close to my father’s side of the family, I do have many memories of spending time with my grandma and have always appreciated her support throughout many years of school events and sports games.

My mother is the youngest of five siblings and with a number of adventurous stories from her childhood that could have probably landed her her own sitcom. My dad, while having more stories about friends and the havoc they caused, also seemed to enjoy his carefree youth. After being begged to go out with my dad, only so her best friend could date his best friend, my mom and dad began a relationship that would lead to 36 years of marriage, three kids, and five grandchildren.

Like my Ita and mother, I too am the youngest in the family (And yes! Being the baby does have its perks). I grew up close to my cousins and can remember long summers, holidays, and weekends of building indoor forts with every blanket in the house, riding dirt bikes on the tracks near our house, being forced to preform in numerous musical and theatrical productions, building clubhouses with special passwords and rules, trips to the beach to feed the seals, themed vacations to the lake, and baking our own chocolate creations to sell around the neighborhood so we could afford the next Nintendo. These memories are the ones I cherish and I will always be thankful for being surrounded by family that loved and cared about one another.

Now all of these stories sound like I grew up in an excitingly perfect little bubble. And looking back, at many times I guess I did feel like this; but like everyone else, my family did not come without its fault and hardships. However, through all the years of sickness, tragic accidents, feuds, drama, or secrets, my family has also taught me the importance of love, forgiveness, grace, and that two is better than one.

Today, we are still not without our drama, but continue to remain close. With a constantly growing family, others seem to find it difficult to keep up with the marriages and births that happen at least once a year. The Lord has blessed my family and I am forever grateful for being a part of this weird mix of people that still celebrate Christmas morning (all 30 something of us) crammed into my Ita’s small living room drinking champurado, reading the Christmas Story (each one making their case why its not their year to read), and simply enjoying the loud, messy joy of family.

Thank you to those who have built the foundation, the Lord who has guided, and everyone who has cherished and valued this family.


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