Voices reacted in unison as my family filtered into the crowded restaurant private room the evening before we left for the United States. Since my parents would be dropping me off for college there, that evening comprised the last “complete” family reunion for a long time.
“Are you ready?” people repeatedly asked me.
“Yeah, I think so,” I would reply.
I did think I was ready. After all, so many people had already given me everything I needed. Yet, I did not know that I was going to bring with me a reminder of the most important thing of all that night.
The initial commotion gradually subsided. Everyone—aunts, uncles, and cousins, adults and infants, Grandpa and Grandma—gathered around the circularly-set tables.
Although there was still no food, many things cluttered the tables. There were colorful placemats, hand-painted tea cups, dainty platters, nice little chopsticks, and in the midst of them all, some packets of instant oatmeal.
The presence of those boxes looked strange to me as I sat down, but I was too busy chattering to give it much thought.
“Do you have a computer yet? Clothing? Shoes? Suitcases or bags?” the questions continued.
I continued to answer in the affirmative. I already had everything I needed. Then whenever they mentioned something that I did not have, I would decline to receive it, mostly because those items were too heavy or too bulky to carry overseas.
I prattled on with everyone around me, until Grandma called me. Then I realized that I had not talked to her the whole evening.
“Take these,” she thrust the packets of oatmeal over to me, her voice slightly shaky, “You can have them in your dorm when you’re hungry.”
“Oh, but Grandma, you didn’t have to! I wouldn’t need them,” I began to decline again, but she continued.
“Oh, these won’t take too much space in your luggage. They won’t be heavy. You could slip them in between your packed items,” her teary tone intensified, “You could bring them so that you don’t go hungry.”
My instinct told me to decline. After all, I really did not need the oatmeal. Yet when I looked at Grandma, then at my parents’ wise gazes, then back at Grandma, I started to realize the point.
“Thank you, Grandma,” I received the oatmeal, emotion beginning to grow in me as well.
I didn’t need the oatmeal, and I still don’t. Yet Grandma needed to show her love, and I needed her love. I could have been ready with everything, but all that everything would be meaningless without my family’s love.
Now, I still don’t need the oatmeal, and they just sit inside my drawers. Yet seeing those little packets remind me of Grandma, and of the love from home that I will always need.
They are worth far more than everything else because they are more than packets of oatmeal. They are packets of love.