oh my goodness thank you!! I really hope you become a finalist as well!! I just joined. Good luck to you Gasira! Yeah, I ranked Columbia, Brown, Oberlin, UPenn, Swarthmore, Vassar, Pomona, and Wesleyan! Did you rank?
alright i’ll just attach it to this:
I can describe home perfectly. I can almost smell the ripe mango picked fresh from the backyard and taste the sweet juice as I greet a new day. Another beautiful sunrise in Central America. This home is a far away place - a place I am unfamiliar with but one that I can describe vividly. Nonetheless, these were events that I have not experienced myself. Still they were memories that felt like my own, playing a large role in my development. As a small child, I would ask my mother to tell me about her childhood. Cuéntame una historia, tell me a story. On lazy Sunday afternoons she would describe her earlier memories with a thick Hispanic accent, memories of her favorite place in the world. I recall my mother telling me stories of the mango trees in her old backyard, picking coconuts with her father on humid summer mornings, and my favorite - el carnaval. I loved the stories of the roller coasters, ferris wheels, and the men that would dress like diabolitos clad in all black to scare children. I could imagine it all, the costumes, the decorated cars, the taste of corvina with pico de gallo and lime- a Panamanian favorite. I would feel the bullet in her hand that remained from the police releasing fire on the student protesters, as she told me stories of her times as a radical student. I would then be transported to 1985, protesting the corrupt government under the leadership of dictator Manuel Noriega.
My own childhood was much different.
It is 1997 and George and Elena welcome a very unhealthy baby girl to the world. The diaphragm hernia means they have to move to The United States. There is not a single picture of the child without an oxygen tank. It is 1999 and the silent child with large looming eyes watches as her small family crumbles, the noises more like construction site sounds than the voices of parents. After months of shouting the child never sees her father again and it is then that she learns that a woman can fill the roles of both a mother and a father at the same time. It is 2004 and a girl of seven with mousy brown hair sits in corners of the local public library enveloped in whichever history topic most seemed intriguing at the time, topics like the sinking of the Titanic, the Holocaust, or the American Civil War. Next, it is 2007 and my lanky ten year old self eagerly awaits my sister’s physical therapist. All I really understood then was that my sister had cerebral palsy which meant she required extra help and attention and that her therapist always brought toys. Yet I remember sitting on the carpet during these sessions simply observing and knowing something was wrong, knowing there had to be something else behind my mother’s solemn gaze. I was simply too young to comprehend the long term emotional and financial toll the big words would take on my family.
At the time, the gravity of the stories my mother told me never really occurred to me. I had not realized how vital it was for her to pour these memories into me. I was her vessel. I also did not realize how it would come to fuel my aspirations to create a future as beautiful and meaningful as the stories that were etched into my mind. Knowing I could build my future in any way I wished to was exhilarating. I knew I could make my life as big as I wanted, I could leave a mark. I began planning for my life as a bio-medical research scientist, as a lawyer for a civil rights firm maintaining justice in my community, even as the president of the United States. I was left intimidated by my own ambition but as I grew I realized the necessity of wanting to make an impact on the world. I realized that true changes can be made only once you believe they are possible. I came to accept these dreams of mine, as big as they were. Not once, however, have I lost sight of Panama. The tall palm trees that would stretch beyond my own imagination and the silvery feathers of the Harpy Eagle have always been key figures in a home that had been built in my mind at a very young age and had always continued to flourish.
It is now 2013. Once again I am alone with my mother on a Sunday afternoon, we are sitting in silence when I look at her and say, “Mom, I will never forget Panama”, she looks at me with bright eyes and quietly thanks me.