San Jose, Santa No Way
Christmas is lingering around the corner. And so is Santa. We put out a pen and pencil, next to the fireplace. Empty stockings hung around, a plate full of cookies and hot cocoa lay aside. We left it sitting as we quickly hopped into the car. Luggages and duffel bags topple in the trunk. We gotta keep it clear, Dad says, as it’s a 5 hour drive. We sat snug in the middle row of our Honda. Blankets draped down and fluffy pillows float above. The spirit of Christmas is on it’s way to San Jose.
Vy excitedly drops her bags at the front step as Thy struggles to balance a bag. I roll my luggage across the cement.
Here take the luggage. I’ll take that.
Wow, this house is big.
We clamor and murmur as we walk in. Our words topple over each other like the bags we left in the master bedroom.
Wynne, I’m so glad you could make it, her friend exclaims as they hug. Hopefully the snow wasn’t too heavy on the freeway. Sometimes the frost gets you.
We curl up in the warm white mattresses, fresh from the laundry. We stay there for a few days. It is Christmas, we get presents. White Elephant exchange with the friends. We visit our cousins up north. We get more presents. We get a small gift to share from our Mom. After a week’s spending, we head home. We’re expecting presents.
Wait, but we didn’t write our letters…
Well, it’s Santa. Maybe he already knows.
My mom plays along as we enter the garage. Oh no, you didn’t write letters? How can Santa know what to make for you? But as we walk into the house, a box is wrapped in a shimmery coat aside the stockings, full, and the plate, empty. He knew. The paper is gone but the pen still there. My sisters and I unwrap the present and it is exactly what we wanted.
I go to sleep that night, amazed by the miracle, and I wake up the next day, not so sure if it was a dream. I let my feet touch the carpet floor of my bedroom.
The present, beside my toes.
I walked to school today. It was a normal day. Like every other day. Except it didn’t feel like a normal day. It never did.
Every morning I would get up and look at myself in the mirror, trying to hide myself behind the cupboards below it. My reflection followed me everywhere I went.
Of course it did. It was a reflection of a fearful girl who couldn’t stand up for herself, who didn’t have the confidence to make more of herself than who she saw in the mirror. When I walked to school, I paced twice as fast as the other students around me because I imagined myself being surrounded by judgemental teenagers who despised me. It wasn’t all my fault. I was diagnosed with hallucination problems that would haunt me every now and then. I never really told anyone about it. After all, it’s just another reason for people to avoid me.
Being the frazzled and clumsy person I was, I bumped into one of my classmates. Making sure it wasn’t a figment of my imagination, I reached out to shake the person’s hand. I was a socially awkward person so my approach was quite embarrassing. But she didn’t mind. She took my hand, looked into my eyes, and whispered “I’ll always be here if you need me.”
This type of classmate was the insightful one. The teacher’s pet. The one everybody was jealous of but secretly wished to be. She sat in front of the class, yet, always aware of the problems behind her. That’s the type of person I prayed every night to be. She was able to sense my insecurity, which is why she ran into me in the first place.
From that day, I met her at the same place each morning, near the school cafeteria where they served muffins for breakfast. We sat and talked about regular subjects and particular interests, nothing really big. We occasionally shared our collectibles with each other and exchanged them.
Then one day, she handed me a shard of glass, rimmed around the edges with purple tiny gemstones to keep the sharp sides intact. I stared into the shimmering surface, and for the first time in a long time, I looked happy.
My house has a small, but beautiful garden. It looks quite grand, especially with the tiny fountain spurting water, reflecting the light of the sun. Small blush rose-bud petals gracefully float in the bowl of the fountain. On top of the fountain is the shape of a starfruit. It’s small, but it’s everything. If you walk along the garden, you’ll see different tree sculptures including a dragon, a heart, and a perfect sphere. My favorite is the dragon because during the lunar new year, we hang our traditional lanterns that light the tree like a thousand fireflies. Nonetheless, every tree, no matter how big or small, grows starfruit.
The starfruit my family grows is like no other starfruit. It’s a tender and juicy mix of sweet and sour in one punch. My mom tends the starfruit very carefully. She’s very precise with the amount of sunlight and water she gives the plant, and creates a temperature that’s just right for the starfruit to flourish. It normally takes a while before the fruit is fully ripe. When the right time comes, my dad delicately plucks the fruit and slices them into thin pieces. We often eat it with paprika and salt, blend it in smoothies, or dry them for long road trips. Sometimes, we just eat it fresh from when it was just cut.
Starfruit is a necessity in my house. But it isn’t just because it was efficient or the most delicious snack to ever have. It’s a star from above, falling into the hands of the people who fell for each other the second they met. It represented commitment. The time and sacrifice it takes to care for the starfruit is undenying. It was like caring for another child, except it would live forever, to be passed down from generation to generation, carrying the spirits of those who first tended the fruit. That’s what made the starfruit so special.
Ten’s Too Old
I remember what my 10th birthday was like. I got a jumper like most years, and a themed party. Pink and blue balloons filled the bouncy house. It was a Shopkins party. I was obsessed with those miniature foods and their large, sugar high eyes that stared at you. I watched all the cartoons with Peppa Mint, Popette, all the Shopville characters. I printed on edible paper a picture with the Shopville girls and their shopkins. What the bakers were supposed to do was peel and stick the adhesive side on the cake before they baked it. Not to slap the whole paper on top, covering the sides with pink frosted tips which in a video shows me struggling to cut through the plastic. I thought it was me, being a kid and not knowing how to slice a cake.
10 is a nice age to be. Well, not at that time. That night, I didn’t want to blow off my candles because that meant it was official. If I had a birthday wish, it was to de-age. My mom tells me the story all the time, of me crying the day before because I didn’t want to be double digits.
I don’t want to be ten! I’m gonna be so old and die! I wanna be nine forever!
I’d do anything to be 10 again. Life was amazing. Fifth grade was amazing. I wouldn’t want to be 10 years older than 10.
I’m fifteen now and my birthday is coming soon. Having matured, I understand that life goes on. Life is full of slopes and cubed functions. Today, I’m sitting in math class, trying to solve difficult equations. I’m counting with my fingers like I count my ages. I’m stuck and I don’t know what to do. My trigonometry teacher once told me, “You know, the thing about life is that it moves on, even when you’re not ready. Even when you’re sick or aren’t feeling well. Life moves on. At some point, we have to learn how to move on because life doesn’t wait for you.” I know this is true, but sometimes I want to ignore it and go back to where everything was easy and playful, where it didn’t matter when you made a mistake.
I am older. I’m not getting any younger. I will have big decisions to make before I know it. Time passes by and is gone like thin air. Life is stressful. But when I get past the all the stress, there will be satisfaction, waiting for me by my doorstep. I will never get to a point in my life when I can say “Life will never be stressful” because stress doesn’t just disappear. It doesn’t die after you defeat it once. There will constantly be challenges that will throw me off my road, my car may suddenly stop and break down, but keep my fuel going. Because if there’s anything to look forward to in life, it’s the progression of my own. Enjoy every moment, because you never know how much you have left.
I had some personal reasons for making the decisions I chose. Transitioning from middle school to high school was a bit scary for me. I was always timid and had trouble fitting in. In middle school, I had a good group of friends. Everything was fine until my best friend completely shut me out. None of my other friends knew about it because I didn’t say anything and put on a facade. I began to draw myself away from those friends, too. That and my best friend was trying to keep me away from them. It was that year that completely destroyed my self confidence and made me feel like I was trapped in a dark cave with no one to guide me.
That same year, my cousin from Westminster High came to my school for her team’s flag performance. She told me she was part of something called “Color Guard.” I had no idea what she was talking about, but it reminded me of rhythmic gymnastics and I thought it was cool. Everything was so synchronized and beautiful. Being the anxious person I was, I never wanted to toss something that big above my head. It was like all my fears, hovering over my body; I would either catch it properly, or let everything that I was afraid of take over me.
The summer before ninth grade, I picked up a whole bunch of random sport flyers. It was an informative night for new FV incomers. Color Guard was the last flyer I picked up. Even then, I didn’t reach out to the guard coaches until near the start of high school. I was very indecisive and like usual, I didn’t tell my family members until after I signed up. Everybody was surprised because they expected me to do golf, the sport of least injuries. My parents didn’t like how time consuming it was. Putting that aside, I felt that joining the team aided me in regaining my confidence and was a good distraction from all my other stresses. Catching a toss made me feel like I was in control of problems that are thrown my way. I was tossing away my fears. I did crazy tricks that I would never have the courage to do on my own, I was able to stand in front of an audience without feeling like jelly legs, and I was able to do a sport of my choice, not something that other people expected of me. I’m still hesitant about a lot of things and I’m not as outspoken as I want to be, but I’m hoping it’s something I can continue to work on throughout my experience on this team.
I really owe my cousin for this. I’m really glad I took the flyer.
Home is the Heart
I never wanted to move houses. The only time I’ve moved was to the current house I live in. Having been there for a while now, I wouldn’t trade it for another house. My original house I hold with very little memories. My mom had my younger sister at that time. We were two ages apart, I was five at the time. It’s the only age I remember being in the house, so it must have been the last birthday I had there. What I do remember is the feeling of moving out of it.
I remembered feeling a tug of uneasiness when I first came into the empty house. My parents started to unpack, and the house became fuller of our faces. My mom had a third daughter, and we hung a new frame. Our family was complete. But something about the house was off. The master bedroom wasn’t as wide and the stairs were shorter. There wasn’t as much space to run downstairs and there were no secret doors in any of the closets.
I wasn’t sure why we had to move but soon enough, I was at a new school. I looked up at the flashing board that read “Hayden Elementary School.” I had amazing teachers and it was a playful environment. I stayed from kindergarten all the way to fifth grade. Soon enough, the flashing board read “Warner Middle School.” I went with my cousins who live just 10 minutes away. We became very close with each other through summer hangouts, which was basically every day. I even shared my elective class with my cousin. Before I knew it, I was in “Fountain Valley High School.” I shared this transition with my close middle school friends as well as newer acquaintances. Up to here is when I started to really value morals and values of life.
Now, I have very fond memories of this house after living here for 10 years. I’ve made connections with different people and I’ve never been closer to my cousins. One of them, almost 30, recently moved into my neighborhood, 6 houses away from mine. It’s amazing to walk over to her house whenever I want. I might not be able to do that in the next few years. She has her own life and she’ll probably find another place more suitable for her. The same will be for me. I can’t live in this house forever. But I won’t leave forever either.