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Message to Readers

This was a very personal piece for me to write. I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to your feedback!

The Scrapbook Girl

December 5, 2018

'Chellam, come down!'

My mother's voice barely registers. This scene- me in my room, my mother calling me from the kitchen- is so familiar to me that the Tamil sprouting from her lips no longer confuses me, and I now have a strong enough grip of the language to warble back a reply. 'Give me two minutes!'

This is a lie and I know it. I do know that right now, my place is downstairs. My extended family is in the living room, waiting to meet me and exalt over me in a way only Asians know how. They seem to be more proud of my accomplishments than I am.

But I can't tear myself away from my laptop. The calendar on my desktop diligently counts away days at the same pace it always has, heedless of my rising panic. College application season is upon me, and I feel so very unprepared for the life of quasi-adulthood that awaits. As I pour through my essays for the umpteenth time, however, I know that there is nothing left to polish. I've gone through my credentials enough that it seems to be permanently burnt into my retinas. Now the only thing I can do is wait. 

I walk downstairs with my lead-lined heart somewhere in the pits of my stomach. I have no energy to deal with my family, not now. 


I am greeted with the whirlwind that is my five-year-old cousin. His energy is relentless, and as he bounces off my hip he asks me if I ate the snacks our pati made us. And do I want to play Wii with them? Or watch a movie? A trip to the park, at the very least?

I manage a smile, and send him off squealing with some tummy tickles. I take a moment to breathe when I feel a pair of comfortably familiar arms envelope me- it's my pati, my father's mother. 

I try to bring a curve to my lips, but my grandmother will not be fooled as easily as my cousin was. She looks through my shabby front and sees me, the drawn facethe bags under my eyes that are now permanent guests. 

She doesn't say anything, but guides me to the main table. It's gleaming with decadence, the highlight my mother's famed kueh nastar, or pineapple tarts. As the only Singaporean in an all-Indian family, I'm sure my mother feels out of place at times, but December is always for her to shine. For a month, our table will be laden with these delicacies, and my mother never feels happier than when preparing feasts taught to her by her now-departed mother. 

I take a handful and walk into my garden. It's well into December, but India hasn't seemed to have gotten the memo. Bright afternoon sunlight streams down from the heavens, seeming to set everything aglow. I sit down and take a bite of a tart, relishing in the pineapple-y goodness. From my vantage point I can see my sister and cousins putting finish touches on our tree. We are a scrapbook of a family, collecting bits of tradition from wherever we go- we have a Christmas tree next to our Hindu prayer room, Singaporean sweets next to Indian lunches. 

The sun is relentless, and I scootch over to hide from its glare. If I was back home in Chicago, my house would have been under a foot of snow. We would have made hot cocoa together, maybe listened to some carolers. Subconsciously I know it's been more than seven years since I've lived in the States, but December always seems to amplify my longing to go back.

And if all goes well, soon I will be going back. My life seems to be passing by with me only as a passenger, and I am too scared to peek through my fingers and look at the destination. College life will be completely different from what I'm used to, though. For the first time in eighteen years I won't be with my family, and I will be all alone with my thoughts.

What if the me I know now is completely different from the me I will become in college? With no one to watch over me, I have no idea if I can manage by myself. When baby birds grow up, they're made to fly by being pushed out of the nest. I'm in a nosedive on the way to the big, big world, and only I can prevent myself from crashing. 

My sticky web of thoughts is interrupted by a door slamming open. It's my sister, beaming from ear-to-ear. 'Come on, we're putting the angel on the tree!'

I get up. As I make my way to my family, I seem to momentarily have left my weariness behind. I don't know exactly what it is, but my feet seem lighter than they have felt in a long time. I don't question it, because I do not need to. The Great Tomorrow can wait. I think I'll take some time out to focus on the now.



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  • Dani A. Remlap

    This is such a lovely, evocative piece. For a moment, I was enveloped in your home and your world. You've done an amazing job on this. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself

    10 months ago
  • lindsayt270

    I relate to this so much. I looked up the pineapple tart because it sounded really similar to to the ong lai sou (okay, super clueless how to translate Taiwanese into English spelling), or the pineapple pastry, in Taiwan, which my sister looooves. I can also understand that longing to go back to the States and seeing college as that way out. Wonderful piece, good luck on college applications (or if this was referring to a time long ago, good luck at life now), college apps sound scary.

    11 months ago
  • Quille

    This was definitely an enjoyable read. I can really relate to it. This piece really showcases your excellent style of writing and pulls the reader right into the character's emotions. Awesome job with this one--very awesome :D
    God Bless you and your family this holiday and always :DD

    11 months ago