This week, our writers explore how their childhoods have influenced whom they have become.
A Few Old Flowers
by: Austina xu
I think it was around ten or seven years ago. I forget. We were nearing the end of our hike at Footsville park, and I was still in the fields picking daffodils. “Aren’t they pretty?” I handed one to mom. She smiled. “Do you want to know the best part?” She plucked one from the grass and blew, sending all the little seeds flying away. I giggled as she brought one up to my lips, “Make a wish.” I clasped my hands together, squeezed my eyes shut, and blew. We watched them fly away together.
Now, you probably won’t believe me, but I actually did manage to catch a few. Kept the seeds in this little jar near mom’s perfumes. I don’t know. I guess I wanted to keep all those stupid wishes close by. My mom was really nice about it too. She would always be super careful when holding the jar and would call it fairy powder and stardust. And despite how silly it may sound now, I actually really liked it.
The names stopped afterward though. I remember when I was about to move houses, she had asked if I wanted to keep the jar, her hand hovering over the junk pile. “It’s just a few old flowers, you don’t need these, do you?” Hesitation. “No.” And with that she placed it off to the side, I packed the last of my textbooks, and we were done.
I’m at the subway now. People are smoking, reading, and catching up on missed calls. I check my phone. 2:30 pm. My hands smooth out any creases on my black skirt as I plug in my earbuds, hoping the leafleter nearby doesn’t notice me. As my subway nears, I notice something just between the tracks. A yellow daffodil. I pull one earbud out. It’s so small. So frail. Suddenly a rapid gray blur passes by me, and an automated voice floods my ears: Stop 3, Highbrook Park. I step towards the door, stealing a quick glance beneath the tracks; I can’t see anything. Doesn’t matter. She was right anyways- they were just a few old flowers.
by: Ava Arasan
“Take a deep breath.”
She wiggled her toes in the swirling depths of water.
“Do not be afraid!”
She was perched at the edge waiting to dive in.
“I’m here on the other side!”
Assured, the girl leaped in, worries dissolving.
Her mother gave her the very basics,
Learning how to swim,
And as she freestyled,
Butterflied and backed,
The girl grasped how to tread the waters,
And although she was deep in the foreign and cold,
She had no fear of drowning,
For she knew if she couldn’t make it to the other side,
When no splash, no kick could make it right,
Somewhere in this ocean, she could find
Her mother, her support, her island.
Strong and firm,
A familiar land,
She knew her mother would bolster her back,
take her hand,
And make sure that by the end of the day,
No matter how far her daughter swam astray,
She would very soon find back her way
To her familiar island.
And soon the girl mastered how to swim,
Gliding through the water,
Independent, assured, and staying afloat
Was there really a need for her island?
Now, she may think that she’s above the land,
No need to rely on her mother,
But she'll realize soon that under this cloak,
It was her mother who taught her to stroke.
My Second Grade Chinese new Year
By: Sawyer Lai
Ms. Carson, my second-grade social studies teacher, was a tall, brunette caucasian woman with a
slight southern accent. It was her first year teaching, and she talked to us with a strong
I’m-always-right-about-everything complex. That Chinese New Year, she decided that she wanted
to teach us about the zodiac calendar. “Okay, everyone! I want you all to draw a picture of your
zodiac animal,” she began, “raise your hands if you were born in 2004... ok, so you guys are all
monkeys. Now raise your hands if you were born in 2005... great! You guys are roosters.”
I couldn’t wait to go home and celebrate Chinese New Year with my family: my mouth
watered at the thought of the mooncakes and hot pot for dinner, and I was secretly most excited for
the 红包 (red envelopes filled with money for good luck) my sister and I would receive. Because my
family and I always celebrated Chinese New Year around early February, it was clear to me from a
young age that the Chinese lunar calendar and the American gregorian calendars’ new years did not
align. This fact had a special meaning in my life: though I was born in the gregorian calendar 2005, I
was born three days before the end of the lunar calendar 2004. Therefore, I was raised with an
understanding of my zodiac being the monkey. I figured that my teacher knew about the calendar
discrepancies, so I happily began to draw a monkey swinging between a pair of trees.
Fifteen minutes later, I proudly walked up to the front of the room with my finished drawing
and showed Ms. Carson.
“Um, didn’t you say you were born in 2005?” My teacher asked, “because you’re a rooster,
not a monkey.”
I shook my head and tried to explain, “Actually, I was born before the lunar new year ended,
so I’m technically a—”
“No, hold on,” Ms. Carson interrupted while she pulled out her phone and searched up
‘zodiac animal 2005,’ then showed me that the first result said ‘Rooster.’ Thinking that she had
proved her point, she said, “Look. It literally says right there: ‘roooo—ster’. Go back and draw a
Confused that she was attempting to convince me, a Chinese child raised with Chinese
traditions, against my own zodiac, I started to argue. Ms. Carson only cut me off again, “I’m the
social studies teacher here, so I think I would know a little bit more about this topic than you.” At
this point, I could feel all of my classmates’ eyes burning into the back of my head, and my face
heated up from embarrassment. I turned around and walked back to my desk, staring at the ground,
the monkey drawing hanging limply in my hand.
As I sat down, flustered, I thought to myself, "how am I supposed to explain this to her when she
won’t even let me talk? How could she not know about the calendars? She’s literally teaching about the lunar
new year in the middle of February... how did she not put that together?" I knew that Ms. Carson wanted
me to redo my drawing, but instead of getting up to grab another piece of paper, I stared down at
my paper, blinking back tears at my humiliation and the injustice of the situation. Ms. Carson
seemed to notice my unhappiness and condescendingly asked me if I had a problem with her
instructions. Just as I opened my mouth to reply, the bell rang, signaling the end of class; I packed up
my things faster than I ever had and rushed out of the room. I could hear Ms. Carson calling my
name from back inside the classroom, but I ignored her and headed to my next class.
Ms. Carson never brought up Chinese New Year again.
A Child's Dream
What it means to be successful
By: Laurie Jin
Childhood shapes our personal norms. When parents speak to children in what is to be their first
language, that way of communication becomes their norm. When we watch our parents leave for jobs
and prepare for dinner, that daily agenda becomes our norm. When we see the rich on TV living lavish
lives, the goal to be successful becomes our norm.
Because the path to success is so long and arduous, all children begin their expedition by
imitating their first role models: parents. To children, parents portray the perfect human: victorious in
the game of life. However, when their parents busy themselves with work, children are placed in front of
a screen, watching PBS shows, Disney characters, and cartoons. They obsess over their new role
models, wanting to be just like the popular characters on screen. However, stories such as Snow White
are merely tales, providing children with impossible standards that are expected in life. Whether it be the
characters’ beauty or prosperous outcomes, these tall tales change children’s goals to finding a prince or
saving a damsel in distress. Girls desire to be like the fashionable “pretty” princesses and boys are taught
to be strong and masculine- only then would a girl be interested in him. From the innocent thoughts of
the youth, these expectations and desires become unaddressed topics such as toxic masculinity and body
shaming. Today, we label men who respect women as “simps” and women who speak out as overdramatic and too emotional. On the other hand, males are encouraged to be like the muscular Hercules,
and females like the shy Belle. By continuing to think that the characters from our favorite childhood
stories embody perfection, success simply won’t come. The prettiest or richest people aren’t always
happy. While the amount of money they make could be dubbed as “successful” by others, happiness
counts far greater than a bank account. The characters that appear in childhood lead out happy fulfilled
lives- what success should actually look like.