A Snapshot Into the Past This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

March 3, 2008
The pictures flash by, a vivid kaleidoscope of colors. They tell the story of a little girl who – judging from the yellow numbers on the bottoms of the photos – should be all grown up by now.

Not quite.

I smile as I flip through the wrinkled pages of the old album; the soundtrack of my memory plays the story behind each snapshot. Here I am, at four, posing in the shower. And here I am again, at six, applying Mom's lipstick all over my face, managing to miss my mouth. And here … I squint at a photo. Huh. I don't remember this one.

I bring the album to Mom. “When was this taken?” I ask.

After some nagging on my part, she drops the laundry to lean over my shoulder. “You were two,” she says in Chinese. She goes on to explain that we were at an airport in Taiwan, headed for the States.

“Oh,” I say. In the picture, I am sitting in a bright blue stroller, clutching a doll; the camera flash is illuminating my face a translucent white. Against the emphasized paleness of my skin, my eyes stand out – big and black like bruises. I am afraid.

Those eyes catch and hold me. Fear, cold and metallic, rises in the back of my throat, and with it come bits and pieces of remembrance. This picture was taken when Mom returned to bring me to Tucson, Arizona, to live with her and Dad. Or rather, as my two-year-old mind had recorded it, when Grandma left me.

I feel sorry for my younger self. Don't cry. Everything will be all right. She looks back at me, wide-eyed, unconvinced.

I can see myself turning to Grandma for reassurance. Something is wrong. I sense this but what it is eludes my childlike intuition. Finally, I catch her eyes; Grandma smiles, but the ends of her mouth tremble. My fears are confirmed.

A strange lady holds my sweaty hands in her own. She is young and pretty, but I do not like her. I try to worm my hands free, wriggling my fingers. Her grip tightens like a vise, choking and unforgiving. Scowling, I grit my teeth, look down at the marbled floors, watch the lights reflecting.

“It's time,” the lady says. Grandma nods, her neck drooping into soft folds and wrinkles. The scared feeling is back, crawling in my chest like a wild thing. Time for what? Before I can ponder this, I am lifted up into a pair of warm, protective arms – Grandma's. She sets me down hurriedly and then hugs the strange lady – my mother.

There is a lurch in my stomach as my stroller begins rolling. Dimly I register that the lady is pushing me. I turn back to see Grandma standing in place, smiling brightly and waving. Her eyes are wet and shiny. I want to call out, but I figure she will join us soon. After all, she has always been there to smooth my path. So I wave back until the ground rises up and over her head, and she is too far away to see.

As I stare at the photo, I wonder how I felt when I realized Grandma wasn't coming too. I wonder how long it took for me to adjust to my new home and learn to love my parents. I wonder but I am not afraid, because I know how this story ends. Or at least, how it goes.

I tell myself that everything will fall into place.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2010 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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sgt.johnson49 said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 9:33 am
A very intriguing piece, you really can capture your emotions on paper. 5/5
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