Vignette 1: Dropped
I'm sure that you've been asked whether you were dropped on your head as a baby at least once in your life. You probably laughed it off and responded to the question with some other snarky comeback. However when my younger sister, Ilaria, gets asked this, her response is slightly different...Because she actually was, thanks to me.
It happened the day she was born. “Come see your little sister!” My mom had enthusiastically exclaimed, gesturing for me to approach the bedside. With eyes as wide as saucers, I poked the tiny, chubby foot that peeked out from the folds of the little cloth bundle my mom held in her arms. “Can I hold her, Mommy?” I pleaded. My mom shared a quick look with my dad, who was hovering behind me, before nodding. She scooped up Ilaria, and gently lowered her into my outstretched arms, warning me to be careful and not to wake her up.
The moment my little sister was in my arms, something clicked. My eyes roamed around her face, soaking in every detail. Ilaria’s skin was soft and smooth to the touch, her eyelashes long and dark, her chocolate locks were silk in my hands. I realized how much more responsibility and compassion I’d have to demonstrate to properly take care of her, to be a proper big sister. The prospect was daunting, and I felt my stomach twist and knot itself inside me. In a way, my childhood as I had known it ended here, and it was bittersweet. Bittersweet, but also completely worth it. As I watched my beautiful baby sister sleeping peacefully in her cocoon of blankets, I knew I would never, never let—
Ilaria chose that moment to squirm in her sleep and neatly roll out of my arms. Fortunately, she fell on the edge of the bed, giving my dad’s hands time to dart out and catch the baby before she toppled to the floor. Still, I was grounded for quite some time.
Vignette 2: Noses
Most of the people in my family have similar noses. They are very big, big enough to look disproportionate compared to the rest of our faces. My dad’s nose is like a triangle, the kind you would be asked to trace in math class: each side is straight, the angles are all sharp. My mom’s nose is one of those ungroomed black diamond slopes we ski down every winter vacation: it’s narrow, with a small slope at the top and then a bump and then a slope again. It’s because she broke it in a car accident. My nose is a mix of the two, wider than my mom’s, but more narrow than my dad’s, with a bump and the little slopes, but they aren’t as defined as my mom’s. The freckles on it look like the trail of breadcrumbs Hansel and Gretel sprinkled on the forest floor to remember their way.
Ilaria’s nose is just a mystery. Nobody knows who or where it came from. It’s goofy and adorable and makes you grin, and sits on her face just right. I always get the urge to trace the little curve with my finger and poke the haphazardly-placed freckles over it. They remind me of the cupcakes I sometimes bake during long weekends when there is nothing better to do. I love the sweet smell of the cakes when they are fresh out of the oven, their spongy texture and the warmth you feel them giving off when your fingertips are close enough, and the pop songs I hum while I slather spoonfuls of sugary frosting over the buttery sweets and take a pinch of sprinkles and scatter them on top just like the freckles on top of Ilaria’s nose.
Vignette 3: Fat Suit
Who would have known that periodically being forced into a leotard stuffed with plastic beach balls like a turkey is with stuffing would show me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life? Yes, playing Aunt Sponge in the sixth grade middle school play, “James and the Giant Peach”, was certainly a very eye-opening—and sweaty—experience. Everything, from our first rehearsal (during which I found out I was the only sixth grader with a lead) to closing night, was absolutely unbelievable. Sure, there were some days the stage managers made us review blocking and lines until I thought I would dissolve into a sobbing puddle of exhaustion on the floor, but at the next rehearsal I was always rewarded with a compliment from Ms. S, the director, and that was enough for me.
I remember opening night like it was yesterday. As we sat in the audience and listened to Ms. S explain what would happen when the play ended, I saw the stage itself come alive, becoming jittery with nerves. Leaves from the fake trees that were part of the set rustled in an invisible breeze, whispering to one another like children telling secrets. The pools of yellowish light that illuminated the stage flickered in excitement, and I felt those same sensations pour into my fingers, my toes, my very pulse. Floorboards cracked and creaked and crackled under the weight of the cast’s footsteps as we thundered backstage to prepare for the show.
And before I knew it, it was time for bows. The moment was almost as nerve-wracking as appearing onstage for the first time. I suddenly felt a hand on my back shove me through the slit in the curtain. I stumbled to center stage, cheeks blazing, and took my bow. There, amidst thunderous applause from the audience, with the smell of salty, buttery, popcorn invading my nostrils, with lights, lights, and more lights piercing my eyes and blinding me, the veil was lifted from my eyes. I loved this feeling, the feeling of certainty and of exhilaration that rushed into me at the end of every show, the knowledge that my lips were stretched in an involuntary smile I was unwilling to stop.
It hit me like a bucket of icy water. This was what I wanted to do.