This essay was originally written in the fall of 2015 as my common application essay. It was my first true storytelling experience, and it is one of my favorite pieces I have written. It's a story that has been passed around for months since I wrote it, and I thought it was time to give it a home here on my blog. As a storyteller, here is the tale of one of the most vulnerable and beautiful seasons in my life.
It’s my kitchen on a cloudy August morning, and I’ve lost track of date and time. The counters are filled with food from neighbors, friends, and people I had never even met. The chairs are occupied by aunts and uncles and down-the-street-best-friends and sympathetic faces. Draped across the railing is a collection of new black dresses that our aunt picked out for us earlier that day. It was two days after my dad died in a biking accident, and my kitchen felt nostalgic. It reminded me of all the family dinners we used to have, when we needed six chairs instead of five, and all the lazy Sunday mornings spent cooking breakfast together. I was comfortable reminiscing while sitting on a stool in my kitchen trying to make a dent in the hodge-podge buffet that filled every bit of counter space. I wasn’t quite sure, just yet, how to approach the future.
The future was entirely unimaginable, but the past few days were playing through my head as clear and haunting as a tornado siren: I was sitting on our living room couch in our lake house when my life was interrupted by my mom’s defeated scream. My three siblings and I all exchanged startled looks just before she walked in, accompanied by policemen who told us our dad was killed in a biking accident a few miles away from our home. It was a rainy day, and the weather mirrored my thoughts of confusion and sadness and drowning. It felt like a bad joke, or a nightmare I couldn't work up enough strength to wake up from no matter how loudly I yelled or how fast I tried to run away. The past was vivid. The present evident and loud, but the future seemed unclear.
This day sitting in my spot in the kitchen I can see everything; our table, chairs, and the countertops that had been dirtied from many family dinners. Being here reminds me of all the moments, serious and sad, we have shared as a family leading up to today. I remember our Christmas traditions and the smell of coffee as our parents tried to sneak in a cup or two before we started opening presents. I smile as I remember walking down the stairs on my birthday every year to a maze of streamers and a big sign on the fridge written in my parents’ handwriting. It’s calming to recall a time when our family was complete, because I realize that with every passing minute that reality is getting farther and farther out of my reach.
It’s my kitchen on a Sunday night. Two years have passed since that morning in August. Our new puppy, Buddha, sleeps peacefully in his favorite spot under the table while I sit and finish the last of my weekend assignments. The dull noise coming from the living room as my younger brother, Brendan, watches Game of Thrones is interrupted by the doorbell. Our youngest sister, Katie, is back from volleyball. Now that she's home, the five of us sit down to eat and laugh at Buddha as he snores. A favorite song comes on the radio as we finish up dessert, and my older brother Donny doesn't hesitate before jumping out of his seat and turning it up. In an instant, our calm and peaceful kitchen has turned into a full-on dance party as my mom grabs the broom as a dance partner and we all begin breaking out our best moves. In this moment, I realize the maturity and wisdom I have gained; a sense of peace only born through profound tragedy. It’s my kitchen: it's been broken and put back together. It’s full of memories and yesterdays, but it's also filled with dreams and moving on and tomorrows. The five of us laugh as the song ends and start to clean up from dinner.