Editor’s note: The following essays and art are part of Xpress’ 2016 Kids Issue, a colorful annual feature that offers local K-12 students a chance to express themselves through art, poetry and prose. This year, we asked kids to focus on themselves with the theme of “Who am I?”
HEART WIDE OPEN
My name is Calliope. What makes me who I am isn’t the blood in my body or the pigments that give me color: It’s the people I’ve been with, the things I do and the memories I have.
The way I let my body flow, be free to just let go and leap in a dance, is what makes me “me.” The way I love making lemonade because of the sound it makes as I stir the sweet ingredients together. All those nights that my mom was out of town and my dad would let us eat mac and cheese as we watched our favorite TV show by the fire, and how I would sometimes sit there and put the bowl to my ear just to hear the swishing sound of the noodles and the cheese mixed together.
Who I am is formed by a little fairy tale in the woods or the way we were made of warm honey-cinnamon milk when we played house. I am made up of all those times I let food or drinks sit out to see how they’d look all molded over. Or how I would always go outside and pick the weirdest plants and then boil them all in a pot just to see how they would smell and taste. How I would never tell mom or dad that we’d eaten the chocolates. All those memories of hot summer days of Slip and Slides and apple bobbing, all the snack times that came with dripping watermelon juice across my chin and catching salamanders down at the creek. That’s who I am.
What truly makes me are those connections created out of love, of trust, out of sleepovers and hangouts. They create a stronger, more powerful bond between us, forming a warm feeling in my heart. This feeling is what is me: welcoming, heart wide open, just waiting for another person to come so I can say the simple words “Hello, my friend.”
— Calliope Tomczak, The Learning Community School, seventh grade
Last summer my grandma, my two moms and I went to Ethiopia for 10 days to see my biological parents. I was born in Ethiopia, but I was adopted when I was 12 months old. Here are some of the things I saw.
It was a 13-hour direct flight from Washington, D.C. On the flight we got our own personal TVs, socks and toothbrushes.
The food there is different: You use a spongy bread called injera to eat with instead of forks. Injera is made from a grain called teff that only grows in Ethiopia. You get to eat the plate, because plates are pretty much injera too! It’s made with so many different varieties of spices you could smell it from a mile away. Don’t get me started on taste, because their food is so good: boiled eggs mixed with beef sauce, and different kinds of lentils soaked with corn in sauces. There’s also a soft drink called Mirinda that tastes like Sunkist.
And the traffic, boy! There are scarcely any traffic lights. Mostly everybody drives motorcycles because they’re the cheapest.
There are also forests and desert areas with acacia trees. In the forest around one of the hotels we stayed in, hyenas howled until 11 o’clock. Now tell me that’s not cool! People in Ethiopia grow their own crops: They work more, and kids also work on farms.
We stayed in a hotel by a lake, and monkeys would come and steal your food if you left it unattended. My grandma was taking a nap, and when she woke up, there were monkeys in her room. When we were eating at another hotel, we got up to see a hyena that was walking by and the monkeys took most of our food from the table while we were gone. Another time while my grandma was talking to my mom at a different restaurant, a monkey took her food while her back was turned.
And there you go: an introduction to Ethiopia …
— Tad Sloan-Westmoreland, The Learning Community School, fifth grade
I’m the girl I see staring back at me in the mirror with doubt about the imperfections, trying to seek the beauty in everyone else but somehow not finding the artistry in herself. The self-conscious one who assumes that her life is a mistake and that she’s incapable of succeeding at anything. I am someone who tunes out the world and focuses in my head, unable to conquer dark shadows. I’m a teenager who feels differently than her peers, because I want to redo my past and make new pages in my book.
When I stare hard at myself in the mirror, I see dreams that are transparent. Fingers are sailing across the piano keys in my living room, and my mind presses everything it has against paper that tells a story of its own, a story that can only be told in song. Something hauls me away to a place where someone else gets my story. Every time that song is played, some different part of my body transforms into something more advanced and peaceful. It brings me back to the times when I played in front of my two grandmothers, who let the music take them to a different place.
In life there’s always longing: longing for change and something immense that’s within your grasp. Longing for love and want, and more than anything, to stare in the mirror and be able to say, “I am beautiful the way I am.” To persevere and to lie on your deathbed feeling pride in your milestones and achievements. And lastly, to feel loved and know that when you die, a part of you will stay within the people who are still alive and guide them on their way. This is who I am.
— Rachel Forehand, The Learning Community School, eighth grade