I sat on my parents’ bed weeping with my head resting on my knees. “Why did you have to do that to me? Why did you have to show me the house and then take it away from me?” Hopelessly, I found myself praying to God realizing it was my last resort.
For years, my family and I found ourselves moving from country to country in hopes of a better future. Factors, such as war and lack of academic opportunities, led my parents to pack their bags and embark on a new journey for our family around the world. Our arduous journey first began in Kuçovë, Albania, then Athens, Greece, and then eventually, Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout those years, although my family always had a roof over our heads, I never had a place I could call “home.”
That night that I prayed to God, my mind raced back to the night I was clicking the delete button on my e-mails, but suddenly stopped when I came upon a listing of the house. It was September 22, 2007 —eight years exactly to the day that my family and I had moved to the United States. Instantly, I knew that it was fate that was bringing this house to me. I remembered visiting that yellow house the next day with my parents and falling in love with it. However, I also remembered the heartbreaking phone call I received later on that week saying that the owners had chosen another family’s offer.
A week after I had prayed to God, I had given up any hopes of my family buying the house. One day after school, I unlocked the door to our one-bedroom apartment and walked over to the telephone only to see it flashing a red light. I clicked PLAY and unexpectedly heard the voice of our real estate agent. “Eda!” she said joyfully. “The deal fell through with the other family—the house is yours! Call me back immediately to get started on the papers.” For a moment, I stood agape and kept replaying the words in my head. Was this really happening to me? Was my dream of owning a home finally coming true?
Over the month of November, I spent my days going to school and immediately rushing home to make phone calls. Although my parents were not fluent enough in English to communicate with the bank and real estate agent, I knew that I was not going to allow this obstacle to hinder my dream of helping to purchase a home for my family. Thus, unlike a typical thirteen-year-old girl’s conversations, my phone calls did not involve the mention of makeup, shoes, or boys. Instead, my conversations were composed of terms, such as “fixed-rate mortgages,” “preapprovals,” and “down payments.” Nevertheless, I was determined to help purchase this home after thirteen years of feeling embarrassed from living in a one-bedroom apartment. No longer was I going to experience feelings of humiliation from not being able to host sleepovers with my friends or from not being able to gossip with girls in school about who had the prettiest room color.
I had been homeless for the first thirteen years of my life. Although I will never be able to fully repay my parents for all of their sacrifices, the least I could do was to help find them a home that they could call their own—and that year, I did. To me, a home means more than the general conception of “four walls and a roof.” A home is a place filled with memories and laughter from my family. No matter where my future may lead me, I know that if at times I feel alone, I will always have a yellow home with my family inside waiting for me.
诚实、动人、有力。这是阅读 Eda 的文章后首先想到的三个词。通过诚实的表达方式，埃达展示了她随着时间的推移而真正的成长和成熟。我们喜欢 Eda 的文章的地方在于它把个人脆弱性表达得令人耳目一新。 例如，她以她在父母床上哭泣的场景开始整篇文章，并将自己的不幸归咎于他们。通过这种发自内心的诚实，埃达展示了她随着时间的推移而真正的成长和成熟。在整篇文章中，她的个人声音也很强烈。当她谈到爱上“那栋黄色的房子”时，我们脑海中会自动浮现出这栋房子的形象。当她谈到得知“黄色房子”被卖给另一个家庭时所经历的心碎时，我们也感到心痛。她有意描写“播放”她收到的语音邮件，以及她随后的内心想法，进一步促使我们与她一起重温她的心路历程。然而，作者不仅仅是告诉我们她的历程。她强调了她的历程是多么不一样。她没有享受关于化妆品或鞋子的电话交谈，而是与代理商谈论固定利率抵押贷款和首付……所有这些都是在 13 岁时她要做的。尽管她没有明确说明这一点，但很明显，她必须尽快成长，成为一个更强大的人。作者对“家”这个词的理解从普通的屋顶演变为更抽象的屋顶。家就是她的“回忆和欢笑”所在的地方。最后，她接受了父母做出的牺牲，并学会为自己的成长感到自豪。
Garishly lined with a pearlescent lavender, my eyes idly scanned the haphazard desk in front of me, settling on a small kohl. I packed the ebony powder into my waterline with a shaky hand, wincing at the fine specks making their way into my eyes.The girl in the mirror seemed sharper, older, somehow. At only 12, I was relatively new to the powders and blushes that lined my birthday makeup kit, but I was determined to decipher the deep splashes of color that had for so long been an enigma to me.After school involved self-inflicted solitary confinement, as I shut myself in my bedroom to hone my skills. The palette’s colors bore in, the breadth of my imagination interwoven into now-brittle brushes. Much to my chagrin, my mom walked in one day, amused at my smudged lipstick, which congealed on the wispy hairs that lined my upper lip.“Halloween already?” she asked playfully.I flushed in embarrassment as she got to work, smoothing my skin with a brush and filling the gaps in my squiggly liner. Becoming a makeup aficionado was going to take some help.
“What’s this even made of?” I asked, transfixed by the bright powder she was smattering on my cheeks.“You know, I’m not sure,” she murmured. “Maybe you should find out.”I did.Hours down the internet rabbit hole, I learned that the shimmery powder was made of mica, a mineral commonly used in cosmetics. While the substance was dazzling, its production process was steeped in humanitarian violations and environmental damage. Determined to reconcile my burgeoning love for makeup with my core values, I flung the kit into the corner of my drawer, vowing to find a more sustainable alternative. Yes, I was every bit as dramatic as you imagine it.Now 17, I approach ethical makeup with assured deliberation. As I glance at my dusty kit, which still sits where I left it, I harken back on the journey it has taken me on. Without the reckoning that it spurred, makeup would still simply be a tool of physical transformation, rather than a catalyst of personal growth.Now, each swipe of eyeliner is a stroke of my pen across paper as I write a children’s book about conscious consumerism. My flitting fingers programmatically place sparkles, mattes, and tints across my face in the same way that they feverishly move across a keyboard, watching algorithms and graphs integrate into models of supply chain transparency.
Makeup has taught me to be unflinching, both in self expression and my expectations for the future. I coat my lips with a bold sheen, preparing them to form words of unequivocal urgency at global conferences and casual discussions. I see my passion take flight, emboldening others to approach their own reckonings, uncomfortable as they may be. I embark on a two-year journey of not buying new clothes in a statement against mass consumption and rally youth into a unified organization. We stand together, picking at the gritty knots of makeup, corporate accountability, and sustainability as they slowly unravel.I’m not sure why makeup transfixes me. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy seeing my reveries take shape.
Yukta, the wannabe Wicked Witch of the West, has lids coated with emerald luster and lips of coal. Yukta, the Indian classical dancer, wields thick eyeliner and bright crimson lipstick that allow her expressions to be amplified across a stage. Deep rooted journeys of triumph and tribulation are plastered across the surface of my skin — this paradox excites me.Perhaps I am also drawn to makeup because as I peel back the layers, I am still wholly me. I am still the young girl staring wide-eyed at her reflection, earnestly questioning in an attempt to learn more about the world. Most importantly, I still carry an unflagging vigor to coalesce creativity and activism into palpable change, one brushstroke at a time.
Red, orange, purple, gold...I was caught in a riot of shifting colors. I pranced up and down the hill, my palms extended to the moving collage of butterflies that surrounded me. “Would you like to learn how to catch one?” Grandfather asked, holding out a glass jar. “Yes!” I cheered, his huge calloused fingers closing my chubby five-year-old hands around it carefully.
Grandfather put his finger to his lips, and I obliged as I watched him deftly maneuver his net. He caught one marvelous butterfly perched on a flower, and I clutched the open jar in anticipation as he slid the butterfly inside. It quivered and fell to the bottom of the jar, and I gasped. It struggled until its wings, ablaze in a glory of orange and red, quivered to a stop. I watched, wide-eyed, as it stopped moving. “Grandpa! What’s happening?”
My grandfather had always had a collection of butterflies, but that was the first time I saw him catch one. After witnessing the first butterfly die, I begged him to keep them alive; I even secretly let some of them go. Therefore, to compromise, he began carrying a special jar for the days I accompanied him on his outings, a jar to keep the living butterflies. But the creatures we caught always weakened and died after a few days in captivity, no matter how tenderly I fed and cared for them. Grandfather took me aside and explained that the lifespan of an adult butterfly was very short. They were not meant to live forever: their purpose was to flame brilliantly and then fade away. Thus, his art serves as a memory of their beauty, an acknowledgement of nature’s ephemeral splendor.
But nothing could stay the same. I moved to America and as the weekly excursions to the mountainside ended, so did our lessons in nature and science. Although six thousand miles away, I would never forget how my grandpa’s wrinkles creased when he smiled or how he always smelled like mountain flowers.
As I grew older and slowly understood how Grandfather lived his life, I began to follow in his footsteps. He protected nature’s beauty from decay with his art, and in the same way, I tried to protect my relationships, my artwork, and my memories. I surrounded myself with the journals we wrote together, but this time I recorded my own accomplishments, hoping to one day show him what I had done. I recorded everything, from the first time I spent a week away from home to the time I received a gold medal at the top of the podium at the California Tae Kwon Do Competition. I filled my new home in America with the photographs from my childhood and began to create art of my own. Instead of catching butterflies like my grandpa, I began experimenting with butterfly wing art as my way of preserving nature’s beauty. Soon my home in America became a replica of my home in China, filled from wall to wall with pictures and memories.
Nine long years passed before I was reunited with him. The robust man who once chased me up the hillside had developed arthritis, and his thick black hair had turned white. The grandfather I saw now was not the one I knew; we had no hobby and no history in common, and he became another adult, distant and unapproachable. With this, I forgot all about the journals and photos that I had kept and wanted to share with him.
After weeks of avoidance, I gathered my courage and sat with him once again. This time, I carried a large, leather-bound book with me. “Grandfather,” I began, and held out the first of my many journals. These were my early days in America, chronicled through pictures, art, and neatly-printed English. On the last page was a photograph of me and my grandfather, a net in his hand and a jar in mine. As I saw our faces, shining with proud smiles, I began to remember our days on the mountainside, catching butterflies and halting nature’s eventual decay.
My grandfather has weakened over the years, but he is still the wise man who raised me and taught me the value of capturing the beauty of life. Although he has grown old, I have grown up. His legs are weak, but his hands are still as gentle as ever. Therefore, this time, it will be different. This time, I will no longer recollect memories, but create new ones.
My Ye-Ye always wears a red baseball cap. I think he likes the vivid color—bright and sanguine, like himself. When Ye-Ye came from China to visit us seven years ago, he brought his red cap with him and every night for six months, it sat on the stairway railing post of my house, waiting to be loyally placed back on Ye-Ye’s head the next morning. He wore the cap everywhere: around the house, where he performed magic tricks with it to make my little brother laugh; to the corner store, where he bought me popsicles before using his hat to wipe the beads of summer sweat off my neck. Today whenever I see a red hat, I think of my Ye-Ye and his baseball cap, and I smile.
Ye-Ye is the Mandarin word for “grandfather.” My Ye-Ye is a simple, ordinary person—not rich, not “successful”—but he is my greatest source of inspiration and I idolize him. Of all the people I know, Ye-Ye has encountered the most hardship and of all the people I know, Ye-Ye is the most joyful. That these two aspects can coexist in one individual is, in my mind, truly remarkable.
Ye-Ye was an orphan. Both his parents died before he was six years old, leaving him and his older brother with no home and no family. When other children gathered to read around stoves at school, Ye-Ye and his brother walked in the bitter cold along railroad tracks, looking for used coal to sell. When other children ran home to loving parents, Ye-Ye and his brother walked along the streets looking for somewhere to sleep. Eight years later, Ye-Ye walked alone—his brother was dead.
Ye-Ye managed to survive, and in the meanwhile taught himself to read, write, and do arithmetic. Life was a blessing, he told those around him with a smile.
Years later, Ye-Ye’s job sent him to the Gobi Desert, where he and his fellow workers labored for twelve hours a day. The desert wind was merciless; it would snatch their tent in the middle of the night and leave them without supply the next morning. Every year, harsh weather took the lives of some fellow workers.
After eight years, Ye-Ye was transferred back to the city where his wife lay sick in bed. At the end of a twelve-hour workday, Ye-Ye took care of his sick wife and three young children. He sat with the children and told them about the wide, starry desert sky and mysterious desert lives. Life was a blessing, he told them with a smile.
But life was not easy; there was barely enough money to keep the family from starving. Yet, my dad and his sisters loved going with Ye-Ye to the market. He would buy them little luxuries that their mother would never indulge them in: a small bag of sunflower seeds for two cents, a candy each for three cents. Luxuries as they were, Ye-Ye bought them without hesitation. Anything that could put a smile on the children’s faces and a skip in their steps was priceless.
Ye-Ye still goes to the market today. At the age of seventy-eight, he bikes several kilometers each week to buy bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then bikes home to share them with his neighbors. He keeps a small patch of strawberries and an apricot tree. When the fruit is ripe, he opens his gate and invites all the children in to pick and eat. He is Ye-Ye to every child in the neighborhood.
I had always thought that I was sensible and self-aware. But nothing has made me stare as hard in the mirror as I did after learning about the cruel past that Ye-Ye had suffered and the cheerful attitude he had kept throughout those years. I thought back to all the times when I had gotten upset. My mom forgot to pick me up from the bus station. My computer crashed the day before an assignment was due. They seemed so trivial and childish, and I felt deeply ashamed of myself.
Now, whenever I encounter an obstacle that seems overwhelming, I think of Ye-Ye; I see him in his red baseball cap, smiling at me. Like a splash of cool water, his smile rouses me from grief, and reminds me how trivial my worries are and how generous life has been. Today I keep a red baseball cap at the railing post at home where Ye-Ye used to put his every night. Whenever I see the cap, I think of my Ye-Ye, smiling in his red baseball cap, and I smile. Yes, Ye-Ye. Life is a blessing.