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A College of DuPage Student Magazine Spring 2011 Volume 18, Issue 1


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Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


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Spring 2011

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Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage

CUChicago.Admission


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A COLLEGE OF DUPAGE STUDENT MAGAZINE

SPRING 2011 VOLUME 18, ISSUE 1 Welcome to the Spring 2011 Chaparral. Our twice-annual magazine explores the world to reveal the writer’s emotions in coping with the land and people around them.

C O N T E N T S The compromise A 22-year-old lives with his parents, but feels the impulse of independence. - By Vikaas Shanker

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The long and short of chopstick etiquette Rules such as, “You must chew, you will die,” define the role of chopsticks in Japanese culture. - By Anne Davis

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A face in the crowd A former teen model comes to a realization about the glamorous career path. - By Jennifer Lavenz (not her real name)

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An unfamiliar crinkle Rebelling against her parents’ culture spurred a woman’s passion. - By Sara Pillai (not her real name)

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Family Pictures A daughter finds solace in faith and love as her mother fights and loses against her own mind. - By Britney Pieta

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T’was the clash on Christmas An Italian family’s holidays are filled with love and screaming. - By Bianca Garcia

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Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


C R E D I T S

22

Anne Davis Jennifer Lavenz * Britney Pieta Sara Pillai *

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Bianca Garcia Vikaas Shanker Vikaas Shanker Molly Hess Shawn Mukherji Vikaas Shanker

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Vikaas Shanker Joanne Leone Cathy Stablein stablein@cod.edu

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College of DuPage 425 Fawell Blvd. Glen Ellyn, Ill. 60137 Castle PrinTech, Inc. 121 Industrial Drive DeKalb, Ill. 60115 Chaparral is a student magazine published through the Courier Student Newspaper and Journalism 1115 at College of DuPage.

Spring 2011

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* - not her real name


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Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


“I am many things to my family...”

“Oldest son” “Middle child”

“Indian-American” “Millenial 22-year-old”

T h e Co m p r o m i s e M

By Vikaas Shanker

omma>s boy. The <good= child. The child that caused my parents the least grief. I have a family that I>m grateful for, that I love. Yet why does it feel like I>m drifting apart? I am not my father. It>s a phrase that I>ve used for myself whenever anything goes awry as a coping tool or a way to justify my mistakes. Living with my parents is the ultimate compromise for me at this age and sometimes it just doesn>t feel right. I moved back home after an uninspired foray into engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Attending classes at College of DuPage for journalism has helped me find a good career path, but it also led to mov-

Spring 2011

ing back in with the family after three years of living on my own. My parents are generally good about letting me do what I need to. However, it was a misplaced feeling I have that has left a void in me ever since I moved back. It>s like my sense of freedom as a young adult is clashing with my internal obligation to serve and help my parents. As my parents, they would <suggest,= things like cleaning my room or staying at home to watch my 17-year-old little brother. It annoyed and bothered me, but I would still do it; even when it felt like my Dad ordered me to do

9

see ‘Parents’ page 10


â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from page 9

these simple tasks. Yeah my room was littered with clothing and yes my brother is a smart, rebellious teenager who>s done his fair share of mischief. But it>s not my job at the age of 22 and trying to manage a newspaper at the same time as attending college classes to be worrying about these things. At least my brain says that. My heart tells me to do whatever my parents ask of me. It wants to make them happy with that same obedient son that would forego Saturday morning cartoons to go get donuts or bagels with Dad; the son that Dad is proud of but also the son that respects his parents> wishes. However, as an adult that wants to jump out of the parents> safety net and start climbing the ladder of success, I want to leave home as soon as possible and support myself. I love my family and I want to be there for them as much as they>ve been there for me. But I don>t want to financially burden my parents any more. I don>t want to deal with trying to keep tabs on my brother wherever he goes. I don>t want to deal with family drama. I need my own space. My Dad wants this for me too. But sometimes it felt like he tried to force-feed me a direction. Perhaps it made sense because I>ve always been the obliging middle child. My brother is stubborn enough that despite some deep confrontations with Dad, he always does whatever he feels like doing. And I have an older sister who pushed her way past any pressure my parents put on her. She>s my hero for that because as a child, I always gave into any argument or lecture from Dad. Maybe Dad thought that if he tells me what to do as an adult, I>ll still listen without questioning his decision or advice; that I would do it and become successful. But I am not my father. I want to learn for myself. I want to find my own way. I would rather live in a sketchy apartment and work myself up to a three-story house with a gated driveway and a perimeter garden rather than get a job with connections through family and skip the growing process I yearn for. For all my life I>ve been my Dad>s son. I want to make my own name. I appreciate him trying to help me so much by keeping tabs on whether I>ve kept in contact with that Chicago Tribune reporter he connected me to or what I>ve done on transfer college applications. But I>m 22 and want to do it myself. I want to make the same mistakes he might have made when he first came to this country. This is despite knowing that even friends coming out of college still don>t have jobs. Dad pulled himself up the career ladder with his own hard work and sweat. He went to Univ. of Kansas and barely had the financial support of his father who was

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Vikaas enjoyed video games and sports as a child while his father concentrated more on studying.

back home in India. Instead, his tuition for the Masters program was paid for and he would survive by working on research and doing some odd jobs. <I screwed bolts at the football stadium for money. I paid rent and whatever was left I saved and eventually went to a concert I wanted to go to. You have to earn your living!= Dad didn>t live the most glorious lifestyle either at that time. I always roll my eyes at the back-in-the-day story he sometimes brings out when he talks with me. It>s understandable that he says it to make me more responsible, and I appreciate him trying to encourage me. But I don>t think he realized that the responsibility he talked about will only come for me if I can make my own decisions and deal with the rewards and consequences myself. I want the burden to be on me, not my father. Also, is being responsible more about cleaning my room and mowing the lawn? Or is it about working for most of my non-sleep day? Is it about coming home after a 10-hour day at the office and making dinner for the family because Mom is at work? Is being responsible something I will never achieve in the eyes of my parents? When Dad was 22, he never went through the crip-

Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


Above: Vikaas and his brother pose happily with dad. Right: Vikaasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; mother and father had a traditional Indian wedding with relatives from across India present.

pling economic depression I have to go through right now. He didn>t have to compete with the whole world like I have to now because of globalization. Today I might have that cell phone, computer and iPod that Dad never had, but despite how smart and hard-working he is, he doesn>t have to try to start a career in the worst economy since the 20s. I>ll have to soon. No one had more confidence in me in high school than my Dad. But it feels like my failures to get a legitimate job or research opportunity in high school and college still make me a child that needs guidance in his eyes. I tried extremely hard to get internships and co-ops while I was studying engineering. I went to resume workshops and mock interview sessions. I learned the ins and outs of interviewing, dressed in full suit and tie, yet still couldn>t crack companies who were barely hiring interns because of the economy. Dad will say that I have the independence and responsibility that comes with being an adult. But until recently, I felt more like a dog on a very long leash. I miss my friends, so some weekends I would go downtown Chicago or back down to Champaign, Ill. I would either hang out or party with my closest friends. Working close to 45 hours while getting paid parttime and keeping up with classes mentally exhausts me by the end of the week. So it>s a relief when I go out.

Spring 2011

Dad doesn>t object and <never stops= me. He lets go of that leash temporarily and I>m able to run around and have fun. I went one weekend to hang out with my closest friend Aashesh in Chicago. I was going to spend Saturday night and watch the Bears game with him on Sunday. But when Sunday rolled around, I get a stern order from my Dad at 9 a.m. to come home and clean my room. My room is always messy. It>s a bad habit that I>ve

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see â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; page 34


‘ You must chew! “ You will Die!’

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Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


“W

henever I passed a souvenir shop in Japan this summer, I marveled at the...”

long The

and

short of

Chopstick etiquette V

By Anne Davis

ariety of chopstick for sale - from simple bamboo to exquisite lacquerware. Everyday chopsticks are styled in different woods, metals, plastics, and lacquerware. Chopsticks also vary in length depending on their purpose ) extra-long for cooking and tiny for small children. Japanese chopsticks also are shaped for different eating purposes with roughened or scored tips to help you hold onto slippery things like udon noodles. I often saw sets of two pairs of matching chopsticks made of luxurious materials, with one pair slightly longer than the other. My father,s friend Kyoko-san informed me that it is common for a couple that is getting married to receive a gift of chopsticks made from luxurious materials such as ivory, rare woods, or of precious metals.

At my host family,s house, each member had a favored set of chopsticks, all stored in a little utensil basket. I loved the red lacquerware pair with gold and yellow markings that my host mother gave me for dinner on my first day there. I used them every night, and many mornings during my stay. My host father,s were plain bamboo with brown bands at the tops. My host mother used red lacquer chopsticks similar to mine. In Japan, it is good manners to slurp your noodles*it means that you find the noodles tasty, and slurping is therefore a compliment to the person who made them. The louder you slurp, the better. In the month or so I was in Japan, I found it difficult to unlearn all the years see ‘Chopsticks’ page 36 of hearing, +Don,t

Spring 2011

13


Asours modeling dream in reality as an awkward teen searches for what she needs.

Spring 2011

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A

F AC E in

T

the

crowd

B y J en n i f e r L a v en z  n o t r e a l n a m e 

hree years of modeling had turned me into a pro by age 17. Prepping for a shoot had become more routine than attending a class as a Collierville High School senior. On a typical day, I washed my long, thick, Julia Roberts-style auburn hair, scrunched some curls for effect, and let it air dry. After applying some face powder, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out the door. Instead of a backpack

Spring 2011

with books, I carried a modeling bag equipped with hair clips, ponytail holders, basic jewelry, a make-up kit, shoulder pads, dress shields, stockings in every color, clear nail polish for runs, black heels and white tennis shoes. In Beverly Hills 90210 style, I drove my Volkswagen Cabriolet Convertible, top down, to the Business Park that housed the headquarters and photography studio of a major Mid-Western department store chain. With a gleaming modelHs smile, I walked past the

15


secretaries and fashion buyers with an air of confidence. I knew the value of Fdesk people,G who had input on which models were chosen and which were never called again. I spoke to them as if I cared what they had to say and didnHt think they were fat, ugly or obnoxious. As I entered the photography studio Marky Mark and his FGood VibrationsG filled the space, the base pumped and I was on my game. I could capture the camera with a Fgirl-next doorG sparkle that was as lucrative as it was photogenic. I said hello to Paul the photographer and Lori the booker. I dropped my bag and sat down in the dressing room, waiting to be made-up by whatever make-up artist they hired that day. My gift was my hair. It was naturally auburn, shiny, thick and needed almost no styling. My make-up was always more of a challenge. I think my mom summed it up best when she said I had features that FlentG themselves to make-up. Compliment or not probably not, it was true. With a little mascara, eyeliner and lipstick, I went from Fplain JaneG to model-pretty. After I was primped, prodded and put into FlovelyG store brand fashions, I went with the other models to wait in the queue hallway for our Fshoot.G The other models were older than I, and from diverse backgrounds. There were the older models older meaning 30Hs who had worked with everyone, including Cindy Crawford. They shared stories about which models used to be fat, do coke or were bulimic. There were the rich housewives who paid for their beauty and if you ask me, got every pennyHs worth. Many of them had been ugly ducklings as younger women, but through the modern miracles of nose jobs, boob jobs and collagen injections, had become swans in their late thirties and early forties. There were also the wild models in their twenties who cared only about getting to New York, making money, fame and partying in that order. As we waited to be photographed the models shared stories of other jobs. They bragged about their latest clients and which were the best agencies to work with. They shared secrets of how to lose weight quickly none of which involved exercise. These included water tablets, diet pills and the most popular...cigarettes. When it was my turn, I took my place in front of the lights with a contrived confidence. As models we were made up to look great in whatever outfit the stylist had chosen for us, but it didnHt matter if we felt like we looked great or not. We could feel like we had never looked uglier in our lives, but to the camera we had to be confident, sassy and happy. Modeling is about selling, so time after time I FworkedG the supremely average clothing as if they were the coolest outfits in my closet. I moved for the camera, changed facial expressions

16

and caught the lens in a seemingly effortless display of youth, exuberance and charm. Then, just I had gotten into character, the shooting stopped, I was handed another outfit and the process of hurry up and wait continued. The nine to five day flew by as it always did when I was modeling. I was different from the other models. I was younger than almost all of them, and I came from an upper middle class background where, unlike them, I didnHt have to pay rent, buy my own clothes or make car payments. I didnHt model for the money, although it was substantial, especially for a seventeen year old girl. I started out making $10 an outfit, but graduated to $35 an hour. On other jobs I made as much as $110 an hour, plus residuals. In 1991 minimum wage was $4.25 an hour, but sixteen to nineteen year olds were permitted to make a Ftraining wageG of $3.62 an hour. My friends who worked in yogurt shops and movie theaters would have to work 10 hours to make as much money as I did in one; but they didnHt have that option, not because they werenHt Fcute,G they just didnHt have what it took. I left the studio at about six oHclock in the evening and returned to the FnormalG, suburban life of a seventeen year old girl. The transition was always hard. At school, many teachers treated me with contempt. They knew I was missing school to model, although my mom always called me in FsickG or with Fan appointment.G The one time a teacher confronted me and asked, Fwhat

Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


kind of an appointment?G I replied that I was seeing my psychiatrist, and she never asked again. While I always did well enough on tests to get by, I was never interested in school. In middle school I was one of those kids who didnHt quite know where I fit in. I was more into theater than the cooler sports or cheerleading. I was on the outer edge of the popular crowd, always trying too hard to get in, and never quite getting there. I had an easy time being cast in school plays and musicals. I had a Fbuilt for broadwayG singing voice which no one in the school could match; but when the curtain dropped and I was myself again, I was awkward and unsure. Girls are mean, and I, like many, was on on the receiving end of a lot of mental cruelty in middle school. Maybe thatHs why itHs so surprising that I got into modeling in the first place. It was my first day of high school in 1988. I woke up early and painstakingly curled my hair into something between Madonna and the lead singer from Flock of Seagulls. I doused it with Auquanet hairspray, applied navy blue Maybelline mascara and turquoise eye shadow. When I arrived at school all of my middle school girl friends were sporting casual tshirts and shorts, with tanned legs and womanly figures. I had grown almost 8 inches the year before. At 5H8 1/2G and 105 pounds, I towered over my petite, cheerleader friends. My pale skin and auburn hair were no match for their olive complexions and Fgirl next doorG good looks. My brutal first day of high school concluded with the school bus winding down the suburban streets of my southern Indiana neighborhood. As we turned the corner to my street I saw my mom and her friend, Caroline, jumping up and down and cheering for me. I wish I was kidding, but they were actually Fwoo hooingG and Fhigh fiving.G This seemed the perfect ending to my day of uneasiness and embarrassment. My momHs friend Caroline was a model, and she had been telling my mom for years that I should model as well. That day, while working on a shoot, Caroline showed my picture to Lori Peters, the booker for a local department store chain. Lori loved it, and wanted me to come in that day to shoot some photographs for the weekly circular. Now that was something to jump up and down about, and such was the beginning of my modeling career. On my first day I walked into the studio as a pre-teen model knowing no one, but surprisingly not nervous. I dressed and took my place in front of the camera. With absolutely no training whatsoever, I changed positions and expressions and smiled naturally. Within the first five minutes, Lori looked at my mother and said, FThis oneHs going to New York.G Me, the girl who

Spring 2011

had no fashion sense whatsoever, the girl who wore leggings under her jeans in an attempt to not look so skinny, was being praised for her appearance. I relished in the attention and made modeling the top priority in my life. I dropped out of dance and drill team and lost all desire to be involved in high school extra curricular activities. Modeling became my refuge. When girls were mean, I had modeling to turn to. When boys didnHt ask me to homecoming, I had the lights and the camera and the ability to be anyone I wanted to be. Beginning in my junior year I became more self-confident and social. By the time I was a senior, I had great friends, a great social life and a college boyfriend I absolutely adored. Suddenly All of my self-worth wasnHt solely gained from modeling. As the years went on, I worked more and more. I acted in commercials, did runway modeling and was photographed for print. By the time I graduated from high school, I was no longer the skinny girl with the pale skin and red hair. I was a confident young woman who was ready to embark on her next adventure. Upon high school graduation in 1992, I enrolled in a state university, but the slow, studious pace of college life didnHt suit me at all. I kept feeling that I was missing something, an itch to grow up, and my crutch of being able to escape to the camera when things got rough was gone. I left Indiana, my friends, family, and boyfriend and moved, with a group of models, to New York City that spring. IHm not sure if I even wanted to go to New York, but I knew that I had to do something. Three other models and I moved to the West Village. We found a renovated two bedroom, third floor, walkup apartment on a quaint corner. We spent our days at Fgo seesG in hopes of signing with a big agency. I knew I could make it in New York, but suddenly my height of just shy of 5H9G was short. Suddenly, at 120 pounds, I was the fat one. Elite, the most prestigious modeling agency in the world, liked me, but told me to come back when I had lost 10 pounds. Quickly, the pressure and loneliness of the big city began to weigh on me. Much to my surprise, I missed midwestern values, which contrasted sharply with the Fanything goesG mentality of the big city. I missed my family, and most of all, I missed my boyfriend, Jason. One day I was doing laundry at the Perry Street Wash and Dry when a middle aged man noticed me folding my whites. He gave me his card, which read Bill Hennessey - Casting Agent, and asked that I call for an audition. I was leery. Mid Western girls are always taught to be distrustful of men brandishing business cards in laundry-mats. I set up the audition, but decided to leave if the situation proved

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see â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Modelingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; page 32


LOOKING for under the

the

past

shadow of the

tree

B y S a r a P illa i no t he r r e a l n a me 

andra! You have to hear what DadAs saying. TheyAre talking about you!@ said Niti. My sister waves me over as her other hand covers the mouthpiece on the phone. ?I think they heard me pick it up, and then they switched to Malayalam. I can still understand what theyAre saying.@ Niti returns to huddling over the phone. Since sheAs been back from India, Niti has a made a habit out of listening in on DadAs phone conversations by hiding her affinity for Malayalam and using it to interpret DadAs private discussions. ?What are you talking about?@ I said. ?ItAs about the family from Bangalore. Remember I told you about their son?@ I think back to the night we picked Niti up from the airport. As we settled into our beds I asked her what she did and where she went in the two years that she spent studying in India. ?We took the train to so many cities! Kavita Aunty went with me to Bangalore to visit her friendAs family. Oh my god, Sandra, I think she tried to set me up with their youngest son!@ she said. ?What!?@ ?It was the worst. The dad is ok, but the mom hates me so much. I think itAs because she canAt cook and then she has nothing to do but pick on me and aunty always agrees with her. The son is so… disgusting! He always tattles on me and he complains so much. His mom feeds him when he doesnAt like the

Spring 2011

food. I hurried over to the phone. ?What are they saying, Niti?@ I asked. ?Kavita Aunty wants you to come over to India. She wants you to meet the guy I was talking about@ said Niti. ?WhatAs Dad saying?@ ?Wait... he doesnAt know, but heAll think about it.@ ?What else?@ ?Now theyAre just talking about AuntieAs foot medicine.@ Niti carefully hangs up the phone and turns toward me with an apologetic face. ?Maybe his mom will like you more. You look a lot more Indian than I do and youAve got lighter skin.@ ?Stop it! WasnAt this supposed to be your guy?@ I replied. ?Now that I think about it, Kavita Aunty maybe wanted me to go with his older brother. HeAd defend me when his mom and brother were being mean and heAs kind of cute.@ Niti looks at me, ?its okay, Sandra. HeAs really good at drawing and maybe heAll grow up.@ I was deadpan. As I grew up my dad let me know that decisions relating to marriage were his to make. But today, the idea began to emerge as reality. There may be a zoosexual man-child in my future. ?IAm not doing this. IAm in sixth grade!@ Years later, there was no mention of that spoiled kid from India. According to Niti, Dad ?wasnAt really excited about it anyway.@ A few months after eavesdropping

19

see ‘Traditions’ page 20


‘Traditions’ from page 19

on the phone, we asked Dad why he didnAt like the family from Bangalore. ?What! WhatAs in your heads? ThereAs no one from Bangalore!@ said my dad. ?Niti knows Malayalam. She heard you and Aunty@, I replied. Dad looked at Niti as she nodded. ?Aunty wanted the Bangalore family very much, the mother is her friend. I told her that you canAt trust city people. You know, you never how what these boys do in the city. Eh… anyway weAre not really close to them,@ he said. ?If itAs for the two of you, our family needs to be closer to these guys. For your aunties, we relied on word of mouth and then what happened? @ Niti turns her face upwards, remembering her life with Kavita Aunty and Vinu Uncle. Aunty talks to my sister regularly on the phone despite not particularly liking April. When she asks to speak to April she draws out her name like as if she were injured. Niti moans and sighs every time Kavita Aunty phones but she never ignores the call. Dad tells her that Aunty has been sounding depressed after Niti left especially now that Kavita AuntieAs only son is living in Mumbai and Aunty is stuck at home with Vinu Uncle, a person that Niti openly resents. During NitiAs stay in India, I came to visit her at Kavita AuntieAs village, Changanacherry, in the Kottayam district of southern India. A taxi carrying Josama aunty, her kids, and I trundled along on dirt roads for hours and, without warning, smoothly drove onto a dusty, paved main street with muddy trails branching off into surrounding paddy villages. The taxi stopped at a midsized house on top of a hill, an elevation that would be strategic when the monsoon floods the village. In my dadAs childhood a bad monsoon season gave the village water that rose above the top of his house. His family paddled their rafts and canoes through the rains to collect neighbors stranded on their roofs. Only some middle-class families in Kerala live in elevated houses. We labored up a steep driveway and standing at the pebbled courtyard was a stout middle aged woman in a purple moo-moo with a neat gray bun, a tall, fairskinned man in Coke bottle glasses, and a very dark uncle with gray whiskers wearing a loongi a few yards of linen thatAs wrapped around the waist. Josama Auntie smiled through her heavy glasses as she gathered up her sari and called to her sister. Kavita Auntie has a strong voice, close to a sedated bellow. I drew this up to her history as a military nurse during some war in the Himalayas. Dad warned me about her, he recommended that I stay on my best behavior. I tried to beam a smile. We were ushered inside to sit in a high

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ceilinged room, the walls of which were covered in expertly knitted tapestries of classical dancers and swatches of embroidered flowers. It looked too opulent for a house that was otherwise bare. ?Do you like auntieAs stitching, moleh?@ asked Kavita Auntie. ?Oh! You made those?@ I asked. ?This auntie is very good at stitching, isnAt she? Maybe sheAll teach you some crochet@ said Josama. Pumped to learn crochet, I watched my manners with razor concentration, looking over at Kavita AuntieAs face to monitor my chances for lessons. When she served the chai tea I was conscious to leave a little of the liquid in the glass just like my dad told me or else I would be ?telling them that they did not serve you to your satisfaction.@ My reputation needed to be rebuilt after the last time I visited relatives in India when I was stamped as a terror. ?What on earth did I do?@ I asked my dad and I learned that aunties would huff and puff to Dad that I cursed them and talked back to their husbands. He told me to stop my bad habit of crinkling my nose, and any sort of dissenting during a chat. This time around, I took all precaution to avoid offending a laundry list of unfamiliar etiquette. ?Why you are so quiet, miss!@ said Uncle. Am I not doing this right? ?Ahahaha@ I respond. Vinu Uncle didnAt seem to mind his manners so much. He sat on the arm of the couch with one leg on his lap, and joked about America. Where most uncles would laugh deeply as if reflecting their character in the steady bass, Vinu Uncle would release a laugh like the steam from a pressure cooker after every gibe. ?Niti is at school right now. She tried so hard to stay home today! But you know, kids have to get an education.@ Uncle would usually add a platitude at the end of an idea. I knew there was something superficial in what I liked about him, but I was too relieved that there was someone to buffer the militancy of Kavita Aunty to care. I fell asleep on the couch after Josama Aunty left. When I woke up, Kavita Aunty told me Niti was having tea in the kitchen. Aunty let it slip that when Niti came in to find me asleep, she kissed my forehead. ?Ew, I didnAt do that!@ she said when I asked her about it. We spoke about generic things as we got ready to sleep. She asked about Mom and I told her that Mom hardly spoke about her, but I think Mom is the one that misses Niti most. In the morning I strolled outside scanning the green thicket and wild trees that surrounded the house on three sides. Niti stood in the middle of the greenery, looking up into the sky with a basket. ?Plunk!@ A ripe papaya fell from its high perch right

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into her arms. Uncle would come in and out of the house during the day. Usually, he would carry bags of cigarette cartons to ?sell at the shop@ heAd say. He never seemed to stay away long enough to have a job. Later, I discovered that they lived primarily on auntieAs military pension. When I would crochet and aunty would prepare food, uncle became my favorite talking buddy. He was nice, and I needed someone friendly after tiring myself out on solo excursions in the rubber tree forest, walking around the paddy village with aunty doing errands and sitting for hours on the sofa trying to embroider flowers on scrap cloth. One night, Niti and I went out to the veranda, a tile platform next to the car, to watch multitudes of monster-sized fruit bats spring from the forest where the oldest yekshi demon woman in the village was supposed to be residing. Niti began to tell me the story of the villageAs problems with the yekshi, the evil ghost of a woman that lived on top of a particular tree. This villageAs main yekshi was incredibly strong, killing or devouring about ten people within days of each other as they made a midnight trip to their wells or a shop. A few people were even dragged them from their beds. The problem was that her home was in the middle of the jungle. The smaller trees would be twisted around the yekshi tree and thick vines would cover the intertwined trees. When villagers would attempt nail her into the tree, the forest would swallow them and they wouldnAt return. Eventually, the village called for a Brahmin priest. By traditional reasoning, his spiritual power would withstand the yekshiAs ill will. He stayed at a house next to the jungle, presently our neighborAs house, to observe her. Storms and strange weather occurred when he would clash with the yekshi and he resolved to travel into the middle of the jungle. He went in with a few men and when their group approached the tree, strong winds blew through the jungle. The Brahmin was not deterred. He performed his prayers and pounded a silver nail into the tree. ?Would you take out the nail?@ she asked. I looked between the black trees, swaying like temperamental skyscrapers. There was no way you could see the yekshi tree. The subtropical patch of jungle hadnAt been touched when the huts and houses were raised or when the rubber trees were planted. You would have been bitten to death by snakes before youAd make it in a quarter mile. How did the Brahmin priest walk to the middle? ?Why would I do that?@ I replied. ?What if the yekshi got me?@ asked Niti ?Then would you take out the nail?@ I took a few seconds to think. ?Sure I would. Weirdo.@ My sister searched my face. She looked down and

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looked up and finally cracked open her mouth to speak to me. ?Why do you like uncle?@ ?I donAt know. HeAs nice.@ ?He only acts that way.@ She said ?As long as he doesnAt snap when heAs around us, who cares?@ I replied. ?LetAs go upstairs. I want to talk.@ We piled onto the cot after closing the rag drapes on her barred windows and turning on the dim, red mosquito light. ?Did you notice that Mathama doesnAt like uncle?@ Said Niti of the housesA servant lady. ?ThatAs because no one likes uncle, and aunty has to defend him all the time. Because they all know heAs crazy, you know?@ ?We had a servant girl before Mathama. You know thereAs a really rough patch and you shouldnAt rub the cloth on it or itAll ruin. I donAt know why but the girl kept doing it so uncle got really mad and he grabbed her face and grinded it on the rough part. Then he would feel bad after he did it and put medicine and tape on her and heAd keep doing this for a couple times. Her face looked like a scabby mask@. ?Please tell me she ran away.@ ?She ran away, but her family wonAt take her back if she ran away from her host family and they live far away anyway. The neighbors said they saw her board a bus in the night, we never heard from her after that. She probably got raped,@ Niti concluded, referring to the high incidence of rape in Kerala. For a girl traveling long distances alone, it was almost guaranteed. ?Maybe she found a convent@ I said, thinking back to a newspaper article about the young girl with heavily lined eyes and hair pinned with jasmines on the way to an Onam festival who was raped on the train and whose parents noticed the smeared eyeliner and crumpled silk, stopped the train and kicked her off because she was now considered spoiled. According to the newspaper, she found a convent and lived on charity. ?Did he do anything with you around?@ I asked. ?Not anything to me, just twist my ears and beat me with the courtyard broom when he teaches Hindi. There was a time when I found a stray puppy. You should have saw it! AuntieAs son would grab it from me and pour it milk in this pot, but the puppy would try to reach and fall in the pot!@ April laughs. ?Auntie liked it too. She says it was cute even if she wouldnAt touch it. AuntieAs son would hide from uncle, I didnAt know why but when Uncle found it he got so angry. The puppy had a black patch on its eye and Uncle was screaming at Auntie that it was bad luck. He grabbed in one hand and threw it into the jungle. We thought it was dead, but after a couple days it came back. We tried to shoo it away and then

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see â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Traditionsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; page 28


“When I look at family pictures, I see my mom — Valerie Pieta — at her best during family vacations, holidays and birthday parties before her mental illness took the joy out of them.”

Family Pictures

A daughter finds solace in faith and love as her mother fights and loses against her own mind.

By Britney Pieta

M

y moms mental illness of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia seemed to happen slowly and then suddenly picked up. Just like how a hurricanes wind can build up from a tropical storm to become a full blown hurricane. Only, this all happened inside of herself. I dont know if Mom was really better during special occasions. My own happiness from the events was like an anesthetic and maybe it was the same for Mom too.

One of my favorite vacations was the Arkansas trip when we were 8 years old. My mom took a picture of my sisters and me with our puppets and saying the words, I love you, with Kristins raccoon, Jamies panda, and my koalas hands. Moms birthday was two days before Christmas, so we had a double celebration every year. In the picture of the lit up cross in our front yard taken from far away, I

see ‘Mother’ page 24

22

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Valerie and husband Jim pose for a family picture with triplets (from left) Britney, Kristen and Jamie around the time of their first birthday. Valerie in a of moment of happiness and stability as she and Britney, aged three, enjoy a day at the playground, in Glen Ellyn. Britney and sister Jamie pose for a picture on their 2007 trip to Disney World. Vacations were moments when Valerie would often be at her best and brightest.

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Twin sisters Kristin (left) and Britney at home.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from page 23 see how bright it was even from all the way down the street. The lit up cross symbolized her hope in God and that there was some light in her life. But sometimes that light of hope was shining brighter than at other times. On birthdays and as each year went by, my mom did believe for my sisters and meD as it says in the bibleD

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that we would have a hopeful future. But I wonder if she believed that for herself. On our birthday, we had a triple celebration for my sisters and me. In one picture, which my mom captured the moment well, I see my sister Jamie blowing out the most candles when we shared one big cake. Some years we each had our own cake and I got a

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better chance to blow out the candles, although even to this day, I still donGt have that much lung power. When I got a little bit older, I wished on my birthday not only for another good year of school, but for my familyGs happinessDespecially my mom. My triplet sisters and my graduation was definitely something to be happy about in May 2004. In this photo, Mom wore her favorite black and white polka dotted dress with her hair done nicely in a bun. My family stood in front of the white stone church building that was attached to our school. She smiles proudly in that picture with my sisters and me and she looks alive in her eyes. I remember her smile, especially when she was able to go to our school activities and social events such as cheerleading. Even a cheerleader needs someone to EcheerF her on like me in lifeDwhich Mom did. But I should have done more of that for her. I didnGt think too much about how my mom was mentally sick, not visible though when we posed for the graduation picture. Good memories of Mom are hazy. I mostly remember a lot about her hospital stays. One time the door was locked in my parentsG room, so my dad had to take the door off its hinges. We tried to wake her up but she was unconscious. We watched the paramedics put my mom on the gurney and take her to the hospital with the sirens blaring and the lights flashing. I didnGt know what to think. The last two years she was here she seemed to go even faster in her downward spiral. Her mental illness caused her to not take care of herself as well. She stayed at home a lot and our attic turned into a Eden,F where she spent a lot of time alone talking to the voice in her head and reading books about spiritual warfare. She said she heard music play non-stop in her head from her childhood. Her despair because of the hospital bills that kept piling up and the interaction of six-eight different medicationsD made it hard for her to show any emotion. Although my mom was very spiritual, some of her beliefs made her illness get worse. She read a lot of spiritual warfare books about demons. She was always praying against them by rebuking and coming against them with her list of confessions. It seemed as though that she thought every little thing was some sort of demon trying to harm her. I wish she wouldnGt have focused on demons because that just fed her fear. The good side of her beliefs in prayer was that she laid hands on us whenever we felt sick, even for little things like a headache or stomachache. She said, EIn Jesus name be healed.F It was as simple as that. Even if it didnGt completely go away, I felt better

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because of her motherly love. Some people called my mom a Esaint,F because she spent at least an hour everyday praying in Etongues,F her spiritual language which she made us leave the room for, and then she spent another hour reading her Bible. Speaking in tongues from the Charismatic denomination point of viewD is used for when you donGt know what to pray in English. In that way the Holy Spirit takes over and prays the Eperfect will of God.F It sounds like gibberish and everyoneGs prayer language sounds a little different. She was a leader in our church called, EFountain of Life,F in the childrenGs church ministry. I always looked forward to Sunday mornings. My sisters and I with the other kids headed over after the worship part of the service on SundayGs to go to the gymnasium where everything was set up. We learned the bible and have fun in a way designed for our age. My mom wrote the scripts for the older youth who played the puppets on a little stage. After hearing a story by the puppets my mom did an Eobject lesson,F to explain the bible in a concrete way. My favorite object was the old fashioned popcorn machine because I remember my mom and us having fun making popcorn at home. My 8th grade graduation as I mentioned before, also stands out because it was the year before Mom died. It was special because I was valedictorian of my eighth grade class from St. JohnGs Lutheran School and I wore a special pin on my shirt. I was glad to make my mom proud and show her that she was raising us as fine young triplets. Many people that my mom knew such as her friends and relativesDI believe God brought there, so that they could have a last special memory with my mom and see her in a happy state of mind. What I miss the most is her physical affection and taking good care of my sisters and me. For my mom, taking care of us was second nature to her. My mom had said she felt like a martyr for us, because she was willing to give up everything to help us. I recall my school years as a child. My momGs preference was to not celebrate Halloween. Our mom gave us booklets to read on the meaning of Halloween and how Halloween is the devilGs or paganGs holiday. For that reason our mom didnGt want us to watch Disney movies with witches. We didnGt dress up in scary costumes or go trick-ortreating. On Halloween my family would turn off all the lights and hide behind the curtains, until the trick-ortreaters stopped coming to our house. My mom loved to give my sisters and me hugs whenever we came to and from school. I remember going to

25


Dad pulled himself the up career

ladder with his own hard work and sweat... ‘I screwed bolts at the

football stadium for money. I paid rent and whatever was left I saved....’

school and how everyone else had cool name brand clothes, while my sisters and me wore hand me downs. I remember she packed our lunches with good healthy things like carrots, oranges, or apples. Even though I never had the cool kind of lunch everyone else had at school, I am thankful not that she wanted me to be strong physically. My mom also wanted to feed us spirituallyDwhich she made us have bible and prayer time. She also dragged us along to church meetings and in the summer my sisters and I went to VBS together. My mom loved to dress us all the same, even for going to school. I think this was her way of showing us off to the public eye. Some people stared at us because at this time 1989 triplets were not that common. ItGs almost like people were mentally thinking, EGod bless you for handling three children at once!F So after a long day of school, my mom brushed my hair, which sent the good kind of shivers down my spine. She rubbed my arm before I went to sleep, giving me a tingly feeling all over. She said, EI love youF before she left our rooms and turned out the lights. If only I could hear the words, EI love youF once more. Now all I have left of my mom is my childhood videos and photos. I recall my dad telling me, EYour mom thought once you graduated 8th grade you wouldnGt need her anymore.F I wish I could say back, EIGll always need you mom!F In the next part I will tell you what happened to her. It all changed one day while I was at school. It seemed like an ordinary school day. It was October 15, 2004. My mom drove my sisters and me to school and before I left the car I didnGt suspect a thing. My mom seemed okay. My mom was supposed to go to work and to her doctor that day. It was late morning when my mom chose to end her life. My dad was at work and so he couldnGt

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stop her. She climbed a little hill that was close to our house and stood in front of a train. The train conductor later told my dad that he couldnGt stop in time. From my dadGs side of the story, the police had my dad identify her body. My dad said when he saw her that the real her wasnGt there anymore, just her shell. She was gone. I would have to finish the rest of my life without her. From my sisters and I side of the story, the police came to our house they said that nothing was wrong. I guess they didnGt want to be the ones to tell us what had happened. My dad told us later that when he came home, EMom went home to be with Jesus.F I was glad I didnGt see my momGs body at the wake. If I did I probably would never be able to stop that image of her lifeless body from running through my head. While searching for some kind of answer or some note of instruction, we saw still up on the computer screenDa note of affirmations and confessions. This was to us her way of saying goodbye, which tells me she fought her mental illness of anxiety, depression,

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and schizophrenia to the bitter end. I still have that list of confessions that were written in all capital letters that made me feel my mom was actually a courageous person. They were bold statements of what she wanted in life. I couldnGt accept that she was gone. How could my mom suddenly not be here anymore? People say you expect that person to just open the door and tell you that it didnGt happen. I thought, EI know she tried killing herself 2 times before from drug overdose, what made me think she wouldnGt find a way to be successful this time?F Now I know that I couldnGt have prevented it if I tried, but I do wish I could take a time machine and push her out of the way of that train. I still have dreams that my mom is somewhere in hiding or in an institution and not really dead. ItGs my mindGs way of trying to comfort me. When I think about it, maybe death was really better for her. She was in so much pain and suffering and at least sheGs not like that anymore. SheGs in heaven nowDa place of no more tears. It is a place where she at total peace. I have even had a few dreams and one that I remember was a camp setting where she said, EI am I still alive.F I asked her, EHow can you be alive?F She didnGt answer my question but she did give me a bear hug that seemed to give me the answer. I donGt even know the last thing I said to her which makes it even sadder. If I could tell her anything it would be, EEveryone loved you mom and we donGt think of you any less because of your illness. We just didnGt know the best way to help you. Thank you for giving me a good 15 years even while you were going through so much. I wouldnGt trade those years for anything.F My family was very affected by our motherGs death. EMy momGs death was like a missing puzzle piece that I couldnGt figure out,F my sister Jamie said. EAfter it happened, I got depressed and angry and withdrew from people,F Kristin said. For me it affected me much more deeply. My mom hung on as long as she could and I wish I was as strong as her. In the next part I will tell you about what lead me to be hospitalized and how my sisters and dad are important to me. The year 2004, although what would seem as the worst year in my life; the reality of her death was still for me at stage 1: denial. So along with the denial, and all the love and support from friends and family; it was like my heart was insulated or shielded from the pain of losing my mom in that first year. In the summer of 2005, I started to lose my sanity. I

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wasnGt eating, drinking, or sleeping, and I believed the strangest things like I was telepathically talking to my neighbors. So on my 16th birthday I became an inpatient at the hospital. My first time there was only for suicidal thoughts. My most two serious attempts to commit suicide were in fall 2006 and summer 2010. For both of those times my greatest desire was to reunite with my mom. I didnGt want anything else more in the whole worldDnot even life seemed worth it to me. At least now my perspective has changed. But while I was an in-patient my family really helped me pull through my mental illness. My family has seen me at my very worst. I remember my family coming to see me in the hospital. It was hard to be away from them. KristinGs handmade cards that she wrote me in the hospital really got me through the hard times. One of her cards said, EYou have a sweet spirit, honest heart, lovely face, and a bright mind.F Those simple words among many others really helped me and I keep reminding myself of the good that came out of my experience there. This reminds me of how I wrote a letter to my mom that I put in her casket at her funeral. I donGt remember what I wrote, but I know God relayed the message to her. I remember singing Winnie the Pooh Bear songs and the Wizard of Oz songs with my dad in the hospital, when I didnGt feel like talking. My dad also stood up for me in the hospital saying, EHow do I know that this drug isnGt making her suicidal? What if she is one of the 1% who is being affected by it? He felt this way about our mom too. My family who make me the most happy, is one of the most important things that has kept me away from committing suicide and it is still one of the only things that holds me back. It is as though I can feel an invisible hand putting pressure and resistance on me to keep from taking the one thing, that I canGt ever go back toDmy life. At first I didnGt like being a twin. I had gotten this check swab test done to see if I was identical to Kristin when I was like 10 or 11 years old that made me cry. But now I love being a twin and a triplet. Even though no one believes me, I donGt know why people are so amazed about me being a tripletDto me it seems every bit normal. My sisters and I are all taking our own paths in life. The bond my family has right now is still as strong as ever. My mother is still influencing me six years later since the accident happened and I feel though she is still hereDjust in spirit form.

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‘Traditions’ from page 21 uncle found it and he threw it into the road when a truck went by.@ Keralites commonly cage dogs to sound an alarm when someone enters the property and subscribe to superstition. But the villagers, who have no doubt witnessed UncleAs eccentricities, must have reasoned that he was mad in order for him to be capable of such extremes. ?How is he with Kavita Aunty?@ I asked. ?I havenAt seen him do anything besides scream at her. UncleAs son hates him, but he loves his mother. He thinks Uncle is bad for Aunty. I donAt know what happened before, but I know that Uncle keeps Aunty from her family and Uncle took money that Amachi my grandmother sent to Kavita Aunty to buy vegetables. Amachi took it from Natha, you know sheAs kind of crazy but sheAs really nice. Natha Aunty was saving up money from working in the fields to buy gold bangles, but Amachi took it to send to Kavita Aunty. Natha was so sad. Uncle found it and bought smokes and drinks. Aunty yelled at him, but he knows how to put her in her place.@ The next day I treated Uncle the same way I always had. It wasnAt uncommon for abuses to be committed in arranged marriages. The following week, Aunty took a taxi with me to Allepey to visit Bansi Aunty and Anoop Uncle. We wove down narrow muddy roads and across little rivers. Bansi lived in a tightly packed village-suburb in a small house with a well, and empty cow shed. I walked up the stairs, past the scooter that Anoop Uncle used to give Niti rides in when she and I lived in India as children, I living with my grandmother and April living here. Anoop greeted us at the door, and Bansi, in the front room, looked up as she lowered a tray of chai onto the coffee table. Bansi Aunty approached us and cooed when she bent forward to look at my face. She took my hand and walked me through the house to point out NitiAs favorite hiding spots. ?That is where she hit her head. Cut open and we took her to the hospital@, said Aunty, gesturing towards an outcropping of cement near a cot. ?This is where, Appapen?@ she asked. ?Aah Aah@, agreed Uncle. ?Look@, he leans over to hand me a stuffed Big Bird. ?You remember?@ I looked at Big BirdAs gaping smile. I remember wanting this doll badly when I was two years old. ?Yeah, I remember it. ItAs in our home videos.@ When Aunty left, the chai continued to be served. Bansi Aunty who was infamous for dotting on Niti, probably thought that I would do just fine and made fluffy plantain fritters and tea whenever she thought I

28

would want them. While she would dip plantains into the batter, Uncle would drift into the kitchen with a newspaper and watch her work. He was retired and spent his time engaged in long conversations with Aunty. When the conversation lagged, Uncle and Auntie would make visits to the neighbors. ?YouAll see, beautiful paradise birds when we go to Sumit chaienAs house@, said Uncle. We crossed the street into a courtyard dotted with large cages holding little, multicolored birds. Bananas were set out on the porch where two young women and an old couple stood. Aunty patted the seat next to her. Sitting down, I smiled and greeted everyone clasping my hands together on my lap. ?You can play with the birds.@ Uncle looked at me through heavy eyebrows, uncertain. ?Would you like to?@ asked Uncle. ?Okay!@ I sprinted for the bird cages. During the afternoon, a black and white tom cat, scarred from fights, would mince through the house. I coaxed it over and spent an hour of each day sitting on the floor to pet him. ?Uncle mostly shoos him out of the house. YouAre petting him so itAs okay.@ Aunty picks off the tick that I was trying to pull from the cat. I stayed at Bansi AuntieAs house for three days. I regretted leaving. Niti told me that this was her favorite place to be and had thrown a pouting fit when she learned she couldnAt come with me to Allepey. Bansi and Anoop hugged me at the gate and I climbed into Josama AuntieAs taxi. ?How was staying with Bansi Aunty, moleh?@ ?Great. I like Uncle and AuntieAs food. Did you know they have a cat?@ I asked. We drove away from Allepey and north into Ernakulam where the terrain became uneven and hilly. Rocked asleep by the car, I woke up to find myself moving through a flashy city, Cochin, and then falling asleep again. The taxi halted at area densely populated by trees going on a steep decline. Kanan Uncle clumped up to the car and fell into his seat in shotgun. ?Are you all right, Daddy?@ asked Josama Aunty. ?Ah.@ ?Hi Uncle…@, I said. Uncle didnAt hear me. ?Hi Uncle!@ ?Shh shh moleh.@ Aunty patted me back into the seat. I wondered why Uncle wasnAt responding to me. Given, he wasnAt a talker. His speech was normally in short, coarse murmurs. HeAs spoken to me only a few times, usually offering curt ?hello@ and howAs school?@ slouched in his favorite armchair. UncleAs directions to the drivers were even more garbled, but somehow the driver understood and pulled

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over. ?Where are we going?@ I asked Josama Aunty. ?Uncle is just going to the hotel for a drink,@ she said. When uncle came back to the taxi Aunty opened the door for him and gave the driver more directions. Was Uncle drunk? Back in America, Uncle was taking steps to end his alcoholism. Dad and Uncle sold their liquor store because Uncle drank the merchandise with his circle of drinking buddies. Frustrated that uncleAs business failed due to his alcoholism, UncleAs dry friends intervened and persuaded him to stay sober. ?WeAll stop at UncleAs friendAs house for a little, moleh. He hasnAt seen him in a long time@, said Aunty. I was tired, but I plodded up the courtyard by Aunty with Uncle in the lead. His friend ran out to shake his hand and yell his hellos and then dashed back inside. ?Aunty where is he going?@ ?He needs to pour some spirits for Uncle. HeAs afraid Uncle will think heAs cheap@, explained Aunty.As soon as I finished my tea, Aunty, who had been watching my tired face, ushered all of us into the car. It was nighttime in this system of forested villages and the nocturnal lull of singing insects put me to sleep until we reached Kanan UncleAs house. ?Sandyyyyy!@ NitiAs face hovered over my ear. ?DonAt tease your sister,@ said Aunty. ?She took a very long drive.@ Niti, too excited after being liberated from Kavita and Vinu UncleAs house, persisted in shaking me. I stumbled inside UncleAs house after her. ?LetAs go into the kitchen, okay? You can sleep a little and I want to see what theyAre making@, said April. I looked at her through slits in my eyes. ?Ah um, okay…@ I replied. We were in the kitchen when Uncle came in yelling in Malayalam. I crouched on the cement floor and talked to Niti about my trip, feeling comfortable with our simple relationship. ?Both of you come and meet everyone. They want to see you@, called Auntie. Niti and I filed into the front room and sat on a sofa near the door. Auntie was taken by a white haired Auntie to a room near the kitchen in middle of commotion and Uncle was being blocked from going inside the room by a young Uncle with both palms held up in a placating gesture.I bend over to whisper to Niti. ?Tell me whatAs going on.@ ?TheyAre trying to stop Uncle from slapping Auntie@, she said. ?What did she do?@ I asked. ?I donAt know. I donAt think she did anything. I think maybe Uncle is drunk.@ The next morning we loaded the trunks and I didnAt say anything to Niti even though I noticed three of my

Spring 2011

shirts were missing. I flew back to America with Josama, Kanan and their children. My parents waited for me at home and my dad answered the door with a toothy smile and took my luggage. Mom was working in the hospital so I waited for her in the living room to come home. When she saw me sitting she asked how India was. ?It was good,@ I said. ?Oh thatAs good,@ she said. It was strange being around my parents again, I thought, as I watched them from across the table. I saw India in Mom and Dad and I saw things that I would never see in a traditional Indian marriage. ?Helloooo! How was work daaarling?@ Dad stresses his words to sound like a joke. ?Ri-diculous!@ says Mom, also joking. ?These fat people are so hard to clean. @ ?Oh my, Sandra-moleh did you hear this? Could you carry a fat person?@ Dad still jokes. My mom turns down a smile and snorts. Dad looks at her and laughs. He only knows how to laugh or be irate with her. Mom leaves the room to do something by herself. My mom is from the Philippines; Dad came to her country to meet her and before the week was over they got married. He went back to America and for a year she didnAt have any contact with Dad except to instinctively hang up on him when he answered MomAs calls. Mom did not go to Filipino parties; her extended family doesnAt live in America. As immigrants, Mom and Dad were entrenched in their culture and missed the environments in which theyAve grown up. Dad was too invested in his conventions and ethnic community to think of compromising with an alien culture. Mom gave up expressing her heritage almost entirely and kept her love of the Philippines in redundant stories. ?What are you going to do when Dad goes to India?@ I queried one night at a party with relatives. ?What?@ she asked. ?Remember? Dad said he would retire to India to the house Amachi leaves him,@ I said. Mom laughs. ?Umm,@ MomAs eyes turn upward and her mouth was pursed in the form of a smile. ?I might stay here with Nanai and Tatai.@ ?What if your mom and dad go back to the Philippines? Tatai told me he wanted to,@ I said. ?Hmm, then I donAt know@, she replied. ?Why donAt you go back to the Philippines?@ I asked. She scrunched her face. ?Philippines isnAt the same. Dad is right, Manila is dangerous now. More slums. I edge closer to the parlor where Dad is watching the news, hinting that I want to become a nun!@ ?What are you saying?@ He swings around the doorway to have a look at my face. ?Go to sleep! Go!@

29


the

T â&#x20AC;&#x2122;was

Cl on

Christm By Bianca Garcia

W

hen people think of grandmothers, the stereotype is a littl for words and showers her grandkids with presents and sw


lash

mas

tle old lady who’s too kind weetness... see ‘Christmas’ page 33


end up being the best thing hat ever happened o me. At that moment in time, that was exactly what I needed to unseemly. hear. Jason happened to be visiting that week, which lifted So I left. I left my roommates without rent, and my my spirits considerably. He chivalrously accompanied acting school without an explanation. I was done. I didme to the audition. We arrived at the high rise on 6th n4t want any of this anymore. I went home to Indiana Avenue, and to my surprise entered the offices of a leand began to plan my wedding and future. It was the gitimate casting agency. I introduced myself and enhappiest I had been in a long time. tered the studio with two other actresses to read form a Whether my parents were disappointed in me, they script. The script was for a network documentary on didn4t show it. I4m sure there was talk. Me, the girl who the work of Franz Mesmer, the hypnotist. I was audihad it all, the girl with the looks, talent and attitude to tioning for the part of his muse. match, failed and got knocked up. I read for the part, left the studio and didn4t expect to I think I believed that fame was my destiny, but I didbe called. n4t plan on all of the things I would have to give up to In the meantime, I began going to every audition I get there, or the years that it would take. If I didn4t find. I was perfect for actwant success in this indusing. I was fresh faced, try badly enough to work pretty and could act. I enhard for it, did I ever really rolled in acting classes at want it in the first place? the Herbert-Berghoff StuA few weeks after I reI may have been too “girl next dios where I took classes in turned home, I received a the evenings and worked call from the casting door” for the cut throat world of in a coffee shop and audiagency. I had won the tioned during the day. I part of the 2muse,3 and was on the track of a budthey wanted to see me for New York City modeling... ding actress. a network soap opera auI should have been dition. Apparently I was happy. perfect for a part on the But the loneliness kept Guiding Light. creeping in, and this life I was nauseated at the and future that I was supposed to want, wasn4t making thought of returning to New York. I had moved on me happy. I started gaining weight, and even though it emotionally, and although I wouldn4t 2show3 with my was probably a whopping 5 pounds, It was enough to first born until I was six months pregnant, I was mendash any hopes of being a New York City Model. tally unwilling to step back into that world. I didn4t Everything about this city, that I had romanticized even tell my parents. I politely declined, knowing that I since I was a small child, started to turn me off. A vile was closing the door on every dream I thought I had sense that I had made a huge mistake became an eversince I was a small child. present reality. Many people have asked why I choose not to get my My funds were also depleting at an alarming rate. So children into modeling. The reason is very simple. It4s now, not only was I the fat friend, I was the poor one. because no good can come of it. How often do child By August, I was contemplating my departure. I was models become successful adult models? Not that tired all the time and nothing about the vibrant city often. For that matter, how many child stars par-lee could make me want to get off the couch to explore it. I that fame into a successful adult acting career without thought I was suffering from depression, but it was turning into a drug addict or total loser? Not that something else. I discovered that Jason4s visit had left many. Any activity that would cause my children to deme with an unexpected surprise. rive their self-esteem from their appearance is unacceptMy parents were vacationing in Europe at the time, able. so for two weeks I cried. I cried not so much about what And so I live my life as normal mother of four driving this meant for me, but what the people I cared about to soccer practices and throwing birthday parties for would think. I called the closest person to my mom, seven year olds instead of partying at premiers like my someone who I knew would be able to help, Caroline. New York friends. You might think that I have lived the Caroline surprised me. She didn4t freak out when I rest of my life wondering what could have been, but I told her I was pregnant like I expected. She calmly told don4t. Sometimes letting go of your 2dreams3 is more me that everything would be ok, and that this would liberating than following them.

‘Modeling’ from page 17

32

Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Christmasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from page 31 6If your cold then put a damn sweater on! It8s 100 degrees in this kitchen!7 Says Grandma Cheryl as she fans herself with a napkin in an attempt to cool down. When people think of grandmothers, the stereotype is a little old lady that8s too kind for words and is known for showering grandkids with presents and sweetness. My grandma is the exact opposite of that stereotype. A comparison of Marie from the comedy television show, 6Everybody Loves Raymond7 from the light blonde hair, to the favoritism of one child over the other, Cheryl is Marie in nearly every way. And if you every say anything about her cooking other then a compliment be prepared for a fight. Though she may be tough she has a heart of gold and more love for her family then anyone I know. The tradition carries on of going to grandma8s house on Christmas Eve. For as far back as I can remember every year my family spends the holiday at Grandma Cheryl8s. A house filled with presents, food, love, yelling, and Italians makes this one of the most special times of the year for me. As my father, mother, sister Nikki, and I arrive at my grandmas home in Carol Stream we get the same thing every year. The door opens and my eyes immediately go to the beautiful tree in the living room strait ahead. A tree, that every year all five grandchildren help decorate exactly how grandma likes it. There are shoes, presents, bags and dogs surrounding our feet from the moment we walk in the door. Shoe8s thrown everywhere, because we all know better then to walk into Grandma8s house with our shoes on. The only thing I smell is garlic, an ingredient that grandma believes there can never be enough of. 6The sauce needs something Ma7 says my Auntie Margaret. 6Just add more garlic.7 Grandma says. Nani, which is what we call my great grandmother is usually sitting at the kitchen table waiting for us all to arrive and watching all the cooking happen in the kitchen. My father8s sister, Ann Margaret is helping cook and usually wearing some tacky Christmas shirt that either has flashing lights or something actually coming out of the shirt on it. Much like how she is the shirt is flashy and eye catching. She wraps her arms around me and screams, 6Merry Christmas, favorite godchild.7 Her children are also in the kitchen attempting to help with the cooking. Lydia being the oldest and loudest grandchild, Gianna the middle child that has become the little rebel and John Peter the youngest of the grandchildren and the only boy. Grandma is yelling about how her kitchen isn8t big enough and how someone left the stove on too high while at the same time hugging and kissing us all as we

Spring 2011

walk through to say hello. All the grandchildren sit in the living room as we wait to eat a meal that we look forward to all year. The dining room table is set up so elegantly with candles and the beautiful dishes my grandma only uses for special occasions. As we wait we look through all of my grandmothers old photo albums that we8ve seen over a thousand times. All we can hear from the living room is singing, laughing, and of course someone yelling about something. 6Now why the hell would you put that over there? I told you to just leave it where it was!7 The food we eat on Christmas Eve is one of the best meals I have all year. We don8t have any meat because it is an Italian custom to not eat meat on this day. The meal usually starts with fried and grilled calamari as an appetizer along with clams. Then the main dishes are usually linguine and clam sauce, stuffed artichokes, baklava, shrimp, pasta with tomato sauce, and of course garlic bread. We gather around the table in the same seating every year and my father says a prayer. As we have the only moment of silence in the evening, our heads are down, eyes closed, hand in hand with one another, I look up for a moment at each person sitting at the table and see how truly blessed I am to have all that I have at that moment. After we feast, the grandkids are expected to clear the table and do the dishes so Grandma can put out coffee, fruit and dessert. An argument breaks out as it always does between the kids over who does what. 6John Peter, get your lazy butt up and do something,7 says Lydia. 6Grandma, where does this pan go again?7 Instead of a simple answer Grandma responds, 6How many times have you been here again? How the hell do you kids not know where anything goes?7 Following the dramatic clean up we finally get to sit down and open presents. We sit in the living room in a big circle and open presents individually and each person says a memory or something they love about the person who gave them the gift. Grandma looks at this as a way for everyone to see and appreciate the gifts. One thing you can always count on as we each say something about the person who gave us the gift is loud laughter and tissue boxes all around for the tears running down every lady8s face. When my turn comes and it8s a gift from Nani or Grandma, you can expect a tear or two to roll down my cheeks. We leave with garbage bags filled with presents, and the smell of garlic in our hair and clothes. I save the last hug for Grandma. She whispers in my ear, 6Merry Christmas, Baby Doll. I love you so much.7

33


Vikaas grew up in an Indian-American family in Naperville.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from page 11 tried to fix. Usually it involves just putting clothes in the right place. I wasnAt hiding from my responsibilities. I actually listened to him and came home. I mowed the lawn, did some weeding and cleaned the house. I was angry not at the chore work, but at what Dad think of me. IAve done everything he has asked for since I came back from college and he still ordered me like IAm a child that still needs parental direction on hygiene. He put that leash back on me whenever he wanted, utilizing his position as my financial provider which made me feel guilty about whatever I was doing. In October of 2010 I told my parents IAm moving out of the house. I found a $215 two-bedroom apartment near College of DuPage with two other roommates. Tears appeared on MomAs face and Dad had a look that crossed between disappointment and sorrow. Maybe this was the point where Dad finally knew I was serious about being an adult. Maybe it was a final act of defiance in his eyes > an act that caused him to just let me go. I didnAt end up moving out. It was a combination of the financial and emotional advantages of living at home along with the fact that my grandmother was visiting the United States. After that incident, I feels like he doesnAt want to restrict me at all. He doesnAt push me or order me. It seems like he doesnAt expect me to do anything for him. I donAt know if thatAs completely a good thing. Maybe he recognizes me as more of an adult. Maybe itAs a sign

34

that he doesnAt expect me to respect his and MomAs wishes. Respect. ItAs the word he uses to sometimes counter arguments that my sister, brother or I bring up with him. No. You canAt talk loudly to Dad. You canAt be sarcastic. You canAt disagree with him about something heAs doing with ?his@ money even when it impacts you. If I do any of those things, then I donAt respect him. HeAs done so much for the whole family, that anything I say which threatens his ability to control the family will make me a traitor to respect. Through his ?working like a dog,@ we are able to live in a beautiful house. IAm able to drive a great car to school and work every day because of the money he makes. IAm totally fine with that. For the most part, Dad is extremely generous and allows me to do what I need to. I need him to realize that IAm not the confused child that obeyed him, coming downstairs early on weekends and learning yoga from him. ?IAve never had a negative thought about what I did,@ said Dad. ?Whatever happened, IAd figure it out.@ How does anyone not have any regrets or negative thoughts? Well I have tons of doubts. I know IAm not perfect. I do my best and just live with the results. IAm not considered an adult right now and he makes that very clear. I feel like he has always wanted me to stay at home since high school trying to direct me to-

Chaparral Student Magazine/College of DuPage


wards colleges in Chicago as good options. It was always my decision, but I knew he wanted me to stay close to home. Maybe IAm still a child; someone who still needs education as the major part of his life. Maybe I donAt know enough about the world or a profession right now to fully support myself. IAm still the kid whoAs dreaming to expose an international scandal through writing. My problem is how can I become an adult when my parents constantly see me as a child. Until I am put into a position with quitting never being an option, IAm still DadAs child: one that he needs to support and inspire. ThereAs also a lack of connection with Dad that I wish I grew more as a child. But I donAt know if he ever tried to understand why I liked playing the violin instead of just acknowledging it. Did he ever think about why I wanted a pet snake instead of dismissing the idea as foolish? Dad is very religious and spiritual, but he measures things by accomplishments, awards and quantity. The more successful you are in anything, the better your life will be. That is true to a degree. I think differently. For me, I need the quality. I need to feel good about myself. I need to love only a couple things. I respect my father and am thankful for him providing my family and me with everything we have. But at least in this stage of my life, I want him to be my friend as a fellow adult. I still need his help and will always look for his advice. But maybe IAll have greater confidence if he views me more like a version of himself at age 22. IAm not my father, but I still need him as a friend. I live in my DadAs house. According to Indian culture, that means itAs also my house. But I donAt feel that way. Maybe itAs because IAm not paying the bills. Maybe itAs my male ego that urges me to support myself without the safety net my family provides. Maybe itAs because IAm not Indian. My parents were born Indian, but IAm an Indian-American. ThereAs a difference; A big difference. I observe Indian holidays and festivals like Ram Naumi and Diwali with my parents, but while they listen to Bollywood songs and devotional hymns, my musical tastes lie in techno, electronic and dance music. On a road trip, they would pack a puri and aloo subzi > flat bread and fried potatoes > while I would rather stop at a Burger King and enjoy the veggie burger medium-size meal with a root beer or Dr Pepper fizzed by two ice cubes. The biggest difference between my parents > part of a massive wave of immigration from India > and me as a first generation Indian-American is independence.

Spring 2011

Dad pulled himself the up career

ladder with his own hard work and sweat... ‘I screwed bolts at the

football stadium for money. I paid rent and whatever was left I saved....’

Far too often, I hear of friends who get ?forced,@ into moving on a set career path by their parents. Indian immigrants my parentsA age had to work tirelessly to move to the United States and be successful. Very few of these Indian immigrant worked for a dream job. They did whatever they could to increase their monetary wealth and in effect, their familiesA standard of living. The fact that their kids can make it through school just fine without getting straight AAs and being the top of the class doesnAt click with many of these parents. They worry about their childrenAs futures immensely, I am an adult! I know it for myself, but will my Dad ever realize it? Does he not want to realize it? Am I always going to be the confused son that needs constant direction? Yeah IAm still at home. IAm 22 and IAm back from school starting on a new career path in Journalism after a lackluster foray in engineering. But am I still a child? Am I not responsible enough for my parents to treat me like an adult living in their house instead of a high school student? I am not my father. I am his adult son, a completely different person of the same blood. IAm not sure if he will ever understand this. But no matter how much I disagree, argue and dislike his decisions, he is my father and he will always hold a place in my heart. I love him.

Vikaas is the second and middle child of his family.

35


One of the hardest things for me while I was in Japan was trying to eat my noodles politely

‘Chopsticks’ from page 13

slurp your noodles!2 drilled into me at the dinner table. The only way I could slurp was to inhale the noodles, but then I swallowed by reflex. My host mother and sister both were concerned, and, to make sure I understood, my host sister said in English, 1You must chew! You will die!2 Slurping curry noodles added an extra level of danger. Kyoko-san took me to a restaurant famous for curry noodles. My dad and I used restaurant bibs designed for the occasion to preserve our clothing, but Kyoko-san declined hers. At the end of our meal, Dad and I both had curry-slurp-spots on our bibs, but Kyoko3s white shirt remained spotless. The rules of chopstick etiquette are many. A travel book favorite is to never stand chopsticks in a plate of food, especially rice, because it looks like sticks of incense used as offerings of food for the dead. Standing chopsticks vertically in your food is tantamount to giving the person you3re eating with a death threat. All of the rules about usage seemed dizzying to me, especially after I read a printout in one of the chopstick shops. The document in English ran for three or four pages of small, single-spaced font and thin margins. Here are some of my paraphrased highlights: • Don3t point or gesture with chopsticks. • Don3t hover them over bowls as you select food. • Do not aim for one food and change direction to a different bowl midway to your original target. • Don3t chew on chopsticks, suck food off of them, rub them together to remove splinters it implies the person whose chopsticks you are using has supplied you with inferior chopsticks, or pierce food with them except in rare instances 0 watch your table mates. • Don3t put your chopsticks down during the meal, or grab bowls or plates with the hand with which you3re

36

holding chopsticks. • Don3t use chopsticks to pull bowls towards you, transfer food from your chopsticks to another person3s, or grab food from serving bowls with the eating ends of your chopsticks use the back ends. And, although I never got the hang of slurping AND chewing, I am thankful that I didn3t die.

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