Emma Ahlgren, Period 5

Chapter One: My Name

I don't remember a time when I hadn't been curious about my name. I remember begging for the story of how I got my name - I loved listening to other stories of family lore, like how my parents met, how my grandfather served in the military, how my uncle knew so many foreign languages. I assumed that the reason behind my name was something equally as thrilling, fascinating, or romantic.

Therefore, when I heard the story of my name, I was deeply disappointed. My parents hadn't looked up names with beautiful meanings, alternative spellings, or names that had been passed down for generations. Instead, I was named after characters and famous people I'd never met - from long boring novels or adult movies. Even after I found the meaning behind it - something my parents hadn't even considered before naming me - it was something bland and broad. Whole, universal, complete ... These words meant nothing to ten or eleven-year-old me. So I grew up disliking my name, something so boring and ordinary that two other girls in my classes had it too, that couldn't even have a cute or fun nickname. My dad lovingly called me Em sometimes, and my little sister Emmy, but I disregarded these, as neither were much better than my real name itself. Even my birthstone - the pearl, for the month of June - wasn't a flashy, sparkly or even colorful jewel. I felt utterly ordinary.

So when did I finally begin liking my name? Accepting my name was a challenge. I still didn't understand why my parents didn't want to name me something pretty, unique, or important to me. But lately, I've realized that while I may not relate to the characters my parents named me after, I've come up with my own role models for myself. In the TV shows I've watched and the celebrities I'm interested in, I've found my own versions of Emma. I found my name in shows like Once Upon a Time, when Emma is the savior who defeats the evil queen and is strong enough to find her own path in the world. I found it in Emma Watson, who became so famous after her role in Harry Potter yet remained grounded and in control of her life. I found an Em in Emily Fields from Pretty Little Liars, who starts off as a shy and timid character who becomes stronger under pressure and transforms into a strong and confident young woman.

All of these people made me realize that when my parents named me, they were thinking of people that they related to and admired. And if I were to have a child someday and name her after my characters, she wouldn't relate to them either. But that's okay. Because I found my own meaning for my name, based on my own role models that changed the way I think of my name and myself. And when I think of my name, I don't think of the nicknames, the other girls with the same one, or the meaning behind it. I think of what it means to me, and who I chose to base it on. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Chapter Two: The Day I Was Born

When is your birthday? June 7, 2000

Find your age in days with this Age Calculator. 5230 days on October 2, 2014.

Can you find out what the moon looked like on the day you were born? The moon was a waxing crescent on the day I was born.

Can you find out what the weather was like on the day you were born? About 58 degrees Fahrenheit with a high of 73. No rain or other precipitation. The daily averages for June in New York are a low of 60 degrees and a high of 75 degrees.

List at least five famous people who share their birthday with you. What are they famous for?

  1. Iggy Azalea - Singer
  2. Dean Martin - Singer
  3. Kim Rhodes - TV actress
  4. Anne McClain - Astronaut
  5. Keegan Bradley - Golfer

List at least ten things that happened throughout time on this day in history .

  1. 1913: First successful ascent of Mount McKinley, led by Hudson Stuck
  2. 1776: Lee resolution presented to Continental Congress
  3. 1962: First drive through bank in Switzerland
  4. 1939: King George VI is the first British king to visit the USA.
  5. 1942: Battle of midway ends
  6. 1937: Actress Jean Harlow dies
  7. 1866: Chief Seattle dies near the city named for him
  8. 1863: In the civil war, rebels turn back at Milliken's bend.
  9. 1692: An earthquake destroys a Jamaican pirate haven and kills thousands
  10. 1893: Gandhi refuses to comply with racial segregation laws, his first act of civil disobedience.

Find out how much these things cost:

  • a postage stamp: 33¢

  • a luxury car: $39,229-$50,096

  • an economy car: under $20,000

  • a four bedroom house in Media: $321,000

  • a gallon of milk: $12

  • going to the movies: $5.34

Who was President? Bill Clinton

What was the must have toy? razor scooters

What movies came out? Big Mommas House, Grass, New Waterford Girl, Running Free

Who were the biggest movie stars? Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elizabeth Banks, Maggie Smith.

Most popular TV shows? Gilmore Girls, Charmed, Big Brother, Survivor

Music? Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Belle and Sebastian, Maria Maria (Santana), Try Again (Aaliyah).

Sports? Golf US open won by Tiger Woods.

What were the fashion trends?

  • Peasant tops

  • shiny pants

  • neckties as belts

  • Fishnets

  • Layered tank tops

  • Cuffed jeans and heels

  • Chunky hair highlights

  • Corset tops

  • Shrugs

  • Juicy Couture

  • Name jewelry

Chapter Three: Storage Trunk

As the person known to throw away anything over a week old lying around the house, I didn't expect my dad to have an old cardboard box stuffed with memories in the basement. But when he brought it upstairs and gave me a chance to look through it, I knew it would be the "storage trunk" to use in my writing piece. It may have flimsy cardboard instead of polished wood, and its bursting seams constrained by duct tape, but the interior both surprised and delighted me. I shifted through graduation certificates, letters, and photos. So many photos, stacked on their sides and ripped at the edges. My dad, the photographer, had to have some treasure tucked away in that pile.

The photos jumped from one time period to the next, from baby photos of me to some of my grandma. There were cute pictures of my parents and serious photos at graduation ceremonies. After searching for a while, I found a small, simple picture with the numbers 1985 scribbled on the back. It showed an old woman standing by a train with a plaque on it, reading "Emil Osth" and two other foreign words. I discovered that it was taken on a family trip to Sweden and the old woman in the picture was my great-grandmother, Esther Ahlgren.

Emil Osth was an old, ancient relative who lived in Sweden. The details were vague and not much was really known about this ancestor of mine. One interesting piece of information my dad offered me was that our family name was originally Osth. It had followed a line of relatives up until my great-grandfather, Eric Ahlgren. Eric, Esther's husband, had immigrated to America and while passing through Ellis island, his last name was changed from Osth to Ahlgren.

This knowledge, while not incredibly important, did make me think about the changes that have gone through my family. I've always thought of my last name as something eternal - always existed and always will. However, this was not the case, as proved in that little photo with Emil Osth's name written in it. Nor will it continue to exist much longer, because my sister and I are the only ones in our generation and in a century or so, the name Ahlgren will stop being a part of our family tree.

Setting the slightly solemn photo aside, I pulled out a large, thick blue book stuffed with papers, letters and other documents. I had avoided this earlier, disregarding it and moving on to more interesting photos. Opening it up, however, I had to admit that this was even better than the pictures of my family. This was an opening into my father's younger years and experiences. I looked through first-grade report cards (he needed to work on listening and following directions), high school concert band programs (he had a solo), and various other accomplishments, such as his feature in the school newspaper as the photographer and his acceptance letter for graduate school at Yale University. It was so exciting to read through these documents and feel proud in all my dad had accomplished throughout his life so far. But one set of papers really stood out in particular. It's a letter from my grandfather (my dad's father) to the newspaper editor, and the editor's reply.

A lot of things really stood out to me in these letters, the first of which was maybe the whole "letter to the editor" feel about it all. I guess I thought that kind of correspondence only took place in books. Maybe it was that my grandfather's letter had expressed his way of speaking so well. Or perhaps I just loved reading the editor's reply, his praise and his descriptions of teaching the indescribable. I don't know why the letter made me feel so proud of my father, but it does. I think the letter is a piece of writing in itself, and the editor's words speak for themselves.

Chapter Four: My Personal Alphabet

A is for Academic. I try to always get good grades and try my best to reach my personal goals.

B is for Brunette. I have dark brown hair and brown eyes.

C is for Clumsy. I'm always bumping into something, tripping, or dropping things (including my birthday cake)

D is for Dimpled. I've had dimples forever, and I hate them. Whenever I smile, people point them out.

E is for Empathetic. I can usually relate to how others feel and "put myself in their shoes".

F is for First-Born. I'm the oldest of the two daughters in our house and am about three years older than my little sister.

G is for Grateful. I'm so lucky to have so many great friends and a loving family that cares about me.

H is for Hungry. Most of the time, I love eating food and looking forward to my next meal.

I is for Impatient. I don't mind waiting in line, but I hate dealing with annoying or irritating people.

J is for Jittery. When I'm nervous about something, I can never sit still or be silent.

K is for Knowledgeable. I've learned a lot about different countries of the world in Global Studies and am now more knowledgeable about different cultures.

L is for Late. I'm constantly procrastinating, or get caught up in something and not ready when it's time to go.

M is for Musical. I love playing violin in the Penncrest Orchestra, and participating in color guard with the Penncrest Band.

N is for Nostalgic. I always look back into the past - sometimes with regrets, or remembering better times.

O is for Open-Minded. I like learning about different cultures, people, and traditions. I also enjoy trying new things and opportunities.

P is for perfumed. I love buying perfume and spraying it all over the house, but my mom hates it.

Q is for quiet. When I'm around people I don't know I can be quiet and shy.

R is for realistic. Most of the time, I try to see things in perspective and see "the big picture".

S is for Sweet-toothed. I love any kind of chocolate and other deserts.

T is for Thrifty. Whenever I shop, I can never decide on what to buy and how much money to spend, and usually leave without buying anything.

U is for Untidy. I try to keep my room and backpack organized, but it usually ends up in a mess anyway.

V is for Versatile. Most of the time, I'm able to adapt to new situations well.

W is for Worrisome. I'm pretty pessimistic and am usually worrying about what could go wrong in a situation.

X is for Xebophobic. At first, I can be wary or unsure about strangers and people I don't know very well.

Y is for Young. I'm only 14 and look forward to all the things left to experience in life.

Z is for Zesty. When I'm in a good mood, I can be overly enthusiastic and energized.

Chapter Five: A Family History (Thanksgiving)

Part One: Describe Your Family

My immediate family is made up of me, my sister Sarah, and my mom and dad, Catherine and Steven. Sarah is 11 years old and in 6th grade at Springton Lake. She’s stubborn, shy, and quiet, but won’t hesitate to boss me around whenever she feels like it. My mom, Catherine, is social, organized, and hardworking. She works at a law firm and holds the title of “Chief Knowledge Officer”, which the rest of our family never fails to tease her about. My dad, Steven, on the other hand, will never fail to throw away anything over a week old. He’s funny, quiet, and pretty artistic.

This year at Thanksgiving, we met as usual in my mom’s father’s house in Westchester. We usually have pretty large gatherings, and this year was no exception. Of course, there was my mom, my dad, Sarah and I. There was my mom’s father, Joseph, his wife Kathy, and their 20-year-old daughter, Mary, who I’m really close to and is like a big sister to me. There were three of my mom’s four brothers: Joseph, Steven, and Chris. Chris came up from Florida with his wife, Jodie, and their adorable 5-year-old daughter, Bella. My granddad's wife Kathy (who we all call Mimi) had her sister Maria there with her husband, Wayne. Mimi’s father, Joe, also came along with her other sister Trish. Trish brought her husband, Joe and their two daughters, Rachel and Becca. Last but not least, there was Riley, Mimi and Granddad’s very loud, very tiny white toy poodle.

Part Two: Describe Your Meal

Thanksgiving dinner is always huge and delicious. When we first got there, we were met with a huge selection of appetizers. There were three different kinds of cubed cheese, mini garlic toasts, veggie dip surrounded by cauliflower, carrots, red peppers, and celery, a wheel of blueberry cheese, four different kinds of crackers, peanuts, olives, potato chips, and sour cream and onion dip. The adults had a cranberry limoncello prosecho drink, and Mimi called me over and asked me to mix a “kids drink” for those that were under drinking age. I used a mixture of 7 up, cranberry juice and sparkling apple cider that turned out to be surprisingly delicious. Somehow, after all the appetizers, we managed to make room for the Thanksgiving meal. Every family had brought something of their own to contribute - in my family, it was mashed lemon sweet potatoes, a pecan pie, and cinnamon chocolate chip butterballs. We ended up with a huge selection, and I tried, as always, a little of everything. There was turkey meat (light and dark) with gravy, green beans, roasted avocado, corn pudding, vegetarian and sausage stuffing, scalloped potatoes, mashed lemon sweet potatoes, cherry cranberry sauce, orange cranberry sauce, salad, rolls, and corn muffins. I completely cleaned my plate, but still had room for the best part - dessert. There were, of course, traditional desserts like pumpkin pie and pecan pie. But there was also my great-aunt Maria’s signature carrot cake with caramel and pumpkin candies on top, Gertrude Hawk Thanksgiving chocolates that my family had bought during my fundraising for band, and large plates of cookies. My sister Sarah had made a delicious batch of cinnamon chocolate chip butterballs, and Mary had provided white chocolate chip cookies and chocolate brownies, and my Aunt Trish had made a batch of rice krispie treats topped in a chocolate-Nutella frosting and sea salt.

Part Three: Discover the History of Your Family’s Arrival in this place, at this time

My moms family came from a small town near Sicily, Italy. Her grandfather on her father’s side, Joseph Monte (my great-grandfather) came to America as a little boy with his mother. His father had already moved to America to try to establish himself. His family also had a few relatives already in America, working in the construction business. My mother’s grandmother on her fathers side, Edith, was born in America, her parents having immigrated to America before she was born. Both sides came over to have a better life and working conditions. On her mother’s side of the family, ancestors came to America from Ireland, Germany and Lithuania. Her mother’s great grandmother (my great-great grandmother!) came from Lithuania for religious reasons, as did most of her other relatives.

Part Four: Discover Family Customs and Traditions

A lot of family customs and traditions on my mom’s side of the family are food related, especially around religious holidays. Some big holidays are Easter, Christmas, and feast days like Saint Joseph's Day. Also, every week my mother’s great uncle and his wife would bring home fresh foods from the Italian market. Some foods they would bring were pretzels from the Federal Pretzel Factory, Cascia's Bakery, Isgro’s Pastry Shop, and Dibruno's cheeses. Every Sunday, they would have homemade sauce with pasta with meatballs and sausage. Her grandparents would always come to eat with them on those Sundays, too. A non-food related tradition would be how my mom’s whole family would gather in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day to see the Mummers Parade. Her grandparents (on her dad’s side) were very active in these traditions and kept them going. They also lived close by and had a huge family, with many uncles, aunts and cousins. They would often get together for a lot of different occasions. When her grandfather died, along with her grandmother’s many brothers and sisters, a lot of the reasons for getting together disappeared. So, as she lost many of her relatives, many of my family’s customs and traditions were lost as well.

Part Five: Discover Your Family Stories

For the rest of this chapter, I interviewed my grandad, Joseph, whose family is Italian. Along the way, my uncles Chris, Steven and Joe sometimes chimed in, to provide additional information and also jog grandad's memory. Uncle Joe and Uncle Steven memorized some of my great-grandmom’s Italian sayings, and recited them to us. Afterward, my Uncle Chris told me that this was a great experience for them all, because his father rarely reminisces and this was one of the few times he relived family history.

English is mainly spoken in my family now. However, my grandfather told me that sometimes, when his parents and grandparents didn’t want him to know what they were saying, they spoke in Italian. My Uncle Chris told me that when their grandmother greeted them, she would grab their cheek and say, in Italian, “part of my heart”. My uncle Joe told us about a saying she would tell him. Translated from Italian, it means: “rainy and the weather is bad. In other people’s houses it is bad to stay. If I were in another person’s house, as they are in my house, I would have left a long time ago.” In other words, get out of my house. Uncle Steven contributed another Italian phrase: “he who leaves the old life for the new, knows what he’s leaving, but not what he’s getting into.” Also, my great-grandmom and her brothers and sisters used to listen to the radio. They would listen to the Italian opera songs. They got a device to put your voice on the radio and got their brothers and sisters to sing and pretend they were on the radio. During the end of the war, my granddad lived with his mother’s parents and he would listen to a show, Captain Midnight, on the radio. He did something bad, or got in trouble, and his mother wouldn’t let him listen to the show. So his grandfather said, “go sit in the corner, I have to listen to my show, Captain Midnight.” He died in 1947.

Part 6: Discover Family Treasures and Skills

My family has a lot of photographs, and my grandfather pointed two special ones out to me. One was his grandfather standing alone, with a sword, and the other was his grandfather’s regiment, those who were born in 1886. His name was Gregory, which is how we get my Uncle Greg’s name. As for family heirlooms, there are a few special pieces of handmade furniture, like the little table in the living room that his mother got as a wedding present in 1937. She wanted him to keep it. My Uncle Steve has a handmade coffee table with a glass lid that she also gave to him. We have a lot of photo albums, particularly in my grandad’s mother’s side of the family. There’s a picture from 1917 when my grandad’s mother was about 4 or 5 years old. For skills, there are no real traditional ones that are passed down for generations. My Uncle Joe brought up cooking, which is definitely true. My mother and Mimi have always taught me different recipes and Italian foods like homemade pasta or pizzelle cookies. Some of my granddad’s uncles played tennis, so tennis might be a small tradition. Finally, although my grandad didn’t mention it, I remember my great-grandmother (his mother) taking me aside one day and teaching me how to crochet. I was pretty young and didn’t quite get the hang of it. But years later, after she died, I took it out again and figured out how to crochet. Although I don’t do much crocheting at all anymore, it is something I remember very well that my great-grandmother taught me, and I’m happy that knowing how to crochet is a personal way to remember her.


English Interview Grandad by user394058322

Chapter 6: A Year In Reading

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Genre: Romance

Mrs. Bennet is excited when a rich man, Mr. Bingley, moves nearby, believing he'll marry one of her daughters, and they meet him at a ball where Jane (the eldest) reveals she's attracted to Bingley and he feels the same. Mr. Darcy, Bingley's friend, seems very proud and vain, and later he proposes to Lizzie, who turns him down because he separated Bingley and Jane. Bingley comes back and proposes to Jane, who accepts, and Lizzy and Darcy become engaged, and are married on the same day as Jane and Bingley.

This book was really good, and after I had watched the movie years ago, I had always wanted to read the book. It was also exciting and challenging to be reading Jane Austen’s difficult, older writing. A quote I liked was, “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Scout Finch lives in a southern neighborhood with her older brother Jem, father Atticus, and cook Calpurnia, and she, Jem and their neighbor Dill spend the summers trying to make the town recluse, Boo Radley, come out of his house. Their father, a lawyer, is assigned to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, and is frowned upon by the racist town, even though Tom is found guilty, because Atticus genuinely tried to help Tom. Scout and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell, but are saved by Boo Radley and they learn that all people are not what they seem.

The book was really good, and I enjoyed the writing style and the complex and interesting storyline. It taught a lot of important messages, and one of them was, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."

Night by Elie Wiesel

Genre: Memoir

Elie Wiesel is a young boy whose family is deported during the Holocaust and put in concentration camps. Elie must deal with the hard physical labor and living conditions, scarring emotional situations, and the moral conflict whether to live for just himself or help others. He eventually is freed, and devotes his life to bearing witness and fighting indifference, which he calls the greatest evil.

I thought this book was pretty good; it was very depressing but also very eye-opening. One of my favorite quotes was, "He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.”

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Henry expects his wife Laura to be completely obedient and is shocked when she is more outspoken. In the last part of the book, tensions rise because of Ronsel and Jamie's friendship. It was so painful to read about what happened to Ronsel and the pain he had to endure, and to know that those things actually happened in America at one point.

This book was good and I really enjoy reading historical fiction. It was also around the time that we read To Kill a Mockingbird, so it was interesting to see parallels between the two books. One of the quotes from the book was about childhood: "Good. Let her have her immortality while she can."

Every Day by David Levithan

Genre: Science Fiction

A is a being who wakes up in a different person's body every day. One day, he falls in love with the boy whose body he's in's girlfriend, and even tells her the truth about what he is to try to stay together. A visits her in different bodies all the time until she tells him they have to end their relationship because it is unstable and unfair to the people A is every day.

This book was really good, and had an amazing concept of someone who wakes up in a different body every single day of their life. One of my favorite quotes was, “There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.”

Chapter 7: Friendship

The person that immediately comes to mind when I talk about my best friend is Josie. She's in a grade lower than me (8th grade right now) but less than 3 months younger than me. Especially this year, when we're in separate schools as well as separate grades, it's been really hard to find time to hang out. Still, with FaceTime, texting and going over to each other's houses once in a while, she's definitely my closest friend. She's the person I can tell anything to, whether it's a really embarrassing story or a more serious topic. We've known each other since I was in first grade and she was in kindergarten. We've made so many memories since then, I could never list them all.

Another group of friends are my friends from dance. I met Rosa and Chloe when I transferred dance studios at the beginning of seventh grade. My friend Erica, who I've known since Elementary school, has danced at Touch of Class Dance Studio since she was three. So in my first year at the new studio, I got closer with Erica and was introduced to Rosa in ballet and jazz class. Chloe moved to the studio halfway through the year and the four of us spent every spare minute together. Last year, we all had an hour break between classes and always went to the study room every week to eat, talk and sometimes do our homework.

Color guard takes up a lot of time, both during the marching band season (for outdoor) and the winter and spring seasons (for indoor). This year I've gotten so much closer to my friends who do color guard with me: Anna, Andrea and Dyanna. Between 6 hours of practice a week and day-long competitions every Saturday, we've definitely made a lot of memories. During competitions, we've tried every single ice cream flavor at the ice cream stand, asked for (and gotten) a discount on the ice cream because we bought it so much, done each other's hair countless times for performances, and stressed out about how we did afterward.

Another group of friends that also went on a school trip was the one for orchestra. Logan, Thy-Lan and I have been friends since middle school when we were all in the same AGP class in 6th grade. In 7th and 8th, we were always in the same language arts and math class, along with being in orchestra together. On the last day of the orchestra trip, almost all of the freshmen in orchestra got together in a huge group and walked around the national mall together, and of course we all ended up on the carousel at the end of the day.

Chapter 8: Are You Hungry

One meal that is really special to me is eating out at the Indian restaurant in Media, Sher E Punjab.

First comes the basmati rice, sprinkled with fennel and a few green peas. The rice serves as a foundation for the many other intricate flavors and spices, but has a distinct taste of it's own as well. The sharp fennel gives more spice, balanced out by the sweetness of the green peas. Another amazing thing about the rice is it's beautiful texture, soft but never sticky, and you can feel every individual grain on your tongue. It's always been a mystery how the rice is able to taste so spectacular and maintain its distinct texture without sticking together.

The companion to the rice is the wonderful chicken tikka masala, white cubes of chicken doused in a vibrant bright red sauce. The chicken itself is always perfectly tender, with just the right texture. The sauce is red hot and fiery both in taste and appearance, but almost with hints of sweetness to balance out the spice a bit. Raita is the perfect partner to calm down the heat of the chicken. It's a cool, soothing side sauce made with yogurt, cilantro, and some lemon juice, cumin, and garlic. Unlike the rice, raita doesn't taste as good on it's own, but is a delicious counterpart to any spicy foods you happen to have on your plate. The chicken tikka masala, topped with raita and combined with rice, is honestly a dream to eat. The tastes, the spices, the hints of sweetness, the perfectly textured rice and chicken, all come together in a fantastic combination of the senses.

Of course I have to include vegetables on my plate, but even the green bean dish at Sher E Punjab meets the ranks of the basmati rice and the chicken tikka masala. A mixture of cut up green beans and potatoes, complete with a buttery, spicy sauce satisfies the need for vegetables without sacrificing taste. The texture in this dish isn't as defined - it's more of a mush of beans and potatoes than a crisp difference of flavors. Still, this doesn't make it any less delicious.

Next is the naan, the buttery, garlicky flatbread that is an amazing side dish. The bread, sometimes crunchy, sometimes soft, is perfect for soaking in chicken tikka masala sauce at the end of the meal. Though I love eating it plain, nothing tastes better than the naan dripping with spicy red sauce and streaks of raetia.

To finish, I love eating the sweet rice pudding dotted with golden raisins and cashew nuts. The texture is similar to the normal basmati rice drenched with masala sauce, but a sweeter and milkier version. The rice in this dish is not distinctly separated, but forms small clumps from soaking in the sweet milky sauce. The golden raisins and cashews add a bit of chewiness and crunch that is the perfect addition to the end of my meal.

Chapter 9: Room Sweet Room

I have never been completely happy with how my room looks. It matches with the rest of my house, which means it's pretty small. I'd love to do a huge room makeover and completely redecorate, but I don't know when that's going to happen. Even so, my room does hold a lot of memories.

The walls are painted turquoise, a bright, clear, island-paradise turquoise. I chose the color when I was in fifth grade but I've never regretted it at all. My dad and I spent a week in the summer painting it together. The floor is covered by a large, shaggy lavender rug, and all the furniture is white. Though my walls are pretty bare, I have a large pink corkboard hanging above my bed, filled with photobooth strips, birthday cards, postcards, little drawings, awards and movie tickets. I like to think of it as a scrapbook on my wall. By the window, I have photographs of pink, white and purple flowers. Above my desk hangs a photo board with old pictures of friends and family. Finally, above my dresser is one of my favorite quotes. The quote says: “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”

Above my desk is a big shelf that's filled with favorite books, yearbooks, and nail polish. That's also where I keep my scrapbooks. I'm a bit of a hoarder, and I really hate throwing things away that contain a certain memory. So anything and everything goes into my scrapbooks, including cards, little sketches, movie tickets, stickers, old school ID cards, and a lot more. I keep a pile of "things to be scrapbooked" on my desk and whenever I have some free time and I'm in the mood, I grab some tape, scissors and markers and put them in. I'm not really good at drawing or painting, but I do like to be creative, so my scrapbooks are a fun way to do that. Also, it's really nice to look back in my scrapbooks from fifth grade and see how much I've changed. I'm awful at keeping journals - I can never get myself to write in them regularly - so keeping a scrapbook helps to document my experiences, too.

Next to my desk is my bookcase, which I don't usually get a chance to use very much during the school year. Spring break has been a great way to get into reading again, so I've been using it a lot more. On top of my bookcase I like to keep some comforting things that would be great for relaxing with along with a good book. I keep a bag of peppermints, a box of chocolates from Christmas, some yankee candles, and a pair of scented hand pillows that are supposed to help you relax. My parents gave them to me for Christmas, so I guess they must think I'm really stressed out. All of these things are great to turn to on a bad day, but my favorite thing on my bookcase (and maybe my whole room) is the "memory jar" my best friend gave me for Christmas. It's nothing really fancy, just a glass jar with a white plastic lid, but inside are tons of little slips of paper. Each one has a memory we share together, and I could tell it had taken her a while to write all of them down. It's one of my favorite gifts I've ever gotten.

Chapter 10: Flashback

I woke up to my alarm clock ringing out at 5:25 am. The house was quiet and dark, and I remember the disappointment I felt, thinking today would be a normal school day. The buzz had been all over school, and I'd fallen asleep reassured that, at the very least, I would be able to sleep in the next day.

I climbed out of bed and slipped into the hallway, unsure what to do. Usually my dad is up and busy downstairs by 5 in the morning, but the house was quiet and peaceful for once. Feeling utterly confused, I slipped into bed and went to a pretty reliable resource - my phone. Wincing at the bright light in the darkness, I went to the RTMSD website and checked the calendar. There it was - no school, all buildings closed. Feeling triumphant, and pulled my blankets over my head and tried to fall asleep. I've never been good at sleeping after I woke up in the morning, and today was no exception. I just relaxed, soaking up the happiness and the wonderful knowledge that I wouldn't have to get up anytime soon and I didn't have anywhere to be today. When the phone rang around 5:30, it confirmed what I already knew. I remember promising myself that I would not waste the day on my iPhone. I wanted to make this day count.

With that in mind, and the fact that I really couldn't get back to sleep, I got up around 6:00 and crept downstairs. My dad had gotten up with the phone call and was sitting in a chair by the blazing fire, reading. He didn't say much, only expressed his disappointment that the snow had barely fallen. He thought the snow day was a second mistake on the school's part.

Usually, I'd be upset that the day was a waste of days off, but today I couldn't have cared less. I settled into a chair beside him and chattered happily about my plans for the day - a hearty breakfast, a bit of homework to do, reading, netflix, baking, board games - and maybe even some fun in the snow. I was determined to have a stereotypical snow day, full of good food, warmth, heavy snowfalls, and time with my family. I think part of it was that recently, I had been panicking about letting the days get away from me, and not letting the moments count. I was desperate for some real-life experiences.

Impatient for the day to begin, I got up and hurried into the kitchen to make breakfast. I decided on a snow day feast, complete with scrambled eggs, sausage, and an english muffin. I've always been a baker, so it wasn't a challenge for me to pop the muffin in the toaster, whip up the eggs, and get the sausage links sizzling on the stove. About ten minutes later, I was settling into a chair in our cozy little dining room with my plate full of steaming scrambled eggs, hot spicy sausages, and a toasted, golden brown english muffin slathered with melty butter and sweet cherry jam. Complete with a glass of icy cold apple cider, my breakfast was the perfect start to the snow day.

And the snow definitely didn't disappoint - by nine in the morning it was coming down fast, with fat white flakes falling through the air and covering the brown grass, black streets and green evergreen trees with a blanket of ice. As I'd promised myself earlier, I got to work and quickly finished any remaining homework that had been lying around. With the promise of the silent winter wonderland waiting just outside my window, it was hard to concentrate.

But I got my work done, and within minutes had recruited my dad to participate in a game of mastermind with me. So the late morning passed with laughter and playful competition, made even better when my younger sister agreed to join in. The three of us branched out into larger board games like blokus and monopoly. Soon enough, it was time for lunch.

Lunch wasn't as grand as my breakfast, but it was just as satisfying, with hot soup, grilled cheese and apple slices. After we finished eating, I asked for everyone to clear the kitchen for my baking. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about it.

"I thought you said you'd play in the snow with me after lunch," my younger sister insisted. "It'll take too long for you to finish your cookies and spend time with me."

I was torn. Truthfully, tramping around in the now feet-high snow, gasping for breath and sweating through the many layers of clothing, wasn't very appealing to me. I reluctantly offered to let her help me with my baking instead of venturing outside in the cold and wet weather, but she refused. I was frustrated, for many reasons. First of all, Sarah is one of the most stubborn people I know, and I knew that even if she consented to stomp outside on her own, she would never let me forget it and probably end up ignoring me the rest of the afternoon. Secondly, I couldn't see why she believed that going out into the snow was more fun than a relaxing afternoon in the warm and cheerful kitchen, filled with smells of sugar, vanilla and chocolate. Finally, I knew she was right that we hadn't spent much time with each other lately. There was simply no spare moment, with our packed after-school schedules, large amounts of homework, and spending time with our friends. Whenever the rare afternoon came when I was home, she was always out at soccer practice or shut up in her room doing schoolwork. Whatever problems I had with playing in the snow, I knew it was a rare opportunity to spend time with my little sister.

So I decided on a compromise. I would mix up the cookie dough, put a few batches in the oven, and then go outside to meet with Sarah. I knew she wasn't entirely satisfied, but it would have to do.

There's something so eerie about freshly fallen snow. I stood on the porch, letting the flakes tumble down on my shoulders, and breathed in the crisp, cool air. Everything was quiet, muffled by a blanket of snow. When the snow is still lying undisturbed on the streets, before any rumbling trucks can push it off to the side, the neighborhood seems so much cozier. It''s fallen asleep under the blanket of fluffy snow, and anyone who ventures outside on a day like this is overwhelmed by a feeling of peace.

My peace was broken by the sound of Sarah's voice, calling me down to the driveway. Technically, the long, winding stretch of road isn't ours - it's our neighbor's. But they've always been happy to let us use it, and with the fresh layer of snow covering the cement it was perfect for sledding.

I followed the sound of her voice and found myself at the top of the gently sloping hill. Sarah had dragged our big red sled across the yard and it was easy to follow the tracks. Once there, I was eagerly pushed onto the sled and down the hill. Shrieking, laughing, and playfully arguing, we spent an hour outside on the glistening white driveway. I was even the one to suggest snowboarding, which we happily attempted by standing on top of the sled while the other person shoved the sled down the hill. When we finally decided to go back inside, I couldn't help remembering that I'd been reminding dad for a while to buy a real snowboard of our own. Somehow, this was better.

Once I'd finished schoolwork, baking and spending time with Sarah, I let myself relax for the rest of the evening. I spend the rest of the day curled up in the living room, alternating between reading and watching netflix. After dinner, the whole family competed in a game of Scrabble and ended up using all the letters in the game.