In 2011, I didn’t reflect too much on my year. My family was celebrating Diwali that night at our family home in Western Massachusetts. Our lights were off as we lined each hallway with oil-lamps or deepams. My mom filled terracotta bowls with water and carefully placed rose petals and floating tea lamps.
People were filing in and leaving their shoes at the doorstep when I first noticed the snowflakes fall.
We had catered food to the house so we could feed everyone. Each metal tray rested above a controlled flame so that our meals would stay warm. We had turned off all the lights so the deepams would show more brilliantly. There were about forty people in the house at this point, so I couldn’t hear the first crack of the maple tree in front of my house.
My town had a lot of deciduous trees and at this point in the season, they were still full with orange and red leaves. The snow fell quietly but in pounds. Ice glazed over each branch. We couldn’t hear any of it.
It wasn’t until the first person opened the door when we realized how much of a storm there was. Many people who left their shoes outside had to dig their shoes out of the fresh powder. I stepped outside and I heard the slow screech of the tree branches. Everyone drove home that night.
I fell asleep before I heard a tree crack. I woke up the next morning and noticed that my phone hadn’t charged despite having been on the charger. No one else had woken up, so I went downstairs to make myself some cereal. I had planned to finish one of my supplement essays for college application that day, so I wanted to start my day a bit earlier. The floor was ice cold. My dad woke up shortly after I did and tried to turn on the TV. Nothing happened.
“There must have been a power outage from the snow. I’m sure it’ll come back soon…”
I felt slightly inconvenienced since I wouldn’t be able to use the laptop to write my application essay (it had been charging when the power went out, so its battery was dead). We still had so much catered food, so when my mom woke up; she started up the fireplace and heated it up over the logs. We each were wrapped in two blankets that my dad retrieved from the basement.
At that point, I didn’t know we would go about a week in the dark. I later learned that the storm left over 700,000 people without power. That same year, Western Massachusetts was also hit by a tornado and a tropical storm. People were comparing it to the end of the world, but all I thought about was how some greater power clearly didn’t want me to get into college.
I tried handwriting my application essays, but the sunset at around 4 pm and it was hard for me to see my paper with a melting candle. We couldn’t go out on the streets because live electrical wires were scattered everywhere. Plus, the roads hadn’t been plowed. It wasn’t until four days in when we could get on the streets to head over to a friend’s house. They had a generator for light, heat, and water. Still no Internet though. I realized I’d miss the early admissions deadline.
That’s all I could think about until I finally sent in my applications for the regular admissions deadline in December. Once the power came back, we went to school immediately and my teachers tried to pile on all the work that we had missed, so I didn’t have much time to work more on my college application until winter break. We had visited my family in Nashville for Christmas. I locked myself in a room for most of the week, scrambling to finish my work.
Looking back now, I realize that I had put myself through a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety for college. I didn’t have to apply to thirteen schools just because I could with the Common Application. If I didn’t get in somewhere the first time I applied, I could have spent a year working before I applied again. It would have been okay. What wasn’t okay was how I didn’t appreciate how wonderful my mother was for floating tea candles and rose petals on the water in a terracotta bowl and for reheating food over a fire. Or how my dad fetched blankets from the cold, dark basement and would sit with me every time I had to read my dense AP History textbook.
I didn’t reflect on my year in 2011.
I didn’t think about every little thing my parents had done for me to make sure I was healthy, safe, and happy.
But I want to reflect this year – 2017 – before it’s over.
I know that I’m healthy, safe, and happy and it’s all because of my parents.
Many of my Indian friends had parents who pressured them into STEM jobs, but my parents wanted me to pursue a passion so that I could keep on learning and growing. I had attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies – a fifteen-week intensive that I took on an audio documentary – and they came to my graduation ceremony. My dad said to my teacher, “We didn’t really know what she was doing, but we knew she was working hard and learning a lot.” I still can’t believe how unconditional their support is for me.
My parents have let me wander, get lost, and be found. No matter the path I choose, they celebrate with me walking down it. They line its edges with deepams of love and support that help light my way. I imagine looking down from a mountaintop each path, twinkling with deepams.
They light a map that yearns to spread further. And as I sit on the ledge, I turn to my left. There’s a deepam floating in a still puddle next to me, and I wonder where I’ll go next.