Pictures of Themselves: The 2020 College Essays on Money

Green double treble crochet stitches take me back to the smell of wet pine needles in the spring, laughter from my sisters climbing high on tree limbs, the curve of mountain roads. Green is the forest of my childhood, sheltering my first home. I taste the smoke from our old wood stove and see the oil lanterns flickering in and out. The cabin in the woods where my sister was born, water from the river that she took her first bath in.

Green fades into blue as squares meet, treetops brush the sky. I see myself, young and spinning across a playground with my classmates. I am at my one-room schoolhouse, holding hands with the two other children in my grade and lying with our backs on grass, looking up at the never-ending sky. We whisper dreams of becoming doctors, actors, artists.

I see the blue of California oceans as I leave for high school, finding my home away from home. Pine trees replaced by palm trees and sand between my toes. I recall beach cleanups and surfing trips, touching shy sea anemones in tide pools. Blue paint on signs for women’s marches and the sound of people beside me who want to be heard. We demand equality.

Purple is for my mother. It’s her favorite color. It reminds me of her strength and determination. I feel her calloused hands from work on the farm, work in the field, and chemical burns from cleaning jobs. I smell her earthy clothes as she studies at the kitchen table, determined to finish her homework so that she can finally graduate college after decades of trying. I see the violet sky at dawn; when the sun rises so does she. Mother up at twilight to start her day, breath released in freezing clouds as she milks the goats and feeds the chickens, never disappointing the hungry mouths that depend on her. Each day, I recall the things she has given up for my sake. Her sacrifice and desire for me to succeed encourage me to be better and work harder. Yet, I desire more. I do not want to live like her, I want better.

Red stitches are passionate outbursts. Angry shouts from Dad as he returns in the middle of the night, breath sour from drinking. Tears of happiness after receiving his first chip for a year of sobriety. Screams echoing from my biological father’s mouth as he hurls threats that sting like arrows as his disease makes him chase his family away. Scarlet stitches of fear during our six months without a roof over our heads after he forced us from our home. Pain in my sister’s eyes after she begged for help from friends with deaf ears. Promises that we will keep her safe, and check-in calls after I leave home.

Twist, bend, through the loop. Repeat.

Each stitch is a part of me. I rarely relive these aspects of my upbringing, but I call on them when I need to be reminded of my strength. When I completed the blanket, I cried. I was proud. I made this. This is me.

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