By Mariella Parmenter
I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my three younger sisters and parents, and I wanted to write something that gave an outsider a view on the little details of my interactions and relationships.
As Ada embraces me, her Lilliputian arms pulsate twice, indicating her eager participation in our silent game. When I hug her tightly once, she repeats; thrice, and she does the same. We continue sharing little squeezes as I savor the feel of her arms wrapped around me. She giggles and narrows her hold as I cover her face in kisses and lift her into a piggyback ride. Sometimes I put her down briefly because her powerful grip seems to block my air, but when I jump around and hear my little spider monkey’s laugh, it’s worth the temporary pain.
When she asks in her five-year-old voice for a smoothie, I cannot refuse, knowing that her high-pitched voice will soon change, along with our time living together. I effortlessly lift her onto the kitchen counter and gather mango, banana, pineapple, and turmeric. Sometimes she’ll ask me to cover her ears, and my “giant” hands relish holding her entire head as the blender roars. The sound does not hurt me as much as it would her.
One night after getting bubble tea with friends, I walk into the bedroom filled with our four beds and two desks. Vivi, my nine-year-old sister, asks, “Ella, can I have the last of your bubble tea?” She isn’t upset that I didn’t bring a drink for her; she is simply asking for the remaining. Once I share, she smiles and chirps, “Thank you!”
Girls Write Now On the Other Side of Everything: The 2023 Anthology
Do you know what it’s like to communicate with your family across a salty ocean’s divide? Do you want the sun and moon to enter your home with stories written in embers? Do you seek voices that will punctuate the darkness? Welcome to the other side of everything. It’s the other side of silence, the other side of childhood, the other side of hate, the other side of indifference, it’s the other side of sides, where the binary breaks down. It’s a new paradigm, a destination, a different perspective, a mindset, a state of openness, the space between the endless folds in your forehead, hopes for tomorrow, and reflections on the past. This anthology of diverse voices is an everything bagel of literary genres and love songs, secrets whispered in the dark of night, conversations held with ancestors under the sea.
Vivi and Ada were born in New York, while my fifteen-year-old sister Paisley and I were born in Las Vegas. My family moved to New York to pursue educational opportunities for all of us. We lived in Washington Heights while my dad studied nurse anesthesiology, and I can still recall the unceasing desire for coco helado, a frozen dessert sold on street corners. Paisley and I devoured it almost everyday, and this memory of home, like thousands of others, helped shape us.
All four of us sisters have differing perceptions of ourselves and society, but one of the most important traits we share is curiosity about our surroundings. I encourage them to find excitement in the random questions that arise, and to view the world as it is and what it could be, rather than what we choose to see. I want to earn my sisters’ trust; and for everything that I lack, extend to them to reciprocate. Whether I’m a friend with whom they can joke around, a big sister that makes smoothies, or a mother figure who provides comfort, they can confide in me. Their unconditional love assuages the daily burdens that could otherwise leave me believing I won’t ever be enough for this world. I am, somehow, remarkably enough for my sisters, and I know that has value.
This began as my personal statement for my Common Application, but has transformed over time into a personal essay.
Mariella is the eldest of four sisters in her family of six. She spends her time writing sonnets, baking French patisserie, singing musical theater and crocheting. As a 17-year-old junior vocal major, she has studied music in Italian, German, French, Latin and Spanish. She values her alone time and the processes it takes to generate creative flow and artwork.