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Christmas Eve dinner; UChicago - Invent A Past For Present Supplement


enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #1
PROMPT:

"...I [was] eager to escape backward again, to be off to invent a past for the present." -The Rose Rabbi by Daniel Stern

Present: pres-ent
1. Something that is offered, presented, or given as a gift

Let's stick with this definition. Unusual presents, accidental presents, metaphorical presents, re-gifted presents, etc. - pick any present you have ever received and invent a past for it.


P.S. This took me a long time to write and it was also pretty hard. But after writing it I still have a lot of uncertainties. Did I answer the prompt correctly? There isn't a word limit but is it long enough to bore the reader? Is it good? Is it too poetic? Did I go on too long about the beginning? Anything I should improve? How did it make you feel?

I would also appreciate any grammatical corrections and very insightful feedback. Thanks in advance!
ESSAY:
To the rest of my family, it was a formality just like it is every year. However, I've been looking forward to this day every year ever since this 'formality' started. The day I look forward to each year is Christmas day and it isn't because of Christmas Eve dinner or the exchange of expensive gifts between the members of my extended family, but it is because of this 'formality'.

The visit we are paid every year by an employee of my father that still visits us even after my father left the house is the 'formality' in the eyes of my family. I long for this visit every year because the fact that Mr. XXX still visits us after my father left the house epitomizes his sincerity, by coming to our house he runs the risk of getting fired and that is a risk he definitely can not afford.

The bell rings and I quickly rush to the door. Mr. XXX and his son six year old, XXX, wearing the same worn out suit and button down shirt that they wear every year are at the door. After catching up with Mr. XXX and playing with XXX I am filled with glee because the time to exchange gifts has come. It is not the gifts that we present to Mr. Ahmad and Safa that define the experience but the tokens of appreciation that they offer us. One cannot possibly expect Mr. XXX to give us gifts of the same financial caliber as those we give him. But little does he know that they mean so much more to me than the money we offer him to get through the winter do to him and his family.

With a little nudge from his father, XXX gave me a parcel rapped in shiny wrapping that I later reveal to be a toy robot. This however, is no ordinary toy robot, which was apparent by his missing eye, missing arm and the dent in his chest. I rotate the robot only to find a "Made in Cambodia" sticker on it.

I can only but imagine the journey this toy robot has gone through, but why the obvious flaws? A fortnight long brutal journey from the sweatshop in rural Phnom Penh to Yemeni shores through the ports of monsoon India and finally driven through XXX to reach the safety of my hands might explain the dent in his chest but what about the eye and arm that were so obviously plucked out of their places with intent?

It was an unusually cold night in Phnom Penh with temperatures reaching a near zero, but there was nothing anomalous about the events of that night. Sakngea had just finished his shift at the factory where he spends all day putting together the same pieces in the same manner to produce the same result: a toy robot that he can only imagine playing with. On his way to his house, Sakngea passed by the library he always passes by but it looked different, there was a "now hiring" sign on the door. Ignoring the sign, Sakngea arrived at his door and wished that when he opened it he would find a rupture in his normal routine, but to no avail. He came back to his father screaming at his mother for the usual reasons: because he was drunk. He tossed the same old wages in the same old plate, trod the same old path and lay in the same old stained mattress whilst trying to ignore the same old argument because the last time he tried to break the routine it ended in a scar under his left eye.

This time, however, it was different. Lying down on the mattress, Sakngea felt... different. This strange power overtook him, a motivation of magnitude that he has never experienced before. This feeling that engulfed him made him want to do something. He felt as though he had to break the routine. In a moment of ordered chaos, Sakngea chose to take up his father on his constant threats, which entailed him leaving the house if he was disobeyed. Sakngea halted in his tracks and remembered that his mother's fate was in his hands and his decision had to be a calculated one. The internal struggle raged.

If he kicked his father out of the house he had to shoulder the financial responsibility of his family. He knew that working over time in the factory and dropping out of school was not the answer. The solution was knowledge. Be it academic knowledge or general knowledge, it was the only way he could indefinitely improve the quality of his family's life. It was that moment that he decided to take up the job at the library, he would be able to go to school and study whilst working. Not only that, but he would be able to satisfy his thirst for knowledge in the library by answering his unanswered questions that ranged from why emeralds are green to the origin of the cosmos.

But was he ready? His family could live on his and his mother's wages but could he shoulder the responsibility of being the only male figure in the family? He believed he could for he was no ordinary 13 year old. Seeing his father pass out drunken before him made him mature before his years. His father also provided him with the perfect role model of what not to be. He was not going to waste his potential sulking as his father did. He was not going to settle with what he had. He was not going to neglect anybody who needed help, be it a family member or a stranger. He was not going to remain uneducated. He is going to set himself ambitious goals that he is going to achieve. He is going to become a better person.

With that, he was ready. The thunder roared and the light drizzle turned to heavy rain that pounded on the metal roof. He felt it in his bones, he felt radioactive.

Sakngea got out of his bed and marched towards his father. With determination in his eyes he screamed at his father, "LEAVE NOW! We don't want you or need you anymore in this house! Leave my home and never come back." And with a sinister laugh his father grabbed the bottle of vodka and left.

His mother instantly burst to tears and held him. He couldn't decide whether they were tears of joy, but he could sense the fear in her cries, the fear of oblivion. He held his mom, looked in her eyes and told her that everything will be fine, he will help support the family by working at the library and will be the man she always needed in her life. It was then that her cries turned to sobs of pride. He threw away all the empty bottles and told his mother, "See things are looking up already, trust me when I tell you this is a new age." The cacophony caused by the droplets of water seized. He proceeded to embrace his mother once more and they both curled up on the mattress together.

The next day was his last day at the factory and he felt it was fitting that he break his routine. The first robot he made had one arm, one eye and a dent in his chest. The next robot and every robot after that, however, had no defects. He mutated the first robot to symbolize what he was, his destiny was not in his hands, he was blind to all the possibilities in life and he was hurt. That would be no more. For after last night he became a new man with his destiny as well as his mother's in his own hands, he realized his potential which created an inner fire in him that strived to succeed and he was on the way to healing the wound his father caused. All the other robots with no defects symbolized the new him.

After finishing 50 robots he put them all in a cardboard box, stamped the word (insert name country I live in) on it and hoped that the person who would receive the mutated toy would understand the purpose of all the defects and ultimately, relate to him. And relate to him I did.

alicederp 10 / 56 4  
Dec 30, 2012   #2
Hi there,

First thing, this is an amazing story. One that flows beautifully and manages to grab and hold the reader's attention throughout its duration. The ending is perfect.

The only small thing I would change is:

The day I look forward to each year is Christmas day and it isn't because of Christmas Eve dinner or the exchange of expensive gifts between the members of my extended family,it'sbut it is because of this 'formality'.

Could you please read and give me some suggestions on my common app essay?
sarthakjain 19 / 58  
Dec 30, 2012   #3
i think the story is amazing, but you may need to work on the grammar a bit. also on the starting - its a little confusing.
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #4
Thank you for your suggestions but @sarthakjain can you please tell me where my essay is grammatically incorrect?
sj1912 3 / 18 1  
Dec 30, 2012   #5
It was an unusually cold night in Phnom Penh with temperatures reaching a near zero, but there was nothing anomalous about the events of that nightu sure dis is reqd? . Sakngea had just finished his shift at the factory where he spends all day putting together the same pieces in the same manner to produce the same result: a toy robot that he can only imagine playing with. On his way to his house, Sakngea passed by the library he always passes by but it looked different, there was a "now hiring" sign on the door. Ignoring the sign, Sakngea arrived at his door and wished that when he opened it he would find a rupture in his normal routine, but to no avail. He came back to his father screaming at his mother for the usual reasons: because he was drunk. He tossed the same old wages in the same old plate, trod the same old path and lay in the same old stained mattress whilst trying to ignore the same old argument, cut it down because the last time he tried to break the routine it ended in a scar under his left eye.

ummm...this is total fiction right?? ii mean i cudnt really see the real you. uchicago does hav its benefits nd dusnt go by d buk, but dey still need a personal essay!! u write well, den why nt make it personal!d story is great, dnt get me wrong...highlight d you nd underplay d oders!
New1234 2 / 20 4  
Dec 30, 2012   #6
Overall it's a impressive essay...

but try to be brief and leave spaces between paragraphs
VVCepheiA 11 / 30 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #8
Cute essay! :D (also cool,interesting and impressive!)
The beginning is a little bit confusing but I do understand your theme at the end.
Shorten the beginning! Had I not promised to read your essay, I may have been daunted by its length and shed away> <...(I admit that I lack patience..)

Always remember the theme you want to convey and see if your words are telling what you really what to tell.

P.S. Some people may disagree with the father part... I am a Chinese girl and this kind of descriptions may be seen as kind of unfilial in my country. Not sure about what AO would think about it > <..

Be critical about my comment. Hope I helped :)
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #9
Thank you for your comment, but can you please clarify what you meant by the beginning? Like from which paragraphs exactly?
Dabbagh 7 / 11 1  
Dec 30, 2012   #10
Great essay. I really like the story, and I like how you make the connection.

The only note I have is that it's a bit too long. Try to summarize the story, because remember that this is one of thousands of essays that the admission officers are going to be reading. Good luck!
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #11
This is a very good story. I enjoyed reading it very much. You can be a little "comma happy" in your writing. Dont be afraid to plop a period down every now and then :) and try to remain in the same tense throughout your writing. Other than that, great job. When I applied to UChicago, I was wary of this prompt, but you approached it very well and with great originality. Best of luck to you!
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #12
Thanks a lot for your comments! I was pretty insecure about the grammar. There are times when I had to change tenses to signify Sakgnea's goals for the future and what he did in the present (but I realize it is grammatically incorrect). I'm not sure if you got the message I was trying to convey but it is somehow related to my common app essay (which isn't posted here) so I can understand you not getting it. In the end I was trying to help the reader draw parallels between my life and Sakgnea's.
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #13
I understood that there was some greater connection being made between the character and yourself from your introductory paragraphs. There are moments at the end of your essay that you can be a little redundant. Perhaps cut a few of those bits out and give yourself some room to insert some hints regarding the parallels?
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #14
All the hints are in my commonapp essay as when I wrote this it was meant to be written to somebody who has read my personal statement. I wrote in a way that, if you read my personal statement, you would think it's me right through the middle and the sentence would vindicate it. Can you please tell me which parts are redundant because it's hard for me to cut out words from my own writing and I really want to cut it down as much as I can. Again thanks a lot for your feedback I really appreciate it
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #15
The cacophony caused by the droplets of water seized.

not necessary

The internal struggle raged.

This feeling that engulfed him made him want to do something.

this could be cut

Not only that, but he would be able to satisfy his thirst for knowledge in the library by answering his unanswered questions that ranged from why emeralds are green to the origin of the cosmos.

this part isnt redundant, but the essay could do without it

His family could live on his and his mother's wages but

again, not really necessary

He held his mother, looked into her eyes and told her that everything will be fine, he will help support the family by working at the library and will be the man she always needed in her life .

the highlighted portions can be removed

Now that I reread it, redundant was the wrong word. It isnt redundant. There are, however, a few parts that can be trimmed down, and I tried to pinpoint them. This essay is long, but not unnecessarily long. I feel as though cutting out too much will hurt the vioce that you have created. How many words is your essay?
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #16
It's around 1300 words but I was told that Uchicago won't mind that. My main concern was if it was unnecessary long but as you said I knew that removing too much would hurt the voice. I really needed help with removing the unnecessary parts and you just pinpointed them. I really can't thank you enough for all your help and your patience and if you need any help just say so. Best of luck with all your applications and I hope you get into your first choice :)
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #17
No thanks needed! It is a pleasure to help out my fellow UChicago applicants. UChicago does pride themselves on being a very open university, so I dont see why that cannot extend to essay lengths as well. Best of luck to you!
sj1912 3 / 18 1  
Dec 30, 2012   #18
mela3

hey....dere are 3 essays to be submitted to uchicago....ndd one of dm, alist type of thing is optional. i dnt plan on submitting that, bt shud i? will it affect my app if i wont?!
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #19
If its optional, then you aren't expected to write it. It should not hurt your chances if you don't write it. In my opinion, I would just in case. You never know, that essay just might be the one that, after reading, they'll say "we should really admit this person."
OP enigma33 2 / 44 3  
Dec 30, 2012   #20
When colleges say optional what they really mean is that it's required. If you don't then they'll see it as a lack of interest in your college. Because in all truth, if you really like Uchicago then you wouldn't mind spending 30 minutes talking about your favorites book and songs..
mela3 2 / 37 2  
Dec 30, 2012   #21
Preferred, not required
luying9682 6 / 35 6  
Dec 30, 2012   #22
Hello,
Your essay is really long--but I enjoy reading the story! I like your idea of the mutated robot!
I understand that you are struggling with the length. Honestly speaking, when I thought over the prompt, I could not understand this one, so I am afraid I cannot help you much about the content. Instead, I might help you cut off the words. I will quote from your original post.

You could merge the sentences into 2 or 3. As I may change your own voice and confuse you, I am not going to combine the sentences for you. I chose these sentences because they are the beginning, which need not to be too long. And cutting down words here won't hurt the main idea of the article.

simply talk about that you exchanged gifts with the son here.

And for the rest of the story, you could combine two into one sentence. I cannot help because I am not familiar with your story, and you should be the best one to modify it without erroneously conveying your idea.

Good luck!
Bighall 3 / 18 1  
Dec 30, 2012   #23
I really appreciate this essay and your imagination. I think it would be better if you shorten it a little bit


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