"Beauty is only skin deep" was a phrase I heard quite often during my awkward childhood. When I was a baby, I had two chins, Michelin Tire legs, and hair that stuck straight up even though it was easily over two inches long. My mom would often dress me in only a diaper on hot days inspiring my uncle to label me with the name of "Marshmallow Butt." It was a name he was quite fond of calling me, even years later. As I grew, the double chin turned into one and a half, the legs stretched into colonial columns, and the hair eventually lay flat. This all happened just in time for puberty-acne and my first training bra when I was only ten. It was during this transitional point in my life that my father began to teach me a valuable and significant lesson regarding beauty and the power of words.
During my childhood, my family indulged in a weekly ritual we called family night. We used this time for various activities. We would hold family councils where we truly believed we had a say in important subjects. We would play games and have lessons such as "being kind to your family" or some other moral issue of the time. Sometimes we would sing songs, hear stories from Dad who could rival Mark Twain any day, or spend an hour to two eating ice cream and playing at the park.
I am the second child and oldest daughter in a family of ten children, so these weekly "get-togethers" rarely went without some type of fiasco. These fiascoes varied from kicking at one another as Mom was teaching us about "Doing Unto Others" or my older brother Bill and I having a hair pulling fight, not just a tug-of-the-hair fight, but a fist-full, pull-as-hard-as-you-can, you-let-go-first hair fight. It was for one of these activities that my dad brought home a movie entitled Johnny Lingo. The story was simple, but for a shy ten-year-old girl who had long, stringy, brown hair, big brown eyes, a freckled face, and who looked as though the Pillsbury Dough Boy was her closest relative, it was a story filled with magic and hope.
The movie told of a girl named Mohana. Mohana was, quite frankly, the ugliest girl on the island. She was all "skin and bone." She rarely washed her hair and never combed it. She spent all her time hiding in the woods so no one could see her and make fun of her. Even her father called her "Mohana, you ugly." One day, the most handsome young man in the area, Johnny Lingo, came to the island and chose Mohana for his wife. He gave her father eight cows as a gift in exchange for Mohana. No one had ever given more than four cows as a gift for marriage. This was a great demonstration of devotion and love towards Mohana. A year later when Johnny and Mohana returned to the island, Mohana's father came to visit them. He hardly recognized his daughter. She now had long, shining, beautifully combed hair. She had put on some weight, and even her personality had developed some self-assurance and confidence. Johnny Lingo told Mohana's father that he bought her a silver and pearl inlaid mirror and comb set and had told her every day that she was beautiful. He said that Mohana had always had the beauty inside her; he just helped her discover it.
It wasn't until a few years later that I realized the significance of that movie and the lesson that my father was trying to teach me. We lived in a rural town where work was very hard for my dad to find. Consequently, he had to leave home to work. I was just finishing my hardest year in high school, the sophomore year when my dad took a job in Page, Arizona. I turned sixteen that summer. That was also the summer that I received my "eight cow bracelet."
Dad was a man who always had a ready smile on his face. For as long as I have known him, he has had crow's feet at the corner of his eyes from smiling. His hands always seemed big and strong to me, and as he got older, I began to see where I got my physical attributes. He always loved working early in the morning out in our garden when the dew was still on the leaves of the tomatoes and peas. I enjoyed going out there with him. It was a time when we could spend some quality moments together. He would teach me which bugs were not good for the garden as we cleared plump green tomato worms off the tomato plants. He taught me which insects we needed in the garden as we left the spider webs strung between the corn stalks. I learned about rainbows. I learned about life.
One particular August morning, Dad took me to sit down at our woodpile. There were always two or three stumps to sit on, and Dad would sit there and watch the garden as he irrigated. He pulled a small bundle wrapped in one of his red "farmer" handkerchiefs out of his pocket. He simply opened up the cloth to expose a turquoise and silver Indian cuff bracelet. It was slender, no more than a half inch in width. The silver had no engravings on it. It was simple and delicate. Centered across the top of the bracelet were eight round turquoise stones set into the silver. Dad asked me, "Do you know what this is?" I looked at him and smiled, "A bracelet?" His ready smile came back at me. "This is your eight cow bracelet." When I must have given him one of my most confused looks, he explained how the bracelet would remind me of my worth. I was worth more than anyone else was on the "island." I had an inner beauty that was just waiting to come out, and I was important to him. At that time, I couldn't remember ever loving my father more.
A lifetime again later, I still remember that day. I remember the sun beating down on my head, the smell of wet dirt, the sound of our water pump whirring softly as the family inside the house started getting ready for the day. I remember the love in my father's eyes, and I know that I am an "eight cow woman."
Questions on Technique Does the opening paragraph create an interest that makes you want to read the rest of the essay? Why or why not?
What is the thesis of this essay?
Where does the actual narration begin?
Give three examples of description in this essay.
Does the description contribute anything to this essay? If so, what?