The below is my personal narrative A Cracked Egg, detailing an unfortunate event (involving, surprisingly, a cracked egg) and its aftermath. *For non-mandarin speakers, please scroll to the bottom of the text before reading the narrative.
The narrative above details a progression of events from the breaking of my ostrich egg by an acquaintance to my grandma’s attempt at fixing the egg as well as my subsequent internal turmoil and finally to my gradual acceptance of the new egg’s unique beauty. The central conflict of my personal narrative is the internal struggle between the harsh reality of life and my need to preserve innocence and purity, as evinced in my inability to accept the truth of the broken egg. It is through the development of conflict that I characterized both my character and narrating self as being short-tempered and naive as well as snarky and sometimes thoughtful, respectively.
In order to most effectively communicate a theme and internal conflict (as well as the subsequent elements), I used specific literary techniques to emphasize certain points that would have been lost otherwise. As a means to develop characterization and theme, I frequently used specific semantic fields when describing the actions of certain characters. For example, when describing Tiger, I used a predatory and violent semantic field (“claws”, “tear”, “rampage”, “corpse”) in order to characterize his destructive nature and bring out the theme of external trauma as a means to set off personal growth. In order to characterize my grandma and me, though, I used literary techniques such as similes in order to relate the two of us to avian imagery. While I characterize my grandma as a maternal figure (…so much like a mother hen picking deftly at scattered corn.), I am characterized as more of an egg (….he understood my rage in every terse line of my short, round body). It is through this characterization that I attempt to bring out the theme of youth and innocence by associating myself with the ostrich egg (prior to its breaking).
Finally, I reflect back on the event from the present time in order to further underline the theme of growth and self-acceptance. Readers will also find a shift in tone from solemn back to upbeat and snarky so as to further push the theme of maturation, though with an added dynamic of the preservation of youthful, optimistic attitude (On days when I’m feeling particularly generous, maybe I’ll even tell them the story of a cruel little Tiger, a determined NaiNai with clever hands, and an ostrich egg that turned out to look like one of those cracked Japanese teapots).
A Cracked Egg
The king’s men in Humpty Dumpty are quite possibly the most useless people to have ever graced this planet. It takes at most one whining eight year old girl, a half-empty tube of superglue, and a very patient grandma to restore an egg back to it’s pure, white beauty. Well, not really. Not even a whole tube of “Ultra! Fast! SUPER GLUE!” can save you from the doomed cracks and fissures. But, I guess, that’s the beauty of the process— I’ve come to learn that for a fact.
The white ostrich egg lay on the black table top, irretrievably, undeniably, shattered. The morning sunlight glared from my window. I stood there, dumbstruck, hot tears threatening to spill out of my eyes. Novels always talk about “blinking the tears out of their eyes”, but I’m plenty sure that never works.
“Sorry” Tiger muttered, his voice small. Weak. I turned around slowly, taking my time to make sure he understood my rage in every terse line of my short, round body. “I just wanted to see if it was strong enough so I…”
I wanted to laugh, then. If I had the humor for it. Tiger was always like that, wanting to tear and hurt with his chubby claws “just to see if they were strong enough”, he’d say. My brother’s desk would often be littered with Lego Star Wars corpses: Han Solo’s head has never been able to fit onto his neck correctly after Tiger’s rampage. And now, the next victim, my ostrich egg. Smashed. Doomed.
Happy swallows chirped from out the open window.
I scrambled to my room without another word.
Throwing myself onto my nest of a bed, I let out an ugly wail. I thought of that broken ostrich egg and Tiger’s dumb, dumb face. What good would his guilt do! I wanted to screech at him. He could’ve lived the same evil, ignorant day without breaking my ostrich shell. I imagined him staring dumbly at the pieces before turning back to dismembering poor Darth Vader with my brother standing helplessly at the side. But, I guess, so long as there are smooth ostrich eggs and pristine Death Stars in the world, a Tiger would always come along to smash it. I’d never remembered him as anything other than his angry eyes and his cruel curled hands. What angered me more, though, was that I couldn’t storm back to the room to tell him just how much the egg had meant to me.
The ostrich egg had been the closest thing I had to a memory of LaoYe. Where my brother could casually recall days spent playing hide and seek with him, I had only the egg. My LaoLao told me the two had been gifted the egg while on a visit in Australia. I’d only ever seen hard-boiled chicken eggs dipped with soy sauce. The surreal, shiny smoothness of the ostrich egg was difficult to miss even for a bird-brained girl. Just as the other kids said they could hear the lapping of waves when they put their ears next to sea shells, I’d imagined I could hear the whooshes of blowing sand in my ostrich egg. And, if I tried hard enough, maybe even make out the sound of kangaroo feet pounding against the desert ground. Though I’d never been to Australia, I’d imagined a young LaoYe* and LaoLao** decked out in safari gear, riding on the backs of ostriches. But, that was a past I could no longer be part of— that probably never happened, to be fair.
The ostrich egg had lived undisturbed on top of my bookshelf until it did not— until today. I eyed the pathetic fragments of egg shell on my desk. Guilt and horror gnawed away at the dams of my eyes as I thought of the daydreams I had had of LaoLao and LaoYe in the Australian desert. Deep down, I think I sort of knew they weren’t real, but it still hurt a great lot knowing that they were now all broken.
My NaiNai*** would find me then— in my puffy-eyed and wet-faced glory.
“What happened?” her voice was even and measured. Her flat, brown eyes reminded me of those of a hawk as she took in my miserable state.
“Tiger broke my ostrich egg,” I whined. I jutted my lip out as far as was humanly possible. NaiNai softened at that. I knew she would. She raised her arms in invitation of a hug, her white cardigan draped across her arms like a hen’s wings. Wailing, I threw myself into her. Though I was already short for an 8-year-old, I came up to the height of her shoulder. I buried myself into the softness of her form. I wanted to tell her she smelled of soap and flour.
She patted my head slowly, in no rush to push her snot-and-tear stained granddaughter away. We stood there for a while. The only sounds in the room were of my quiet sniffling and NaiNai’s reassuring coos. When I finally began to quiet down, she pushed me away slightly to look me in the eye.
“Hey” she whispered. I looked up, still pouting. “Howsabout we fix your egg?” I frowned slightly, dubious about her proposition. Sensing my confusion, she continued: “your LaoLao has superglue right?” I nodded, slowly catching on.
After snatching the small tube of superglue from LaoLao’s drawer, I hurried back to my room to find my table already cleared off. NaiNai scrutinized the pieces of egg shell in my hands. The cogs of the clock behind her went tick-tick-tick. She let out a curt breath and picked up the largest egg piece— immediately setting herself to work. I watched in awe as her small hands fluttered about the discordant shards— so much like a mother hen picking deftly at scattered corn. A glimmer of hope sparked then. But as I watched on, my smile quickly faded.
Though the egg was clearly forming its curved base, jagged lines cut through the steady smoothness of the shell— stark even from afar.
“NaiNai! The egg’s got cracks all over it!” I whined. NaiNai frowned slightly, prodding at the jagged edges between the pieces. I thought about ayi’s horror stories about superglue getting stuck on your finger and never peeling off.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to deal with it,” she said simply. “Well,” she looked at me, “at least it’s much better than broken egg pieces.” She returned to her work, not sparing a glance at my look of dismay.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not help but feel my heart plummet as I watched NaiNai painstakingly line each edge of egg shell with super glue and carefully slide the piece back into the whole. Perhaps I was being too naive, but when she had first told me she would be able to fix it, I had imagined me returning the same, pristinely smooth bulb back to its nest on my bookshelf. Instead, I would be putting back an entirely different egg. I thought about returning to my room each day and glancing at that abomination, constantly reminded of the imperfections that lay on that once-perfect surface— constantly reminded of what could’ve been. Even as she finished, pushing away from my table and cracking out a light-hearted “It’s done!”, I could barely hide the disappointment in my voice as I choked out a “Thank you.”
In the days afterward, I could hardly bear to look at the ruined ostrich egg. Each jagged line down its white form reminded me of Tiger’s twitching hands and the helplessly broken pieces so of egg shell. After the glue had dried, and the reality of the scars set in, I returned the ostrich egg to its old home on my bookshelf. Only, by then it just looked sort of sad, sitting alone so high up there.
As the years went by, though, the pain and guilt began to fade away. In fact, now just passed my 15th birthday, the whole ordeal just seems downright silly. Sure, the egg was pretty and all when I first got it. Sure, Tiger smashing it into pieces was completely uncalled for and undoubtedly uncool. But, seriously, were a few cracks really that bad? Does a fledgling hold a grudge against her mom for being kicked out the nest to begin her first flight?
Though it had surely been beautiful, there was really nothing of substance to be found in that smooth, white expanse the egg had once been— earning nothing more notable than a “Pretty!” from a doting aunt. Now, though, I’d often catch relatives casting curious glances towards that lined egg nestled on the top of my bookshelf. On days when I’m feeling particularly generous, maybe I’ll even tell them the story of a cruel little Tiger, a determined NaiNai with clever hands, and an ostrich egg that turned out to look like one of those cracked Japanese teapots. And who could ever say no to that?
*LaoYe: the PinYin form of 姥爷, meaning maternal grandfather
**LaoLao: the PinYin form of 姥姥, meaning maternal grandmother
***NaiNai: the PinYin form of 奶奶, meaning paternal grandmother