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The speeches that didn’t make it, Class of 2016: Part 1- Esmé Ablaza

The Paly Voice acquired the following speeches from their authors, with their authors’ consent to publish. The authors wrote the speeches with the intention of delivering them at graduation, but were not selected by a panel of staff members. The views stated in these speeches do not necessarily reflect the views of The Paly Voice, nor those of its staff.

Reyna and The Lucinda River: Esmé Ablaza

It was on a Friday night last year at the beginning of May that I met a 26-year-old woman named Reyna. A Verde story had taken a couple of other staffers and me to a coin wash on El Camino at 11 p.m. Two things struck me about my conversation with Reyna: the mistakes she had made in her life and the obvious love she had for her daughter, Eileen.

Reyna told me that in high school, she had gotten herself kicked out for fighting and was sent to Juvenile Hall. She was then incarcerated for a different offense as an adult several years later.

As she was telling me her story, I couldn’t help but dwell on how much she had messed up. Her mistakes seemed unforgivable, a deal-breaker when it came to her character. But something changed when Reyna started talking about her daughter.

She described her 6-year-old daughter, Eileen, as “pure, pure pink.” According to Reyna, Eileen prefers spending her time watching “Austin and Ally” on the Disney Channel instead of listening to rap music.

“She wants the other life, the life we see on TV, you know?” Reyna said.

And, as it turns out, Reyna is trying to give Eileen that life. She told me she’s getting her GED. She’s in the process of turning her life around because she knows she needs to get it together for her daughter.

Reyna owned up to making some irreversible mistakes. But despite the chaos of her past life, she was trying to do what was best for her daughter. She’s doing everything she can to help her daughter get what she wants. She may not be perfect, but she has Eileen’s best interests at heart.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finishing high school and, for some of us, moving away from home. But in these final weeks and months, as we transition to a different stage in our lives, I think it’s important for us to reflect on who our Reynas are. Think about that person who has always been there for you and who always wants what’s best for you. Maybe that person is just as flawed as, or even more flawed than Reyna. But what’s really important, in the end, is recognizing and thanking that person for helping you get to where you are today.

Earlier this year in Ms. Bartlett’s English class, we read a short story by John Cheever called “The Swimmer.” In the story, a man decides to swim across all of the pools in the county, which he collectively names The Lucinda River. The problem is that he is self-centered and he believes his swim to be one of great historical importance. He spurns the hospitality of many friends and neighbors during his journey. He eventually swims home, only to discover that his house is abandoned and his garden is overgrown. His family is nowhere to be found. He can’t remember where they are. He becomes disillusioned with his great conquest of The Lucinda River and is full of regret and loneliness.

Sometimes, I worry about becoming the swimmer in the story. He spends so much time underwater, engrossed in his all-consuming illusions, that he forgets about what really matters: his family and the place he calls home. I worry about failing to swim with my head above water. I worry that, when I’m away from them, I will be too wrapped up in my own Lucinda River to pay my family and friends from home the attention and love they so greatly deserve.

To me, my conversation with Reyna and reading of “The Swimmer” serve as important reminders. A reminder that sometimes, the people who have always been there for you aren’t perfect, and that that’s okay. A reminder that, when things are busy and exciting and it seems like you could be headed somewhere, you should take the time to acknowledge and love the people who helped get you there in the first place. Thank you. — Esmé Ablaza

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