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Essay Contest: My favorite first

An amazing ride on a beautiful creature

1st place $50
By Anna Burilina, University HS (Los Angeles)

My most memorable and best experiences will linger in my mind for many years to come. Every child’s dreams are like goals set out for them, some being accomplished in a way a child will never forget. For most people, horses are just animals, smelly beasts that should only be used for racing, for money. Ever since I was only a few years old, horses have been my passion. Everything I ever owned had to do with horses, including my toys and accessories. My dream was to ride a horse. When that time finally approached my anxious little life, my heart beat a thousand times a minute.

It was a warm summer day in Odessa, Ukraine, and we were at a park. I had a cold, dripping ice cream cone in my hand and nibbled on the lower part, where the waffle was. My mom was buying several things for home while I wandered around to find something that made my eyes twinkle. I spotted a figure from heaven, a four-legged beautiful animal was standing down the block, breathing heavy, probably after a serious workout. I ran up to the horse, not even knowing how to pet it, just excited to see the most beautiful creature. He was glistening white, with a braided mane and well-brushed tail. He was playing with his bit and chewed on the reins. I could tell this horse was bored. Where was the owner?

Right away I assumed that I could ride this horse. I turned the other way and went to search for my mom for some money. I couldn’t find her anywhere and began to look for her at the marketplace. I spotted her buying groceries and dragged her to where the horse was. The owner was back and stated that it was his horse and I couldn’t ride it. A warm stream of tears flooded down my cheeks as my mom tried to convince the man to let me ride the horse. He finally agreed for a costly price. He taught me how to mount the horse and explained to me that it is important to keep your heels down and your arms steady. The gentle beat of the horse’s trot awakened all the senses in me as I bounced up and down on the saddle. I was the happiest little girl in Ukraine, having the time of my life. I began planning how I was going to buy a horse after I became a millionaire. Before I knew it, the ride was over. Surprisingly, I actually learned to control the horse and change the pace.

That day was probably the happiest time of my life. Most children wouldn’t have as much fun as I did. Riding that stallion opened doors for me to get into the sport. Several years later, after coming to America, I began to get involved in show jumping. If it weren’t for that time in Ukraine, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the most amazing sport, one where you and another creature truly have to bond.

Triumph on a bike

2nd place $30
By Sayeda Fazel, Birmingham HS (Van Nuys)

We all have moments in our lives that we will never forget. For me, it was the first time I rode a bike. I was about 8 years old. Being the youngest of the neighborhood kids, I was always treated like an immature baby. I couldn’t do most of the things they could do, and it was easier for them to leave me behind.

One day, after being left out of a game of follow the leader, I was sitting on my porch in tears, feeling sorry for myself. As I sat there thinking, I realized I was a loser. No wonder I was left out all the time. I didn’t know how to do anything and never tried to learn. I stood up with great determination and promised myself that I would learn to ride a bike.

Fortunately, it was summer vacation so I could practice all day long. I started with my sister’s old bike that had training wheels. I mastered that in a matter of days and moved up to a regular bike. For the next few days, I scraped my knees and bruised myself so many times that I looked like a bandaged grape (my mother told me so).

Little by little, however, I started to pick things up. I fell less often and I could go a few paces without my mother holding me. The neighborhood kids were participating in a bike-a-thon the next month, and I decided I wanted to be a part of it too. I started to practice longer and work harder than ever so I could prove my skills to others in the race.

Then, one evening, it suddenly happened. I got on the old, rusty bike. My clammy hands gripped the bars tightly, my sore feet worked the pedals laboriously. I gained balance and speed. The wind blew my hair back. My heart was racing, my stomach churning, my mind overwhelmed with emotions of pride, anxiety and fear. It felt like riding a roller coaster for the first time. I exhaled deeply, pressed the brakes and slowed down. Words cannot express the joy I felt at that moment. That was my first big accomplishment.

The kids were dumfounded when I showed up at the race. Their jaws literally dropped and their eyes popped out when they saw me striding along on my bike. Let’s just say that after that, I never got left out again.

My first slow dance

3rd place $20
By Hugo Hernandez, Birmingham HS

Throughout my life there have been many first experiences, such as my first bike, my experience when I learned how to swim, even my first kiss. But none of them will ever measure up to my first slow dance.

It was the second Friday of July 2002. I was 14 years old. It all started with this crush that I had on a girl. My friends knew I liked her and tried to make me ask her to dance with me. I, because of embarrassment, refused. So as the night progressed I just stood on the side talking with some of my friends, while the others were planning for a surprise.

So I sat down speaking to my friends when all of a sudden, SHE came up to me, kicks me in my shin, and asks me to dance with her. Why she kicked me I don’t know, maybe just to get my attention. Anyway, at first I refused but she wouldn’t give up. She asked and tugged at my hand, while my friends were pushing me towards her. So I finally gave in.

As I got up to dance, my heart started to beat faster and faster. I put my hands on her waist and she put her hands around my neck and we slowly moved to the music. For the moment I didn’t hear or see anyone, just her, hoping it would never end.

When the music ended, I finally brought myself back to my senses. We gave each other a hug and returned to our own friends. I was then surrounded by friends asking questions, like "How was it?" and "Did you like it?" None of which I answered. I just sat there, with a smile on my face.

As the night progressed we got to know each other better, but we could be nothing more than friends (due to the fact that she lives in Northern California and I live in Los Angeles). Then the time to head home finally came and I was very devastated. So we said our good-byes and I left, heading here to L.A., where I still keep in touch to this very day.

Connecting with my dad

Honorable Mention
Brian Gutierrez, Birmingham HS

My most memorable or favorite experience was when my father and I got lost in a forest. We were camping in Sequoia National Park for a long weekend, just a little something to get out of the house. As soon as we got there, my family and I set up our tents and equipment at our campsite and by then it was starting to get dark.

My dad started up a small fire and realized that there would not be enough wood for the night, so he decided to go for a little walk. I wouldn’t let my father go off on his own, so I followed in his direction. I caught up to him and we went off into the forest looking for some firewood.

I figured that since I don’t really talk to my dad that much that I could catch up on things while we took our little walk. We started talking to each other about experiences in school and things we do with our friends. For the first time I was relating to him.

We got off track and we realized we were a little lost. With nothing but a flashlight and a bundle of firewood, we started walking. We felt like foreigners, not familiar at all with the environment. By then I was just a little tired of walking and holding my bundle of wood. My dad stopped to figure out what exactly we could do, so I just sat down on a fallen tree. After a couple of minutes of rest, I thought it would be OK just to sleep.

All of a sudden I felt my dad’s arms pick me up and he placed my head on his shoulders. I felt as safe as a bear, protective over its child. My dad walked and walked until he found a trail, and one way or another he found our campsite. My mother was worried, almost crying about where we were. But I think that it was a good thing to be lost for a little while because I got to spend good quality time with my dad.