Posted by: Staff | 02.11.2010

College Essay XXV: Emma Marshal ’10


That Sunday morning in January, we had not seen snow since before Christmas and were not expecting it for a while.  The cold made my cocoon of a bed even more appealing.  I was enjoying my one day to sleep as late as I wanted, dreams floating by.  A nudge by a cool hand on my shoulder woke me.  I groaned in my sleep, “Five more minutes.”  My mother’s soft voice replied, “We have some very exciting news for you, Emma.” I made a theatrical sigh and rolled back over to face my two moms. “We found your dad,” they said in unison. My face matched theirs in less than a second; every crease and every wrinkle stretched into the biggest smile imaginable. I bolted upright so fast that I hit my head on my bunk bed.  Suddenly a multitude of questions flooded my mind. I was speechless; my father, whom I had longed to find, was no longer a mere thought but a tangible being.

              Five months later, the summer after 8th grade, I stood with my moms in front of the 3rd Street Promenade Mall in Santa Monica, California.  I was about to meet the one person who is present in so many peoples’ lives but not in mine, the person who could make me feel whole. My cell phone rang; the number was restricted, but I knew the minute I saw my phone screen that it had to be my dad: Jeff Jessum. He was somewhere in the crowd across the street looking for me.  He told me to keep an eye out for a man in green cargo pants, a black short sleeve shirt, and black sunglasses.  I scanned eagerly through the crowd looking for any of these characteristics.  All of a sudden, there he was.  My dad.  I waved until I caught his eye. A smile washed across his face, a smile that was mirrored in mine.  We walked towards each other staring. We embraced, our touch reassuring me that this was real. We headed towards the beach, the sun shone down on the water highlighting the reflection of the pier.  We made small talk as we strolled along the sand towards a skate rental shop – perfect weather for a perfect day.  

With this one moment, my family expanded. It now includes my two moms, my biological dad, and, through him, three half-sisters and their moms.  We don’t have titles for all our relationships, but we know we are family.  My family is nowhere near a stereotypical American family with a dad, a mom, son, daughter, dog and a white picket fence.  If someone were to make a family tree of my family, branches would extend wildly in all directions. This family tree gives some people the idea that we are aliens with five heads.  Certain individuals have assumed that I am gay because of the sexual orientation of my parents.  This was all difficult to deal with in eighth grade when the main goal was to be a part of the ‘in crowd.’ However, I was not the average eighth grader when I found my dad; I wanted to explore my differences.

              Although I recognize the uniqueness of my family, I am aware that much of the world is prejudiced against my style of family.  People are afraid of differences.  I have two moms who were finally able to get married in 2004. Some believe that God will punish anyone who is gay because it is sinful.  I can say from personal experience that God has not punished my moms.  People who know my family do not think my moms are sinful, they respect us.  When I tell others about my family, I am able to open their minds to new and different ideas.  Knowing my family and me makes them rethink their prejudices against gay and lesbian people.  By accepting this one difference, they may eventually accept others.



  1. Dear Emma
    Your college essay was beautiful. I know how proud your family is of you, as they should be.

    You are a remarkable young woman, with such poise and grace.

    I wish you every success as you go off the college.

    Best wishes
    PS I loved visiting with you and you Mom in Tallahassee. I hope you will come again.

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