Tag Archives: childhood

Nest

“If I could reach for something brilliant, that would be the home which been denied to me and the presence of the peace I’ve never known.”

I put this phrase on the right sidebar of my homepage. I yada-yada-ya countless times about my roots being pulled out before they can even have a chance to settle and get hold and never having a contingency to grow and flourish in a familiar soil. I teared up when I heard someone on TV said: “A tree without roots is just a piece of wood.” Why? Because the subject of home and family are two major sensitive issues for me. Always been always will be.

I have experienced countless betrayal by blood and like I already said before, that is the most painful deception somebody could experience in a lifetime. The wounds never heal and continue bleeding. It is not easy to get over it. It hurts.

As you probably have already guessed by now, I am living on a foreign soil. I arrived here 30 years ago and I’m still here. Let’s face it, skin colour matters no matter what others say and want to believe. I can never be white and that brings circumstances. I will not bore you with the details. Besides, this post is not about that topic. It’s about hanging in a limbo, not here nor there. I don’t feel at home in my own country, I live here for too long I don’t belong there anymore. I don’t understand a lot of things and at times I find that their views in life are narrow and limited and like here people are prejudiced and judgmental. They can’t look beyond their beliefs and fixed ideas. I feel like a stranger in my own country. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I expect too much. Forgetting that cultures will always clash. But then again, what happened to open minds? I told you, I expect too much.

When I was still living with my ex-husband I had a constant feeling of being in a transit. I knew I had a final destination but where? Other times I felt that I was having a nightmare (and really it was) and going to wake up eventually but when? I did manage to escape but it doesn’t  mean I found a home. I’m still searching for it. In the process, I lost my children. They become estranged from me. The last time I have spoken to my daughter was almost two years ago. Again, it hurts. I am still trying to reconcile with the fact.

I often wonder if I will ever find a place I truly belong. A home which I can call my own and feel secure. Maybe what they say is true. That home is not a place but like hell is a state of mind. I don’t know.

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Merry Christmas

When I was young, despite of circumstances, I always find Christmas the most exciting time of the year; better than New Year which is always dominated with extreme noises and possible fire works casualties. I remember going from houses to houses all over town wishing the occupants merry Christmas and in return you will get small change or sometimes a meal. A privilege reserved only for children. As an adult, it is seen as morally wrong doing the same thing.

I had a small pink plastic piggy bank for my holiday coins. All the cents I gathered on my tour, I put in there. It helped for the rest of the year when I needed money for school projects or to buy snacks during recess so, I will not feel left out and different from other kids. When my coins were finished, I put white wild flowers in the slot of my piggy bank; it looked good in my play house, just like a flower vase.

But the Christmas I will never forget was when I was a freshman. After 11 years of managing the fishpond, my father found himself in dispute with the owner. Proud as my father was, he rather dragged us down the drain than give into something which was against his principles; we found ourselves homeless overnight.

Out of desperation, lacked of other immediate resources and nowhere else to go, my father built a one room shack just outside the perimeter of the fishpond (how stupid and embarrassing that was, but I believe if he didn’t  think about us, I have a very strong notion that he rather pack his bags and move to another town very far away from our then current location – he done this before – and never come back. But as it were, he swallowed his high pride and settled us in temporarily) you can read the rest of the story in details here.

That particular Christmas eve we locked our door early and tried not to hear the merriment outside, pretending we were asleep; in the dark I can hear my stomach growling, we didn’t eat supper that night but no one complained. We all suffered in silence.

Out of a sudden I heard someone calling my name outside, my father put his finger on his lips and gestured for me not to open the door; I went back to my place.

But the person outside the door kept knocking and calling wishing us the usual holiday greeting and begging me to please open the door.

After a while my father gave in and allowed me to see our visitor.

When I opened the door, I was surprise to see Macedonio; he was one of the seven brothers who just moved to our village couple of years ago.

I remember when we were still living in the fish pond; he initiated an introduction between his brothers, me and my siblings by purposely landing a big kite in the middle of our place, which was separated from the rest of the neighbourhood by an electric fence. He managed to convinced my father to let them in to retrieve their kite, the rest is history.

Macedonio courted me briefly till my father (as always) pointed him to the fact that I was still underage and will not be available for such things until I’m 100 years old or so. He remained a trusted friend of the family as well as his other brothers who for some reasons don’t look like each other. Not a single resemblance. As if they are handpicked from different places and by some chance ended up together as one family. I have never seen more good looking young boys in my time than Macedonio and his siblings.

Where was I? ah, yes opening the door finding him standing there smiling at me. His usual off hand smile that if I was more experienced that time, I will recognize it as designed to melt every girl’s heart.  But I wasn’t. What caught my attention was the enormous plate he was holding full of Christmas delights. There was mountain of pancit, a loaf of bread, suman, kalamay, sinukmani, half of a fried chicken and rice cakes! I looked at him full of disbelief! He smiled,  eyes  twinkling, poked his head inside and when he saw that my father wasn’t looking; he gave me a peck on the cheek and say: “Merry Christmas you gorgeous.” And he disappeared into the night.

He must have been aware of our situation (not much one can hide in small village like ours) and how kindhearted of him to think about us in that time of the year and provide us a holiday meal without hurting the sensitive pride of my father. Bless the people like him. Not only for making our Christmas unforgettable, but restoring my fate in humanity…

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Memories Of Childhood

Since I I left my home country along, long time ago,
I miss a lot of things, the food, the sounds, the ambiance and the weather…
The way the rain feels on my skin when I run around the beach,
My hair flapping in the wind or drying in a gentle breeze.

My father with his fishing net, my mother cooking our favorite food,
My siblings playing with each other while I was pretending to be a pirate…
Chickens running everywhere, we had a dozen of loyal dogs,
They were guarding the property, day and night, hail and storm.

Up until now till forever my favorite food is seafood,
I grew up surrounded with crabs, shrimps, lobsters, fish and scallops…
Meat was then foreign to us we had it only on Sundays,
If we’re lucky we feast on it, on New Year’s eve or Christmas dinner.

Life was hard, we didn’t have too much of material things,
we had couple of blankets, selfmade pillows, plastic cups, plates and saucers…
Table and chairs we never had, no TV, phone or computer,
But we owned a transistor radio, my father’s most prized possession.

Now I have a lot of things, I owned a couple of houses,
A manor in the country side and a modern cottage in the suburb…
We ride the latest model of Gran Turismo 3 BMW
And on the side we also have a jeep GLC Mercedes (I have pictures, it’s not exaggerated)

But I will exchange my life now  if I can go back then,
I will gladly switch existence with my former self without a second thought…
Only it is impossible I now long established here,
I get used to the luxurious life I bet I cannot survive there.

But the most important is my children are here with me,
The only positive outcome of my disastrous previous marriage…
I cannot leave them no matter what, they are my joy and my pride,
I want to see them get married, have children, be successful and fall in -love.

So, in my head I will go back to that place in my memory,
When everything was so simple and life was happy and carefree…
I will hold onto the feelings, the sensation and the flavor,
Of long forgotten years when I was young, innocent, sweet and healthy…

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Neverland

What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.

From bits and pieces of woods, bamboo and nipa palm leaves, my father had built our small shack on his own.  I can never understand why he had chosen to erect the construction just outside the perimeter of the fishpond. In my eyes it made our situation worse and pitiful. Overnight his status changed from caretaker to exile. Though I have my own theory as to why the owner of the fish pond where we lived for more than seven years had thrown us out, the real reasons I will never find out. They are both dead now, and even then I will not dare to ask. My father will tan my hide and my mother would just lie, like always.

I can still remember clearly how it had happened. They came one afternoon when my parents were not at home and told us to pack our belongings and leave the property. We didn’t own much. Few plastic plates and cups, two pots and one pan, homemade pillows and a couple of blankets; enough to fit in one empty sack of rice.

I was there together with my younger sister trying to cramp our meager belongings in that old gunny while the aristocratic wife of the owner was standing close looking at us contemptuously as if we were nothing but dirt twirling her big white umbrella urging us to make haste because she had something better to do she said.

Shaking under her scrutinizing gaze, trying to grasp what was happening and at the same time feeling ashamed, helpless and angry at myself for not being able to find a way to depend ourselves somehow. I wanted to lash out at her, say something back, anything! but I was powerless. Poverty is a fatal disease. It murders the spirit and the body. Then and there I made a promise to myself never to be poor again.

The house (if one can call it like that) had bare beaten earth as flooring. A big bamboo bed served as the only sleeping area. There was an overhead makeshift compartment for holding boxes of clothes and sleeping gear, there I slept together with two of my younger sisters. On the dirt floor directly opposite the bed, my father fashioned a stationary table from pieces of cast away boards and rough dried saplings; we used that piece for almost everything; from eating to preparing meals, folding or ironing the wash and doing some home works. Next to it was an elevated construction of wood on four legs. It served as the kitchen area.That  end of the shanty had no walls and was open to marshy part of the bog land which my father painstakingly tried to turn into a vegetables patch and surprisingly with success. So, from our little habitat, either sleeping eating or cooking, we had the uninterrupted view of our “garden.”

The toilet was totally other matter, it was a hole in the ground few meters away from our house and made private by adding four walls made of braided coconut leaves, we had warnings from census people every time they came to visit. Life was grand.

I tried to liven up the place by planting assorted species of flowering plants using empty milk cans as containers. I put them on rows next to the front street side of the house using two bamboo poles as bench to elevate them from the ground therefore more pleasing to the eye. I was already obsessed with design even then.

I even planted two sorts of ground covers with complementary colours, one in purple shade, the other green. I placed them just under the roof ends where the rain pours the most so I don’t need to water them for water was scarce. My parents taught us to cope whatever the situations are. Lessons I learned the hard way and sworn to live by.

I will never forget the time I came back from studying in the big city, the bus stopped where I asked the driver to pulled off, next to the place where I remember our little shack stood; and cannot believe my eyes when I saw a pitiful, dilapidated rambling shack with roof so thin it was gray and almost non-existent. I thought I was in the wrong place! Only when my sister came out and shrieked with glee upon seeing me that I realized: this was really my house where I belong…

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Untitled

I was eating hot porridge at four o’clock in the morning taking a break from one of my night-time marathon when I realized that the goo tasted like soap.

Reminded me instantly of my youth, when a not properly rinse kitchen utensil would evoked a rage from my father and will result to an immediate incomprehensible reaction like forbidding all of us to go to school (which in our family was the cruellest form of punishment) unless you are second child named Maricor and your parents thought you were their passport out of poverty which by the way a puzzle to everyone including yourself since you spent four years being a freshman in high school and the chance that you will stay there is 99 to 1 for so many obvious reasons like: spending your tuition money betting on a basketball game, stealing bikes (or carabao) drinking and smoking, experimenting with soft drugs (which btw a revolutionary for a girl like you in that place in that time but who cares certainly not you) but probably the best possible reason was it was because you failed to attend classes and instead roaming around preferably in the rain knowing your white uniform will be see-through and guaranteed for attracting boys attention by large. The rest will stay at home and clean the whole house crying, but not you; life was more exciting for you than everyone else. You had your own set of rules and those were the ones you follow.

There were neighbour’s kids to fight, trees to climb, and boys to seduce; so staying at home was no option even it will result to few broken ribs and couple of bruises when your own ever-believing father thrown you from the stairs because he caught you making out with one of so many boy-next-door while you said you were just going to the small shop to rent some comic books and that means not exchanging candy with whoever mouth-to-mouth. There is always tomorrow. And tomorrow is another day.

It was quite clear to everyone (except your blind parents) that you will end up to no good, and indeed you did. Before the end of another year being a freshman, you put your new clothes which was supposed to be for school’s Christmas party (your mother always bought them earlier during fiesta market because it’s cheaper and kept them hidden in an old fashioned wooden chest full of moth balls and in the night when she thought everyone was sleeping, she will secretly take it out and hand-sewn the existing stitches to re-enforce them for hard-wearing) and disappeared humming in the night.

You didn’t came back till after three weeks and you showed up with a boy whom you gladly demonstrated with the art of French kissing to your wide-eyed-open-mouthed- siblings.

You married him shortly after because your father insisted on it when he found out that you were in the family way and not getting hitch before it becomes obvious will damage not only his self-conjured up “good” reputation but will shatter his oh so precious fragile gypsy pride. So, there you were, not even 18 and married to someone you never expected would beat you up to death while you were carrying his baby not knowing maybe it takes two to tango and your own attitude and ways didn’t really suited up for a married woman eighteen or no eighteen.

So when the baby born dead, you stayed just after the funeral and said to your mother you were going away and will never come back again. True to your promise, you never really did, even when they looked for you and found you in (un)likely place, looking more beautiful than ever with your fashionable cheap clothes and scars and needle marks on your arms.

Years after, your baby brother saw you at stop light in a limousine populated by personal bodyguards, you looked through him, no expression no nothing. You live now in a mansion with an old Chinese guy who gives you everything but keeps you prisoner. I wonder if that’s what you are looking for, I would not even ask myself if you’re happy or when we will see you again if ever. It’s been more than 30 years. Too long to know somebody or even remember. Even that someone is your own sister…

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Phase Out

Of all the technologies that have gone extinct in your lifetime, which one do you miss the most?

Jukebox! And vinyl of course, it goes without saying. I remember spending all of my lunch money on playing all my favorite songs. That was way back in the ’80s. Those were the days. When all the good music died. 

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Toy Story

What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

We didn’t have enough money when I was growing up. Whatever we had was barely enough for food and other necessities like clothes and school. I remember decorating my play house with things that I found washed ashore like bottles of shampoos and powder, plastic flowers and broken combs. I even collected mismatched slippers to wear around the house. I saved good ones for going to school. 

But the thing I loved the most was gathering wild flowers, especially from this giant tree which I can’t remember the name anymore. The blooms resembled orchids. They were orange (sometimes yellow) in color and had a darker hue in the middle. They looked gorgeous floating in the river. I used to fill huge shells with water and placed the flowers on the surface to brighten my play house. I was already obsessed with interior design even then.

I will never forget the time I found a broken truck’s headlight; I upended the thing and turned it into an aquarium  complete with catfish and water ivy. My father scolded me for it. He said the proper place for a fish is in the pan not in such far-fetched crazy ideas of mine.

 Looking back, I had a fairly adventurous childhood full of unforgettable memories and freedom only poverty could bring.

How many people can say they sleep with the song of crickets and cicadas in the background while looking outside their windows at trees full of fireflies it looked like something straight from fairy tales movies. Or swimming in the sea surrounded with a bunch of Nemos. Do other kids know that shrimps eyes light up in the dark? They look like miniature torches floating on the surface. That their babies are housed in stretchable transparent balloons you can play with them without damaging.  That mangrove fruits are eatable and sand is the best for cleaning dirty pots they look new after you scrub them with it. Simple things like that…     

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Childhood Revisited

“Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled.” (How unfortunate is that)

~ Ally Condie

Sure, you turned out pretty good, but is there anything you wish had been different about your childhood? If you have kids, is there anything you wish were different for them?

I wish I was born into a different family. I wish for my children the same.

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The Shire

The girl/woman came to our village out of nowhere. “Just passing by.” She said. “Very beautiful place.” She added. Then she forgot to go away and stayed.

I cannot understand. First of all, there was nothing beautiful about our place, all mountains, there was no proper roads, no electric and there were not so many houses, only fifty-seven. All of the inhabitants were closely related to each other, either by blood or by marriage. That’s why young men like my brother Carlos and my cousin Arnold (he’s not really a cousin-cousin but related by marriage. His uncle married my aunt) if they want to court girls, they had to walk few kilometers to the nearest village to find suitable candidates.

Second: you cannot “just pass by” our place, you have to travel at least eighteen hours to reach the nearest town, then another hour to get to the bus stop plus an hour of walking to ended up here. Walking is a must for no vehicle dared to negotiate the bumpy, often muddy undulating series of paths that leads to our doors. A waste of time I heard them said. Only the cranky old jeep of our neighbor’s Ben had the courage to travel back and forth. But it was mainly for delivering necessities to the people; mostly heavy things like sacks of rice, a new tv or building materials. But even Ben refused to come when it’s raining, and in our place it was always raining. That’s why I didn’t believe when she said she ended up in our village by accident, but everyone did.

She just arrived one day alone, dragging a funny suitcase with wheels asking where she can pass the night. All the people came out to see. Visitors were rare if not unseen in our neighbourhood. Only during fiesta, New Year or Christmas time we suffered guests. Those who came to visit were mostly the ones that used to live in our village and only there to celebrate the season with their families. Sometimes, they brought friends with them but they never stayed for so long; they get bored, my mother said. I had no idea what getting bored was, I guess I never get bored because I didn’t want to go away.

We were playing ball when she turned up. Me, my brothers and my cousins, we all stopped what we were doing to gape at her. To me, she looked okay. She wore some sort of pants that looked weird to me in every angle, kind of small around her thighs and behind but wide around the legs. The colour was not right either. Seemed to me she had it for ages because it was old and there were some holes in it. She had light blue spaghetti top on which showed her belly button and some funny sneakers they’re not like mine; hers had Himalaya heels. She had a jacket with her but she’s not wearing it. It was tied around her middle instead.

Long, very straight hair, not so tall, I can see she’s not fat but there was nothing special about her, just a person. But why my brothers and my cousins mouths were hanging open, and they didn’t hear me talking to them. They just kept looking at the girl.

My mother invited her in. When she passed by, a whipped of pleasing smell enveloped us and it stayed after she’s long gone. I think she took a bath quite often.

My parents decided to rent her my Cousin Nick’s cottage. It was the only available place that time along with my brother’s house. He and his wife who has just given birth to their first child were temporarily living with us, but Papa said they will be going soon any day now. My mother didn’t get along so well with my sister-in-law. Papa said who can get along with my mother anyway?

Cousin Nick was about to get married soon. His wife-to-be Mary Rose was three months pregnant already but the exact date of their wedding was not yet clear. Their respective parents cannot decide what kind of wedding the two was going to have. The family of Mary Rose wanted a wedding fit for a queen but Nick’s parents were not agreed (since by tradition they have to shoulder the cost of everything) they said that her side had no right to demand whatever since their daughter was already sealed and sold and a wedding was only a formality so, they have to be grateful for the offer instead. In the meantime, the belly of Mary Rose was getting bigger and bigger each day sometimes I believed it was going to burst open.

Why they cannot just marry themselves, Mary Rose and Cousin Nick? Why they had to wait for other people to decide? It’s their life anyway. If I were them, I will do exactly what I want; only I was not planning to get married when I grow up. I didn’t like the idea of living with someone who is not even a family day and day out. And I have to feed her too! No, I like being alone. I can do what I want, when I want and how I want it. Keeping cows was better than having a wife. Cows you can leave them grazing outside when they hungry and forget all about them. You can even exchange them for a lot of money. You cannot do that to a wife. That’s why I will not marry when I’m big. Not even if the girl looks like the one who just arrived.

To be continued…

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Reply To Writing 101: Hone Your Point Of View

Shadows

“I wear my shadows where they’re harder to see, but they follow me everywhere. I guess that should tell me, I’m travelling toward light.”

(Bruce Cockburn)

I didn’t know why I came home early that day. It could have been the rain that was pouring steadily since early that morning; I didn’t want to be caught in the dark with that kind of weather. It was bad enough I could not afford a bus fare and had to walk the five kilometers from school to where I live, but doing it in the downpour would be the icing on the cake. It was my luck our adviser didn’t put a fight when I asked to be excused. I finished the exam earlier than the rest of the class, and since it was the last subject for the day, she allowed me to head home.

Approaching the house, I heard a muffled conversation between my parents. It stopped me right on my track. I hesitated if I had to announce my presence by means of coughing or whistling to give them time to stop whatever they were discussing about or just simply walk in. Others might find it exciting to eavesdrop on people. I knew some of my classmates love to spy on teachers during lunch break, but I would never understand their fascination. I respect people’s privacy too much.

I was about to sing a tune to let them know I was home when I heard my name being mentioned.

“She’s doing well in school. It would be a pity to let her drop out this year.” My mother said.

“That’s all she is good for. I tell you, that girl ought to marry a millionaire. The notions she has in her muddled head! Fine arts? Journalism? Mass communication? Do you understand all that? Why she cannot pick a course that will guarantee her a secure job and better salary? I don’t know any more what to do with that girl! She has her head in the clouds!”

“Don’t be too hasty. She’s different, that’s all. Perhaps she’s going to turn around and become more practical, more of this world instead of wandering around and scribbling about. I’ll talk to her.”

“Talk to her? You ought to slap her you mean? Maybe a good shuffle will bring sense to her crazy ideas. Why she cannot be like her sister Maricor? That one has guts! You saw how she fought yesterday? The poor boy didn’t have a chance. She has nasty left hooks! I have to train her more.”

“Yeah, She’s all that and more but I’m worried about her though. Why she had to steal that bike? I can just sink in the ground when that kind police officer brought her home. Her teachers said she’s not attending some of her classes, and I caught her the other day with one of your cigarettes. That girl is becoming a handful, our Maricor.”

“She didn’t steal the bike! She borrowed it from one of her classmates. She just lost track of time and forget to return the damn thing. It’s not a big deal. As for the cigarettes… I guess it’s just one of those things that kids get curious about. Don’t sweat it. Maricor knows her way around. She can take care of herself. She is our best bet to get us out of poverty. That girl has a sensible head on her shoulders, and damn daring as well. I almost wish she is a boy.”

I was shocked! How can they say that? My sister Maricor? Didn’t my father just throw her down the stairs the other day? She had broken ribs to prove it. He caught her smooching with the neighbours boy when she supposed to be sleeping! She systematically was emptying my mother’s piggy bank to bet on basketball matches instead of attending her classes for heaven’s sake!  Her school notes were full of songs written backwards. She scared me sometimes.

I remember the evening I found a miniature prayer book under her pillow. I was so excited to read the contents I was half way the first paragraph when I realized that I was not reading prayers but explicit details about sex. I was shaking violently afterwards I ended up with fever and was not able to attend school the next day. And now my parents honestly think that she is their sure ticket out of poverty? I don’t understand!

My mother came down after a while, found me dilly-dallying (her words) and scolded me for it. The week after that incident, my sister had run off with a boy we had never seen before. She came back after three weeks, pregnant. The baby was still-born. After the funeral, my sister headed off for the big city, alone. We never see her again…

I wonder sometimes if I have spoken that time about everything I knew regarding my elder sister, could my parents have prevented her from running away?

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memories

I was born and bred in a fish pond. My father had always been a caretaker of such property across the country, which by far the only decent job he was able to hold being unschooled wandering gypsy.

Living in such place(s) had advantages and disadvantages (like living anywhere else I guess. Just don’t ask me because I can’t compare) but we made do. What choice did we have?

Battling typhoon after typhoon when you live in an open space cheek by jowl with the sea is by no means a joke I can tell you. Especially when your livelihood depends on the weather and whatever force(s) of nature decided to come and visit you. A transistor radio was my father’s most cherished possession for obvious reasons. I remember laying batteries next to each other under the blazing sun to prolong/re-enforced its capacity. I had experienced being in a shack when a Tsunami cleared it away clean as if nothing had been there, or waking up in the pouring rain because some storm split our cottage in half. Things like that.

Isolation, in my eyes is the hardest cross to bear when someone inhabits a space in the middle of nowhere. Primarily for my mother who came from a well-to-do family and was a very sociable person. To find herself saddled with six very young children whom she had to attend to and educate with meager resources must have been quite a  trial for her. 

To us siblings, isolation means growing up not being socially adept. You see, when one is only dealing with ones immediate family, one doesn’t have to lie and deceive or conform to social rules. The direct result of that upbringing is a bunch of adults who are brutally honest.

 There were fond memories as well, particularly during my childhood when exploring was my main preoccupation and oh, boy there are lots of corners a child can explore in aforesaid settings. But the joint activity we all enjoyed was harvesting the bounty the place had to offer, any time we feel like. I remember watching shrimp’s eyes glow in the dark when my father scooped them with a net for supper, or shrieking with joy when the fish jumps happily every time my father piped in fresh supply of salt water.  If the boredom strikes, we can always take our fishing poles and try to catch fish the hard way while our feet dangled in the water singing on the top of our lungs.  Coaxing crabs out of their hiding holes could be a lot of fun too if one is careful enough not to get bitten. I still miss that simple (way of) life.

Being feed by endless supply of seafood could make someone easily conclude that my favourite meal would be anything that contains any of these delicacies, and that is mainly true; but__ and it is a big but 🙂 they are not the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted me and has deep roots in my memory. Hold your breath, here it is… pork chops (or any type of meat but in particular pork chops) are the one I (we, siblings) associated all those happy feelings.

We cannot afford to buy meat during those times. Seafood is there for the taking, but meat we eat only on Sundays. My father was paid weekly, and my mother always shopped after the mass, bringing supply for the whole week; and pork chops was always on the list together with ripe mangoes. Sunday was the only day we were allowed to have desserts, and it was always ripe mangoes.  

I remember bargaining at school’s Christmas party with fellow students and teachers, asking if they want to exchange their meat for crabs or anything seafood; so desperate I was.

As a young adult, I was a bona fide carnivorous and continued to be one till about fifteen years ago when I decided to adapt a healthier lifestyle. In the first years of my conversion, I banned meat altogether. Only lately, it finds its way back in my menu once in a while. I will still not consume them daily but every time I sit at the table and I have pork chops before me, the meal becomes a feast. It never failed to bring back sweet (and not sweet) memories, sights, smell, sounds included…   

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A Room With A View

The house looked like a two storey if you are looking at it from the other side across the street.  But if you go around the front, you will see that it was a semi-bungalow really.  The reason was, the house was built on the very edge of a cliff and whoever was responsible for erecting it was either cut the budget by refusing to fill the deep end with fresh soil or deliberately left it that way to save yet another room space.  The result was quite unique.

When I first saw the house, I thought it was out of place.  It had nothing in common with its neighbors.  It was small but smartly built, using all the available space and had an appearance of something which is more belongs to some fancy subdivision.  While all its neighbors were having high secluded fences, solid big gates complete with dead bolts and padlocks, the place had a cute, low fence which barely coming up to my waist.  The gate and the grills were painted chocolate brown, so were the bars on the windows, the front door and the roof; the rest was in cream color. 

The funny thing was the color of the window panes,  it was green;  as if somebody had added them as an afterthought.  Inside, I saw that the living room-kitchen was in L-form.  It could have been a simple square if the left corner hadn’t been cut off to make a bedroom, which was closed when I came in.  The walls inside were painted pinkish-white, while the border some five inches from the floor was done in mauve color.  A kitchen counter to the right in flamed beige took the most entire length of the L.  Between the counter and the bedroom was a door that leads to the terrace.  Next to it was the bathroom, and next to the bathroom was a spiral staircase leading down to a bedroom.  It was cleverly built.  A room under the terrace. Very private. One has no business being down there unless one wants to be in that space per se.

It was the icing of the whole house and became right away my favorite place.  It was painted white and greens.  Dark green marble floor, sea green walls, and light green ceiling in termites finish.  Somebody brushed white paint lightly over the green finish. The result was pretty amazing _ a green sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.  Terrific!  A green, round ceiling lamp with mirror around it completed the effect.  But the best part I like was the bathroom.  It was tucked under the stairs, and the entrance was built under a slightly raised archway painted in white in contrast to the greenest of the room.

The bathroom itself was done in green tiles all the way up to half of the wall, the other half was in white color, and so were the toilet bowl, the paper and the soap holder.  There was no door, simply because there was no place to put one.  Moss green venetian blinds divided the privacy of the two rooms.  The only window there was in the room was the one facing the other side of the street. It had smoked brown sliding glass on it.  Brown window panes in green bedroom?  And green windows in cream and chocolate brown living room?  Was it a coincidence?  Or somebody deliberately mixed them up together?  If _ why?

The furniture in the room was all in white brass.  The bed; the dresser with three folding mirrors, the matching velvet chair, the standing oval whole body mirror, it was all there, fully intact.  Above the bed, on the wall was a set of hats.  Thirteen in total.  I counted them.  Six on hooks of each side forming a triangle, and a big one in the middle with green sash tied around it.  The smaller ones had multi-colored ribbons on them.  I thought at first that the hats were made of straw or perhaps rattan, but on closer inspection, I discovered that they were made of paper.  Pages from yellow pages telephone books cleverly rolled in tiny pipes and soaked in varnish to resemble a native product.  It was the most cunning pieces of art I have ever seen.  The house itself had an abandoned forgotten feeling hanging in every corner, which is I think very common with empty places.

But the bedroom in contrast seems very much alive.  As if the occupant had just popped out to get some soda and will be back any second.  It was also warmer than the rest of the house which was strange considering it’s location under the ground.  The room had some smell also.  A sweet, fresh lingering fragrant, like how a bathroom smells after somebody just took a bath.  If the house wasn’t for sale, I could almost be sure that somebody was still living there.  At least downstairs.  There were half empty bottles of perfumes on the dresser, combs and powders. There were books everywhere, even on the bed, dolls and stuffed toys too.  Even the bed covers were turned out as if someone just woke up and forgot to make up the bed. I find it strange.

In the end, my parents decided to buy the house on the other side of the street instead opposite of this one.  We needed a bigger place and the house across certainly was.  I counted the steps on my way up, there were thirteen of them.

Another strange thing. I have never been superstitious but I shuddered nonetheless.

 

~ to be continued

tbitsp25