When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what will I be…
…mine is shocking. Both in tales and in reality. At least from one side. Father’s side. If I’m going to believe (which is very difficult not to when evidence is staring me straight in the eyes and based on my own personal experience I have no reasons to doubt) I came from a family of cheating conniving incestuous gypsy witches and nomad warlords who were/are fond of betraying and molesting each other in all possible ways. From my maternal side, I can easily describe them in few words: They are a bunch of upper middle class (possibly even rich) educated prejudiced narrow-minded tyrannical self-righteous people who have written my mother out of a will (for marrying my -to their eyes substandard- father) and refused to recognize our existence till I married my (foreigner therefore rich) ex but by then I was a rebel enough already and only too happy to defy them. Our very own little family… Well, what can I say? You have to read few of my post to get a little bit of insight how dysfunctional and pathetic we are. End of my pedigree sum up.
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
― Mitch Albom
Like I said so many times before, betrayal by your own flesh and blood is the worst betrayal of all. No one can get over that. The wounds will never heal and will bleed at the slightest touch. If you cannot trust your own family, then who you can trust? If you are not safe within your most intimate circle, would you ever feel safe amongst strangers?
If you have been betrayed by your nearest and dearest (over and over again) you will have trust issues whether you like it or not. It happened to me. And naive that I was I refused to believe the truth that was staring me in the face all my life. I thought I meant something to them other than a meal ticket, we’re family after all. But sadly I was wrong. It took me five decades to realized I was and will never be anything to them but a source of income, someone to provide all their material needs. Not a single time they asked me how I am, never show a single ounce of gratitude, not even a superficial thank you. No, they thought and still think they are entitled to everything I worked for and everything I have and could earn. Care is something alien to them when it comes to me. I was the one who got away, and they hate me for it.
It hurts. And the subject of a family will forever be a very sensitive issue for me. Home and love of blood relatives are something I did not and will never have. It is hard to accept and I still lay awake some nights thinking about the hows and whys but life goes on and I have to move with it no matter how painful the experience is…
“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.
All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.
— Mitch Albom
Daily Prompt: Bludgeon
When I was young, despite our reduced circumstances, I always find Christmas the most exciting time of the year; better than New Year which is always dominated by extreme noises and possible fireworks casualties. I remember going from house to house 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 wildflowers in the slot of my piggy bank; it looked good in my playhouse, 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 could 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 on the mat next to my sister.
But the person outside the door kept knocking and calling wishing us the usual holiday greetings 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 surprised to see Macedonio; he was one of the seven brothers who just moved to our village a couple of years ago.
I remember when we were still living in the fishpond; 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 neighborhood by an electric fence. He managed to convince 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.
Opening the door finding him standing there smiling at me was a (pleasant) surprise. He was wearing his usual lopsided grin which if I was more experienced at that time, I will recognize 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 a 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! Still smiling, eyes twinkling, he poked his head inside and looked around. When he saw that my father wasn’t looking; he gave me a peck on the cheek and said: “Merry Christmas you gorgeous.” He winked at me before turning his back and disappearing into the night. I was left flabbergasted.
He must have been aware of our situation (not much one can hide in a small village like ours) and how kindhearted of him to think about us in that time of the year and provide us with 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…
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…
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 defend 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 bogland which my father painstakingly tried to turn into a vegetable 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 in rows next to the front street side of the house using two bamboo poles as a 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 colors, 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…
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 evoke 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 the 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 mothballs 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 come back until 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 gipsy 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 a 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…
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.
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…
“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.
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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