A healing place
- Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2014 - 12:00am

OXNARD, California — After 10 years of absence, I am back in my sister’s beach house in Oxnard, California, where I have spent many wonder-laden days since the late Seventies.

Oxnard is a quiet agricultural town where farmhands grow luscious strawberries, lemons, melons, oranges, and vegetables. An hour away from downtown Los Angeles, we refer to Oxnard affectionately as a province where many old-timer Filipino field workers live with their now Americanized families.

When I first came here, the beach house was a charming bachelor’s pad, an A-frame, with a deck, a fireplace, and a loft. As their family grew, my sister and her husband rebuilt it into what is now a concrete three-story family home with a large sunlit kitchen and lots of space for visiting relatives and friends to crash in.

A warm, welcoming place, full of sunlight and laughter, good vibes and good food, the house has been my regular stop going to and from other parts of the US and Canada.

The beach is around 200 steps away — where people play with their dogs and kids throw Frisbees and dive into the waves along with the surfers. Not being an adventurous person, I have spent many a languid morning at that beach, lost in my own world or writing in my journal. The slow pace and deep quiet of life by the ocean makes it suitable for reflection and introspection. It is, in fact, a place for healing the body, mind, and spirit.

As I prepared to come here, I knew that the persistent and annoying shallow cough that had bothered me in Manila would go away the moment I was exposed to the healthful ocean breeze, and the worries and frustrations that weighed me down at home and at work would dissipate at the sound of the waves lapping the sand and the sight of dolphins and the occasional whale gamboling within sight of the shore.

There is much in Oxnard that heals the spirit. The pleasant weather with the scent of jasmine wafting in the air, and the flowers of every hue and amazing succulents of every size and shape that grow in the sandy soil are such a welcome change from dreary, humid, polluted Manila. But even better than the pleasures of nature is the family time that I associate with Oxnard.

My sister’s house has been the venue of reunions big and small, with family and extended family that can range from an assortment of relatives and friends to an exclusive “Sisters’ Summit” where the four of us Paredes sisters — in descending order, Babsy, Tictac, myself, and Lory — gather for our occasional powwow. It is difficult for whoever is within driving distance to resist an invitation to one of these parties. The company is excellent, the conversation lively, the food to die for, and when the singing starts, it does not end.

Last weekend, the occasion was a Sisters’ Summit called by Lory, our first since we last met in San Diego in 2004. This tradition goes back to the Eighties, when I was a fellow in Stanford and my stateside sisters, who lived in Oxnard, San Diego, and Indiana, came by before my fellowship ended, for an intimate reunion in my tiny student residence in the university’s Escondido Village. We had another one in Oxnard in 1991, when I passed through on my way to Atlanta and France on human-rights errands. Since 2004, we have met twice in Manila, but those were large gatherings that included our brothers, cousins and friends. Each summit is immortalized by a pictorial where we pose in the exact order of our first photo together, taken in 1957.

Last weekend, we talked and laughed and sang and cooked and ate like there was no tomorrow. On the first day, our brother Gabby drove up from San Francisco and we sang our old songs for four hours. Like in every family reunion, we dug up the music of our childhoods, including early jingles, and the memories that go with them. On the second day, we sisters sat by the dining table catching up on each other’s stories, gossiping, munching on leftovers, reminiscing, tearing up, but mostly laughing and singing. All one had to do was mention a name or hum a tune and we’d crack up at the common memories. It was exhilarating, and healing.

When all is said and done, as the song goes, it is the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember, the way were.

You know those movies where sisters get together after a long absence and longstanding issues emerge and drama ensues before they get resolved? We’re not as dramatic, but yes, we did go back to our childhoods and talked about the fun, grief and trauma growing up in a large, boisterous and competitive family. Realizing what each one went through due to one or another’s insensitivity can be powerful stuff, but we’re all older now, wiser, more forgiving and totally in love with one another to care. We talked about our children and grandchildren, our aches and illnesses as we age, the choices we made as adults, and where these have brought us. And invariably, we talked about Dad and Mom, and our great fortune at having been born into such a unique and loving family.

All this happened in Oxnard last weekend, in a house by the beach, where the welcome is always warm and heartfelt, relationships are nurtured, hearts are healed and spirits are renewed with healthy diets, hearty laughter, good music and quality family time.

 

 

AS I ATLANTA AND FRANCE DAD AND MOM ESCONDIDO VILLAGE FAMILY LOS ANGELES OXNARD SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO WHEN I
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