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These things I remember

LOVE LUCY (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2015 - 12:00am

I sat on the floor with my five-year-old nephew Valiant tonight.  I quieted my mind as I busied my hands, awed at how fancy Play-Doh has become as compared to how it was during my time.  The set now comes with a press that dispenses the clay into the 3D mold attached to it.  Amazing.  

Earlier, Valiant had invited me to his room so we could play together and when I said I had to run off for a quick dinner meeting, he urged me to cancel it and just stay home. “Pity your meeting, Tita Lucy?” he said when I told him I just could not cancel. 

I asked Juliana to play with him instead.  I snapped a quick photo of the two before I left, busy as they were with the colorful clay as they manipulated it into different shapes, nine years between them.  I get all sappy thinking of how much Juliana has grown — she is now already 14 years old, and just an inch or so shorter than my 5”7“ frame.  I remember her at five years old when, just like Valiant now, she wanted me to be with her — to bake, or sit and color and draw, watch Anastasia and Joseph, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, read a story, watch her do and be whatever. 

She just wanted me around all the time.  Juliana was always an easy child, funny and happy all at once; she did not throw tantrums, never demanded for more toys, and was happy with her odd collection of erasers.  She loved dressing up though, and even at an age when most others would put on most anything she would only wear what she wanted to wear. 

I miss Juliana at five.  At eight. At 10.  Selfish as this may sound, I basically miss her at that age when her world revolved around me and her daddy. I wish now that I savored that even more than I already did.  Back then, I loved making her little dreams come true — the most amusing being a bulaklak costume she saw on Viva Hot Babes (a group of singing, dancing, sexy pretty girls that has since disbanded) as they promoted their song  on TV wearing colorful little skirts fashioned after petals. 

I had my friend Regine make her a replica, and she would have that costume on the whole day, like it was the most normal thing to do.  At a different phase of her life, it was punk rock and she liked skulls and the color black and emo-looking art.  She soon outgrew that (thankfully).  Valiant, on the other hand, now alternates between being Superman and Spider-Man. 

I love a child’s world.  And how easy it is for them to become what they want to be, truly committed and joyful in the pursuit, not over-analyzing anything, just trusting in their heart of hearts that all is and can be that simple.  How pure.  How absolutely wonderful.

I share all these with you now because I wonder, just as maybe you do, what memories our children make.  Will his story be the same as ours when we talk about it one day?  Busy as I find life to be, I have my fair share of guilt as a mother — that maybe I am too busy, absent-minded, not physically present all the time for Juliana the same way that Mommy was for all four of us siblings. 

There was never a time that Mommy was not home when we got back from school. Because of that, I do not just remember the big moments, I have very fond memories of many of the small ones too.  I have all these little random stories, the same ones we laugh about to this day — of drawings she made and school projects she helped us with, of songs we made up (just for laughs), the way all our friends were always warmly welcomed at home, the times she would reprimand us for falling asleep without saying our prayers, how tolerant and strict she was and how wise, in hindsight, that delicate balance was.  I still extract precious gems from that treasure trove of memories to this day, as I ask myself many times when faced with a parenting dilemma: “What would Mommy do given the same situation?”   

I realize now that our children will have their own version of the moments we share with them.  On my part I can only hope that Juliana’s remembrance of it will be happy and tender.  And many. 

May her daddy and I figure significantly in them.  I hope that, like me, she will one day know for sure, the way I do now, that the many times I would nag her was for her own good, that my intuition was mostly right, and that my saying “no” from time to time was not because I wanted to rob her of some happiness but to afford her a bigger and better kind of it in the future  you know, the type of “No” that only time will show and tell was a rightful and wise “No”all along.  I have asked Juliana twice  (or maybe thrice) too many if she thinks I have been a good mother, and she always has this “Oh my, Mama is turning all senti on me again” look, like she is stifling a giggle and can’t wait to get back to her music or her book and stop the embarrassing conversation.  I am thankful she still allows me to smother her with kisses, even now that she is my size, just stronger and more athletic.  Hers is the first face I see in the mornings as she kisses me and waits for my blessing before going to school.  She knows I had a happy childhood.  I hope one day she says that very same thing about her own, too.

Here’s a list of things that were part of my growing up.  I had a text conversation with a friend of mine along these lines and I found myself actually thankful for traffic as I typed them on my phone, furiously I must say, as my thoughts seemed to come faster than I could record them.  I hope you make your own list, too.  Write it down.  And some day, you can maybe even compare it with the list your own child makes.  I know that is what I want to do with mine.  Here goes mine.

Growing up, I remember: The sad sound of the a.m. radio station (my yaya and the other helpers loved listening to dramas and sappy love songs). Wakasan comics that we would borrow from the helpers. Goya chocolate.

Moviestar and Kislap magazine sold by Manang Morning, the magazine lady. Manang Feliza, the fruit vendor. The scent of the clothes being ironed in the afternoons. Homemade Christmas decor and angels. Star margarine, with rice, sometimes, with bread. Voltes V, Mazinger Z and Grandizer (at one point, I was convinced I wanted to marry Grandizer). Piano lessons. Motocross races, which enticed me and my sister to escape piano lessons. Sugarcane fields. Reader’s Digest. Dresses that matched with that of my sister’s, just in different colors. Pajamas and dusters, made by the custurera.

Manang Pedam and Manang Nating for dresses, Noy Nestor for tailored pants.

Notebooks covered in plastic. School bag trolley. Sweet Honesty and Forest Interlude from Avon. Johnson’s Baby cologne and Johnson’s Baby shampoo, and Johnson’s Baby everything — powder, oil, lotion, name it. Ivory soap. Hot baths courtesy of the takuri. Labaseras (fish vendors carrying their baneras, hopping from one house to the next as they sell fresh fish). Sweepstakes sold by the blind man. Menudo. Homemade apple pie, achara, tocino, ham, siopao. Mango ice candy from the store of Noy Pantang. Sikwate. Handmade tirador and mansanitas. Chinese jackstone and Chinese garter. Prayer meetings. Marbles and rubber bands. Hoola hoops. Roscas and pastillas de leche. Galletas and Titay’s Rosquillos. Stuffed shrimps and choletas cooked by Manang Kessin. Mango float. Saturday and Sunday dinners with Lolo Tingting. Dynasty. Flor de Luna That’s Entertainment and Lovingly Yours, Helen. Eat Bulaga. Robee stickers. Sunday dresses. Barbie dolls and Lego. Clay. Leatherette table covers and melamine plates.

A diary with a lock. Piggy banks. BPI Kiddie Savings Bank. Coconut trees. Stamp, stationery, and sticker collections. A round table with a Lazy Susan. The manok-manok, a chest of drawers by the dining table that had had a brass chicken on top, thus the name. A houseboy named Bebat and Arnel, and later, Marcelo who made very delicious iced tea. Riding bikes.

Mom and Dad playing tennis. Rambutan and santol trees. Orchids.

A Christmas tree that was up by the time my birthday rolled by on Dec. 11.

TV without remote controls. A trundle bed. Pond’s cold cream. The Sound of Music. Cinderella. Cake that was a giveaway from weddings. Watching Ms. Ormoc. Full cream powdered milk. Egg cups and checkered red cloth table napkins. Bayabas baths (water used was infused with fresh guava leaves). Praying the rosary. Bee-Gees lunchbox. Anklets. Headbands and grosgrain ribbons for the hair. Books about Amelia Bedelia.

Fairy tales. Mongol pencils and Kilometrico ballpens. Jelly candies called Orange Swits and Lipps candies that colored my lips red. Santan, daisy, and bougainvillea blooms. Choco fudge bars from Tina’s. Pot roast and chicken sandwich from the Boy Scout canteen. Parents who were very present in our lives, siblings as playmates, cousins and summers in Cebu.

Plus so much more. I would love to know what’s on your list.

A CHRISTMAS AMELIA BEDELIA BEBAT AND ARNEL BOY SCOUT DAY EAT BULAGA JULIANA NOW TIME
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