Sunday Lifestyle

A pretty trashcan

LOVE LUCY - The Philippine Star

I remember that one time in college, when I was furnishing our assigned room in Lola Carmen’s home in Martinez Compound. It was on the second floor, at the very end of the hallway that had a squeaky but beautiful wooden floor. Our room was a big one that could fit four beds comfortably (well, because it once was occupied by Lola’s four girls, one of which is Mommy, when they were all still single. My sister and I each had a big bed (a double or maybe even a queen it was, such that our cousins could sleep over anytime) and a study desk, closets lining one side of the room and the bathroom two dressers that could accommodate four to six people applying makeup side by side. My sister, cousins and I used to pretend we were showgirls when we would find ourselves in that situation, usually Friday or Saturday night when we would go out to dance in the disco or watch a concert.

Oh, I sometimes miss those days. We were so young and carefree and time was a luxury we had every day, a gift that just seemed to keep on giving. There was always so much time to do everything! Where is all that time now?

Anyway, I remember our room and each of our study desks because I remember my trash bin and how a near argument ensued because of it. My Tita Liclic got quite upset at me because I wanted to spend a couple of hundred pesos more on a prettier trashcan. She wanted me to buy the cheapest one, which happened to be a really sad and forlorn-looking thing. “It will hold nothing but trash,” she said. “Why does it have to be pretty?” “But then why not?” I answered at the time. Since it would hold ugly discarded things, rejects — all the more it had to be pretty! She looked at me blankly; I did not want to look at her, too frightened to defy her. All I knew for sure was that she did not “get” me in the same way that I did not “get” her. And so, as stories go, we met halfway — I chose something I did not quite like that was slightly better than what she did like. And then we all ate somewhere, I cannot remember where, and it was never discussed ever again. But I did promise myself that when I had the total freedom to choose something I would have to see or use every day, whether a trash can or something far more important than that, I would not settle for anything less than what my heart tells me I should get.

I do not know what to call that part of me. In a world that loves to label, maybe it is easy to tag me as maarte. Hmm… Maybe. Maybe it is maarte of me to want all my hangers to be the same, my daily tableware pretty, for the special plates and special linens and special everything to be used randomly at any given day and not just for parties. Maybe it is maarte to want fresh flowers and plants in the house always. I was maarte maybe even as a little girl, because I wanted my separates to work together, and my yaya used to say I was kikay because I would choose my shorts and T-shirt and insist that they had to somehow work together. Yes, even if I was just playing, and even if I had no playmates coming over. Even back then, I was doing it for myself, because it made me feel good, and made for some kind of happy. I would choose to wear nice sleepwear, too, and if I was cleaning the room or tidying up closets I would fix my hair in a ponytail and put on red lipstick. Not always, but yes, definitely whenever I felt like it. I would splash on cologne even when no one would be there to smell it. I would light candles and play music even if I was in my room all by myself, with nothing but a good book or a movie downloaded from iTunes to keep me company. I do all these for myself, in ways both big and small, to dull the sharp edges of a rough or busy day or soothe my sometimes-weary soul. 

I like using pretty things. I like creating, looking at, and being in beautiful spaces. I like steeping in little coffee shops that play nice music. I buy soap because of nice packaging, a bottle of marmalade or honey because of the nice story written at the back. Sometimes, when I cannot get away from paperwork and it absolutely must be dealt with but I don’t have the energy for it, I bring my laptop and station myself under the mango tree, the same one that bore little fruit this summer but is just as beautiful and majestic in my eyes nonetheless, and facing the garden I find that I can take it all on. Somehow, in a pretty setting, it is not as difficult to find pleasure in the task.

I have friends who do calligraphy, and they say that especially when they write out checks, they use their best penmanship. Especially when the amounts to be paid out hurt because they are hefty sums, they take pains to really make their writing on the check a work of art. I so get that. It is funny, yes, but I can totally relate to where they are coming from. Having said that, I also pray the day never comes that snail mail ceases to happen for anyone, because handwritten notes on beautiful, thick stock that arrive by snail mail, with stamps and markings on it is just… precious. Something from the old world that has to remain very much in this new world still.

Over the past two weeks I took on a little project.  The smaller dressing room in our bedroom was brimming with racks of clothes that were positioned in the middle of the room. Around it on almost all four walls are closets. It was a room that did not bring any joy, save for the fact that it held neatly a lot of clothes. Inspired by a very pretty corner that Juliana created in her own room, I unapologetically removed one day on a whim the racks of clothes in the middle, creating a hollow, a blank canvas of sorts. I kept it empty for a few days. Then I moved in my little makeup table right smack in the middle, one where the mirror is lined with light bulbs down each side. I put a Persian rug under it, its pattern splashed with the colors of a jeweled sunset, and dragged a chair that we keep in storage to supplement the chairs in the dining table when we have extra guests. I will have to find a proper chair soon but for now, this will do. On the surface of a low cabinet by the curtained window, right behind the dresser, I positioned some pretty things — a clear vase with three stalks of this beautiful leaf whose name I have yet to know (it grows abundantly in our garden and I remember choosing the plant especially because the leaves can dress up a vase very easily), a fragile porcelain plate painted with a beautiful blue bird, an antique mirror, a tray of scents. My favorite room scent I spray on the carpet and each time someone walks on it, the room is filled with this ginger-lily fragrance that brings me back to Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong and the Langham Hotel in London, both at once. I love this now-beautiful space.  Plus, the moment I start dressing up and by the time I am putting on my powder and lipstick and spraying on perfume, any one from Amy Winehouse to Norah Jones and Astrud Gilberto will have already crooned such lovely songs to me. Talk about starting the day right, always. 

What used to be a dumpsite of sorts for clothes is now a pretty pocket — nothing too fancy, but it’s a space all my own, filled with things I like and love.  Also, every day when I sit in front of my dresser I can pretend I am a showgirl, or a lounge singer (who has yet to find her voice) and because I can never be one or the other, ever, the fantasy is enough.

And oh, did I mention that I have a little trashcan right under my dresser that is pretty?  


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