Tag Archive | Family

Happiness is a little boy sleeping in the garden

I don’t exactly know why, but it’s easier to write about pain. When the depression hits, it’s when writing helps the most, and it’s when I reach for the pen or the keyboard. Sometimes it gets posted; most times it remains private. But it does get written.

Joy is more elusive, both in life and in writing. There are precious few words that can capture laughter, or the feeling you get when the wind is blowing in your hair and you feel like you can fly.

But today, I had a good day. There isn’t anything world-changing about that, and in the light of the recent disasters in the news, it actually sounds frivolous and self-indulgent. But sometimes when tragedy dominates the horizon, redemption can be found in the little moments. And I had one of those moments today.

For the past week, I’ve been home with my family in the town where I grew up. I left Dumaguete for the summer, both to lick my wounds from a recent episode of depression and to gather strength and figure out my next step. It’s not something I usually do, wanting to prove that I can make it on my own. But this time, I knew I was right to come.

My mother loves to garden, and this summer the yard is in a riot of colors. So this afternoon, I took my 3-year-old cousin out to play in the sunshine. There was an unbelievable number of butterflies, and we walked around peering under leaves to look for caterpillars and cocoons. It was windy, and the breeze made a cotillion out of the bobbing pink and yellow flowers, with the flitting butterflies as their graceful partners. A fat orange kitten ran around excitedly chasing them.

And I was content. I refused to think about how fleeting the moment was, and how nothing in my future was figured out, and tried to go back to my childhood when a lifetime’s worth of daydreams could fit in a single afternoon. For now, all that mattered was the curious, happy, deeply beloved boy playing in the sun, the vivid loveliness of the day, and nothing else. We set up a folding bed in the shade, and with his precious, little-boy weight pressing against me, I allowed the hypnotic movement of the butterflies and the cheerful chatter of the birds in the siresas tree to lull us both to sleep.

When I woke up, the sight of the sleeping child beside me, smelling of sunshine and chocolate, felt like something indescribably profound…and healing. I thought, I want to remember this. So I tiptoed inside to get the digital camera, and took a few photos. Sometimes happiness comes with fireworks and fanfare, but at other times it’s as quiet as an afternoon nap in the garden with someone you love. Either way, it deserves to be celebrated.


Love on a street corner

Boarded up shops and busted streetlights. Graffiti, broken glass, and overflowing garbage bins. A sudden burst of unruly laughter from the teenagers huddled together down the rain-slick sidewalk.

The man stood still, heart pounding, out of place. Did he get the address wrong? No, the voice mail told him to wait on this corner tonight. So he waited, desperately praying for 16, 842 hours of torment to end.

Suddenly, there she was — pierced, tattooed, trembling. Wild and strange, yet achingly familiar. Uncertain. His heart broke for her. How could she be uncertain?

“Daddy,” she whispered. “Can I come home?”

(This is a response to the 100 words challenge in Velvet Verbosity. The word for the week was “wild”.)

On Adoption – A Reply to NikkiAngeli

There’s this new article in peyups which talks about adoption and the stigma that adopted children often face in society. The writer, NikkiAngeli, raised these questions: “Ano ba ang meron sa dugo? Kung sinipsip ng bampira ang lahat ng dugo mo sa katawan, hindi mo na ba tatawaging ina ang iyong ina, ama ang iyong ama at kapatid ang iyong kapatid?

I, for one, found my answer right at home. My little brother Joshua is adopted, and he knows it, but he also knows that it doesn’t take away from how special, how loved he is. If anything, it actually makes him feel more important because we tell him often that with biological children, parental love is expected, some would even say required. But with him, it was a deliberate, conscious commitment. He was specially chosen to belong to us, just as we belong to him. There is absolutely no doubt in his mind about his place in our family. Genes are not – and will never be – an issue.Being an “ate” to Joshua is an everyday rollercoaster experience. He asks the toughest questions (“Ate, how can you tell a male tahong from a female tahong?”), interrupts my reading to convince me to play “teks” with him, and demands explanations for everything (baths, for example. He’s convinced he could get by with one every other day). But just when I’m close to complete exasperation, he smiles and makes me laugh by telling me how pretty my eyebrows are (coming from a nine-year-old boy, I took that as a compliment). In return for all these, I get to boss him around and hug him as much as I want, plus I have someone to help me drive our sister crazy, and someone to remove spiders from the bathroom so that I can take a bath. In other words, he is my brother, our “bunso”, in every way except in one that doesn’t really matter.

The time will come when we can no longer protect Josh from being hurt, or from the reality that people can sometimes be insensitive or narrow-minded. All we can do is to try to build in him a sense of belonging that can never be shaken, no matter what happens, no matter what people say. We want him to have the freedom to soar and the courage to explore his horizons, as long as he knows that he will always have a place to call home. Roots and wings. We want to give him roots and wings.

People often remark on how fortunate Joshua is to belong to our family, but I think that we have received the greater blessing. When I watch him sleep, I often wonder if he can ever really comprehend just how precious he is, just how much we love him. I wonder what our family would be like if he had never come to us, if he had never brought the joy and the adventure that only he can bring. We would have missed so much. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel honored and thankful for the special gift of being able to share in his life. Joshua is, and will always be, God’s way of saying I love you to us.


Tenderness and Strength

I smile as I look at the three of us in the mirror of the salon – my grandmother, my mom, and I. Three generations of women sharing one age-old feminine pastime: hair styling. In the reflections, I notice that we don’t look like each other. My mom got her looks from my grandpa, and I got mine from my dad. Still, after twenty years of being loved by them, I have come to know their faces better than my own.

I continue thinking about them as the hairdresser snips at my locks. I wonder if they realize how similar they are. Both are contented women, women who could never be bitter or cold or cynical. Both have married men who were not only the love of their lives but also their best friends. Both are legendary in our family for their soft hearts. Grandma is generous to a fault – she would give away whatever cash she had in her wallet to anyone who seemed to need it more than she did; and my mom, a school principal, has had to frequently put down her work to accommodate everyone from student to teacher who needed a kind word or a hug. Their gentle presence soothes and comforts -– it’s who they are. But as I continue looking at them less with the eyes of a child and more with the growing awareness of a young woman, I realize that they are also incredibly strong.

Their lives haven’t been easy. Grandpa, a young minister then, and Grandma, a sixteen-year-old girl barely out of childhood, got married in the upheaval of the Japanese war. Being a pastor’s family in their case meant frequent relocation whenever Grandpa was assigned to another remote barrio for church planting. A minister’s salary wasn’t much, especially when it had to be stretched to provide for the needs of five children, so my mom worked as a household helper to put herself and her younger sister through college. All the things I am taking for granted in my own life – financial security, parent-supported education, modern conveniences, and more – are luxuries they have never enjoyed in their youth.

As I grow older, I find that I have a deep curiosity about these women who have shaped my life. I learn to ask the questions that uncover their hidden histories – those parts of their past that don’t come out in everyday conversations. Sometimes the answers surprise me. I didn’t know that Grandma once gave birth to a stillborn daughter, or that my mother’s first bra was a hand-me-down when she was already seventeen. Little by little, I discover their tragedies, their struggles, their regrets. I hear about their love stories, stories that make me strengthen my resolve to never settle for anything less than what they’ve had. Most of all, I found out about who they really are – multi-faceted women who have not always been mothers but have lived full lives that have created in them a certain gentle strength.

As the hairdresser puts the finishing touches on my new cut, I glance over at them once more. I know that they will never stop worrying about me, knowing that they have given me their rescuer complex, the inability to resist any call for help. They fear that I will be taken advantage of, that I will be disillusioned. But I am not afraid, because I know that they have not only given me their weakness, but also their strength. Someday, that strength will come into full bloom and will be passed on to my own daughters. I can only hope that when that time comes, my children will be as proud of me as I am proud of the two beautiful women who are sitting beside me now.


Private Conversations with Joshua 2

Habang nanonood ng Encantadia:

Josh: Crush mo yan, ate? (si Ybarro)

Ako: (tango)

Josh: Kasi magaling sya?

Ako: (tango ulit)

Josh: Sino pang crush mo?

Ako: Si Aragorn.

Josh: Tsaka sino pa?

Ako: Si Gary V.

Josh: Tsaka sino pa?

Ako: Wala na.

Josh: Si Aguiluz, crush mo rin?

Ako: (iling)

Josh: Ako crush ko si Alwina…(pabulong) tsaka si Ella…

Ako: Bakit mo crush si Ella?

Josh: Kasi maganda sya.

Ako: Yun lang?

Josh: (iling) Mabait pa sya.

Ako: Tsaka?

Josh: Tsaka lagi pong nakikinig sa Bible.

Ako: Tsaka?

Josh: Lagi pong nago-obey.

Ako: Eh pa’no kung hindi sya maganda pero mabait pa rin sya tsaka nakikinig pa rin lagi sa Bible tsaka lagi pa ring nago-obey? Crush mo pa rin sya?

Josh: Opo.

Ako: Talaga?

Josh: (tango) Wag mo yun isasabi kay Ella ha.

Ako: (taas kamay) Promise.

Josh: Pag sinabi mo, isasabi rin kita kay Gary V…. Saan ba nakatira si Gary V.?

Oo nga naman…saan ba nakatira si Gary V.? Para masabi ng kapatid ko sa kanya na crush ko sya…hehehe…


Private Conversations with Joshua

Nasa room ako, gumagawa ng earrings na beads. Dumating bunso namin (8 years old), nakisali. Ang naging usapan:

Joshua: ‘Te, kanino ko naman po ibibigay ‘tong ginagawa ko? Wag mo lang sabihin na sa girlfriend ko ha.

Ako: May girlfriend ka na?

Joshua: Opo.

Ako: Sino?

Joshua: Alam mo na yun…

Ako: Si Ella? Uuuyyy….(crush nya since preschool)

Joshua: Hehe..opo.

Ako: Sinagot ka na ba nya?

Joshua: Ano po yung “sinagot”?

Ako: Yung…pumapayag syang maging girlfriend mo…

Joshua: Ikaw po ‘te, may girlfriend, ay boyfriend ka na?

Ako: Wala.

Joshua: Kasi hindi ka pa sinasagot ng crush mo?

Wala na akong nasabi, tawa na lang. Actually Josh, hindi pa alam ng crush ko na nag-eexist ako…hehehehe….