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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I told my sister last night, “Oh no, clutter ate our Christmas.” She told me to be patient. I sighed. Our house is a pastopolis, three floors of hereditary packrattiness.

On Christmas Eve there were at least twenty different sets of plates unpacked and waiting to be washed before being put away again. Floral, geometric, plain, heritage… There were exemplars from every interior design magazine theme. (My mom is only this way with house stuff, and I use the word stuff because all the other words sound archaic, like accoutrements and bric-a-brac, although come to think of it they are more to the point. Bric-a-brac, in particular, sounds remarkably like the six plates, three glasses and plastic soup spoon which, as of last night, are with us no longer.)

The Past in Matchboxes

There is also the matter of the matchboxes. I saw them laid out on the ledge two days ago. Me: “I can’t believe you kept all these boxes!” Mom: “Yes, I think we can still use the matches.” Me, thought balloon: “Oh, I thought we were keeping them as examples of Philippine graphic design from the seventies.”

We hardly made any headway in the pile of trash bags and boxes underneath the stairs. I opened a huge trash bag to discover it contained a wealth of rags, from at least two decades (I could tell by the fabric). There were rags made from rags. I showed it to my mom and asked if we could spread the rag love, so to speak, and she said no, we can still use those. We are so carbon-neutral it hurts. I managed to persuade her to let go of most of my grandaunts’ clothes, and a set of curtains that had the barest suggestion of aesthetic consideration and shed fibers with every shake. I think the find that gave me the most pause was a wrapped wedding present from our family to “the happy newlyweds” dated 1996. I opened the package and took out matching plastic placemats and an oven mitt. I told my mom that the happy couple had just celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary. I hoped they had gotten along fine without the placemats and oven mitt, so our family could use them now.

A day from 1991

The item that gave me the second most pause was a page from a chintz-covered planner I used in 1991. The schedule is eerily similar to what I have today. It’s been 16 years of FGDs and pre-prods and recording sessions that start at 9 pm. At least my handwriting has moved on.

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Mommy can blog!

Yesterday was Dora Day at the mall. It was also Doomsday for many parents’ spinal columns, as we carried our children high so they could see Dora and Boots and Swiper as they acted out an episode called Best Friends Day and reached Rainbow Rock with the help of Map. Dora is touring the Robinsons malls this Christmas season, and the Dora merchandise is inescapable.

I never forget to be grateful for my above-average (for a Filipina) height, not just because I rarely have to spend on hemming pants. I told my sister that Lucien was quite lucky to have a tallish mom, because otherwise he would have spent an entire afternoon enjoying the backs of people’s heads. He held on really tight to my hair, which acquired a certain stylish scruffiness afterwards, and shrieked and squealed at the songs and dances. An afternoon well worth the neck pain, in my opinion. I just wish I had grown a couple of extra arms for the occasion; we have no pictures of us during the show.

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afternoonsun.jpg
I already miss our new old house and we’ve not been back a day. I call it the new old house because it’s a new house filled with old things, an accretion of crocheted antimacassars, floral bedspreads, ceramic animals, free tumblers, glow-in-the-dark holy figurines and back issues dating to the invention of the printing press, courtesy of several generations of single women whose genes forbade them to throw anything away.

I didn’t make it to the cemetery, although my mom, sister and relatives went in shifts. I communed with the dead in my own way, rooting through plastic boxes buried in dust and filled with our past. I saw my grandaunt’s bifocals. A box labeled “Allied Pickfords,” one of the many that carried my Jakarta belongings home, a decade ago. Socks I remembered buying in college. Newspaper clippings.

The rest of the house is waiting for the present to move in. In the meantime, it feels like we’re camping every time we’re there. Which isn’t a bad thing, really.

This will be my room and Lucien’s. When he gets old enough to have his own room, I’ll have a divider put in. Or maybe even a proper wall.

This is my most idiosyncratic suggestion for the house: a bathtub hollowed out of a single piece of narra wood. It’s a beautiful piece. It came with a drain hole. My mom thought of everything else, including the faucets and the plug. It needs to be “seasoned” with mineral oil, so the wood doesn’t absorb the bathwater.

Lucien is not at all concerned with the state of the house. In fact, he expended most of his energy attracting all the dust to his feet, knees and hands.

In spite of the mall peeking out from behind the trees, it’s still a bucolic view. I even spotted a cow. Which reminds me – I used to have a neon pink stuffed cow-hamster hybrid I called the Ruminant Mutant. (“Rumi” for short.) I wonder if it’s hiding somewhere in the house. I wouldn’t be surprised. It would make a perfect companion for Lucien’s toy, which was the only casualty of our adventure:

Now he’s a survivor, that one.

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Lucien has three moms – a working mom, an auntie mom, and a granny mom. We frequently vary in our opinions, and our way of relating to Lucien, but I can only hope that his rapidly-multiplying neurons can cope with us.

Single-parent guilt is bad, but triple-parent guilt is worse. Not only do I have to deal with the intricacies of living with my mom, from whom I seem to have inherited a particularly stubborn streak, but I also need to navigate my relationship with my sister, whom I am only used to dealing with on a younger-sister basis and not on a co-mom basis. Of course everyone is quick to reassure me that “you’re the mom,” but that’s not really the point. It’s not about the ownership of the mommy title, or whose womb was the teleport station. It is really how the day-to-day mommying goes.

I am lucky, damn lucky, to have my mom and sister around. I can work and put aside money for Lucien. I am trying to manage my worklife so I can leave a little late and come home a little early, and gradually I am succeeding. Maybe, if I can acquire the credibility, I can go freelance one day and spend even more time with Lucien, as several parents I know have done. This will most likely start with dropping the “maybe” and planning for it with more care.

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