Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A mother's legacy (part 1)

(Note: This is part of a series of stories dedicated to my mother who passed away last 13 April 2000. Her birthday is on April 27th)

A Normal Life

I can vividly remember that day. That was 15 December 1992. My day was normal. I woke up early in the morning, took a bath, change into my school uniform, ate breakfast and then waited for the bus that will bring me to school. But it was not normal, something was going to happen that day that will change my life forever.

I have just recently realized how my childhood was different from most of my peers. Although it would seem that all of us were the same when huddled up in one bunch, I was not like them. For starters, I come home from school with just my aunt in the house and wait for my mother who was to arrive sometime before eight o'clock. I did not know where my father is exactly he just comes and then disappears. When I was in grade 3, I remembered how amazed I was to discover that my classmates did not have the slightest idea how to cook rice. For me then, it was normal, I knew how to cook rice long before I started using ballpen in school. It was normal since I usually arrive home from anywhere I go without adults to feed me so I have to do something. I thought then that it was perfectly normal to use baking soda instead of toothpaste in brushing my teeth only to realize now that it was only because we did not have enough money to buy one. My childhood wasn't what most children my age where experiencing at that time, but I was happy, that was normal for me.

Back then, I was marveled by the many stories that my mother told me. She told me about how as a young girl, her mother (my grandmother) would sew a piece of cloth to her dress and put her in a bus going to a city about 3 hours away. She will then be fetched by her eldest sister, remove the piece of cloth from her dress using shears and then put her back to the same bus so that she can go home. She later revealed that the cloth contained her sister's allowance for the month who was then studying at Dumaguete. She also told me about how much our grandparents wanted us to have lots of mangoes that they sent us bundles of it. I remembered how she will carefully arrange these mangoes inside the room which will eventually occupy around half of the room (that was how much mangoes we were sent). She will later tell us that since we can not eat all of it we might as well sell it. There is also this story about how the vegetables sold in farther Marikina Market is much cheaper compared to the Market nearest to us (that was Masinag Market). The story would then lead to the conclusion that we can make some money if we buy vegetables from Marikina and sell it around our neighborhood at a price almost the same as the one in Masinag. She marveled me with how nata de coco was made by making lots and lots of it around the house. Again, since we can not possibly eat all of it, we might as well put it inside small bottles and then sell it. My mother had so many stories that can occupy me for hours. I consider these times some of the best memories I have with her.

When I went back from school that day I was already in tears. I directly went into my mothers bedroom to find out that it was true. Her clothes and most of her things are gone. On the desk was a piece of paper with my name written on it and she said:

"I do not know how to say goodbye. I thought that if your day will be the same as it always have been you will not really feel bad about me leaving. Remember that I love you always and that I am doing this because of that"

That day my mother left for the States. She wasn't lying when she told us all her stories, those were all true. What she did not tell us was that we were broke. That she can not provide us with enough money to send us to good schools and raise us to have good lives. Selling mangoes, vegetables and nata de coco were all her attempts to be able to provide for us financially. She practically took advantage of any money making opportunity she placed her hands on but to no avail life was just that difficult and she can not afford to see her three boys suffer.

Now as a young man, I can just imagine how hard it must have been for her to go through all that and then finally leaving us. As a young boy then, I did not understand why my mother had to go to a distant place while all the mothers of my friends where at home. That was a story that my mother can not convince me to think that life was indeed normal for us. I knew then that something must be wrong with my family.

A week after, I went to a payphone (this was a time when not many houses had their own telephone lines) and cried my heart out to my mother. I was ten years old and for the first time I realized that my life was not as normal as I thought it was.

to be continued...

No comments: