Halloween outside, Christmas inside

Our house has never looked this strange. We put up our three little Christmas trees as early as the second week of October because they were scheduled to be photographed for the December issue of Yes! magazine. Otherwise, they would still have been in their boxes until after Halloween. The three trees — bright blue, lime green, and magenta — are right by the front door. It already feels like Christmas inside the house.

Outside is a different story altogether. The gate is all about Halloween gloom. Witches and monsters and plastic pumpkins that for some reason really do not look scary at all. Don’t you ever wonder why these scary-looking creatures have a cheeriness about them when they come out for Halloween?

I wanted to carve real pumpkins, like we did last year. We saw huge ones at S&R and I was a heartbeat away from buying five of them but I resisted at the last minute. It felt too much to spend P800 per pumpkin and then just discard the insides of these veggies — unless I do a Martha Stewart and make pumpkin pie and cake, cookies, bread, and soup out of all the pulp. That is a lot of pumpkin, too much actually, and also a lot of work in the kitchen. The very thought overwhelmed me so I let the pumpkins go without regret.

From the Halloween set of The Sweet Life I inherited a leafless little black tree with spiny branches that remind me of the witch’s arms in Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel. I placed it by our gate, anchored on the cavity of what once was an apple box, and now weighed down and stabilized with heavy rocks. From one of the withered, sad-looking branches I let a witch from Toy Kingdom hang. She has been with us for three years already. Beside her are seven mason jars suspended on aluminum wire that Juliana and I made one Sunday afternoon. Each night we would put votive candles in the clear mason jars and together with the cobwebs and the other monsters peeking out from the bushes, the house looks quite timely for Halloween.

I remember thinking how very strange that all was earlier tonight when the car pulled up the driveway. I had just gotten home from a pictorial and dance rehearsals, and the sky was dusky. It was the perfect backdrop for my witches and monsters. When I entered through the front door the bright Christmas trees greeted me alongside the tralalala of Christmas songs playing in the living room. Halloween gloom outside, Christmas cheer inside. Strange.

Juliana and I are watching TV and news come about how Carlo Caparas and his legendary Pinoy heroes — Panday, Joaquin Bordado, Totoy Bato and Gagambino among others — are now available as Philippine postage stamps. How so very wonderful! And what a talented man he is to have come up with all those heroes and stories!  My daughter was just as captivated but I did not realize just how much until she stood up to pull on her black Barbie boots. She then wore a sequined pink cap and dark shades, and said, “Mom, guess who I am now?”

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“Carlo Caparas!”

I burst out laughing and she did, too.

She rants on and on about the trick or treating in our village the following day. She cannot wait for morning to come, cannot wait to wear her costume — a witch in sneakers with glitter on her face. Last year she won Funniest Costume. I deposited the P600 she won in her bank account and wrote a note beside it. When she is all grown up I want her to remember that she won for her rock-star look when she was seven years old.

Later, my phone started ringing and messages started coming in one after the other. Well, what do you know? Surprises never cease. The Sweet Life won Best Talk Show in the Catholic Mass Media Awards! It was beautifully, wonderfully unexpected. It felt like a warm hug from heaven. Thank you, dear Jesus! Naturally, everyone on the team is thrilled.

It’s strange how unexpected happiness jolts you, giving you an adrenaline rush. Juliana is hungry and asks if I have the energy to make the one dish I make for her that makes me feel like I am such a Supermom: mushroom rice. We’ve run out of cream of mushroom so I use fresh carabao’s milk from Tagaytay. I just dump all the ingredients in a pan — crushed garlic sautéed in olive oil, sliced mushroom buttons, leftover rice, carabao’s milk, rock salt and a little toyo. The rice becomes all soft and mushy, almost like risotto but with a much simpler taste.

“You’re a mighty mom,” Juliana says, beaming. “It’s not the same when Yaya and Thelma make it for me.” And to think Yaya Lita and Thelma are real cooks! My heart swells and I feel like I very much belong in the kitchen — for tonight at least.

It is reassuringly strange how someone so little can affirm someone not so little anymore, making her believe one maskipaps dish done only with love as a recipe can be good enough. We finally head back upstairs to our bedroom after about an hour of mushroom rice and talk. It is still relatively early for me, a little before 10 p.m. and we catch sight of Gaston, our little dog who looks and sounds like a pig but really is a dog, sitting serenely on a spot he was never allowed to invade in the first place — the living room sofa. I’m really starting to like the dog because it does not bother me anymore — not even when he kisses my foot while I’m eating my lunch or that he is sitting on my sofa like he owns it. It is very strange how a black little dog can grow on you. Even if it looks like a pig.

I’m really sleepy and tired. And thirsty, too, so I gulp down water from the battered red Sigg bottle Richard has had since we were just engaged. In the toilet, I open a bottle of Oracare and before I realize it I had swallowed about two tablespoonfuls! Does that mean my breath will stay fresh for one week?

My last memory before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep was of a little green-and-white-striped hoola hoop anchored with ribbons to the side of Juliana’s four-poster bed. It’s her makeshift basketball ring. What a strange thing to have in our bedroom.

It has been quite a strange day — in a good way.

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